Exclusive Diner en Blanc comes to Nairobi

By: THOMAS RAJULA

Are you a creative, fashionable, hip and food loving person? Then Diner en Blanc, is just the event for you.

The origins of DEB goes back 27 years ago in Paris, France. The originator, Francois Pasquier, had arrived back in Paris after a few years overseas and wanted to reconnect with friends.

A lot of them had asked to come and so he picked Bois de Boulogne to be the venue, asking them to dress in white so that they would be recognizable to one another. Attendees were also to bring a friend.

The reason the venues are kept secret until the very last minute, is because the first official DEB was held at Pont des Arts, in 1991, knowing fully well the officials would never allow for such an event to take place.

Now, it takes place across 80 cities in over 25 countries around the world.

Nairobi’s edition of Diner en Blanc (DEB) was launched Tuesday evening, 10 November. at Apollo Centre, situated in Westlands.

The champagne, chocolate (dark and milk) and hors d’oeuvre event was a semi-French affair, in the all-white colours that will be the theme of the main dinner taking place on December 5.

The night event was used to introduce the team behind this classy, one-night-a-year, invite-only dinner that has been a big deal in Paris, New York, and even Abidjan and Cape Town.

The Kenyan chapter will be a bit different from the rest of those that have taken place worldwide; attendees will not carry their own chairs.

This doesn’t mean they won‘t have to work to make the picnic party the fun occurrence it has become globally. Attendees will have to pick out their outfits, choose their menu, choose the table ware (accepted colours being white, gold and silver) and decor for their own tables; the most elegantly set table’s occupants taking home a Sh 25,000 bottle of champagne.

The DEB hosts are targeting the creative, fashionable, hip and food loving individuals in the city, who are able to invest the time and energy required to attend this feature.

For those not keen to carry their own picnic bags (gourmet food, cutlery and crockery, and either wine or champagne) with them, they have the opportunity to pick from either the fully French menu or a barbecue menu.

High-end cutlery and crockery will also be hired out during the dinner.

HOW TO ATTEND THE EVENT

In order to attend the event, there are three phases of invitations:

a) Friends of the hosts and people the hosts think will add value to the event.

These include sponsors, personal friends of the hosts, or people the hosts meet and feel they are a good fit for the event. They get an invite on the first phase.

b) Friends of those invited in the first phase.

The people invited above could have other people within their networks that they think would also be a good fit, who could also come to the event. They are invited by those invited in the first phase.

c) Application by the general public

After the friends of the hosts, and their friends, have all been exhausted then the invitation is open to the public. Here, opportunity to register is given on a first-come-first-served basis.

Luckily for those wanting to attend the Nairobi edition, registration will not be as restrictive as in other established DEB cities, being the first time. Still, one is expected to behave in a certain acceptable manner in order to retain their membership.

The organisers, who go by the title “host”, are three young professionals who put their individual strengths together for what they hope will be a “hip, sexy, and classy” occasion.

Samson Mbugua, Host DEB, arrived two days late for a Diner en Blanc edition that happened in 2013 in Kigali, Rwanda. After seeing the photos of how it had gone down, he shared the idea of the concept with LeAnne Peris, also a host.

“He told me there’s this cool event that happens in Rwanda every year, and I think we can do it. We checked on website and it said you could apply to do it.”

Samson suggested that they apply. He believed they had a brilliant team to be able to do it. In late 2013, they applied for the license to host DEB. It took two weeks for them to prepare the proposal which included a chef, PR team and volunteer management. After four months of rigorous selecting, they won the contract from a pool of 13 other applicants; largely Samson’s owing marketing skills and LeAnne’s management expertise.

“We took our application seriously. We did about three interviews, and we had to consistently show that we know what we’re saying and that we’re organised. We had to repeat over and over again, that we had the best team covering all the bases. We used our content to sell us,” says Samson.

GOT THE CONTRACT!

LeAnne, who had wished to partner with the other teams that had lost out in the application, randomly ran into a person from one of the other teams when she was having coffee with some acquaintances.

“We were hoping we could partner with them, since they had been cut out from the process, but they couldn’t tell us. I gave someone my card and they went, “You were the person that got the contract”,” says LeAnne. That’s how she came to learn that UP Magazine and Sapna Chandaria had also applied for the license.

Wangeci Wandere, the third host, was brought in later after Sam and LeAnne had to fire a previous member. LeAnne states this ‘painful, transitional’ issue as the reason why the event which was to originally happen in February, was pushed to the December date. In the recruitment that followed, Wangechi was found to have a wealth in events organising through her company, Wanderjoy Party World.

The requirements that have made this event unique, that are rules include:

To register as a member, which also implies once confirmation of attendance to the event, costs Sh 3,500. However, every attendee is expected to bring a friend/date which means one will end up paying Sh 7,000.

Slots are strictly limited to 1000 people, this time round. Registration/invitation is only considered complete/accepted if one finishes payment. If this opportunity is missed by an individual, then it is passed on to the next person in line on the list.

Only elegant white outfits and shoes are allowed. Non-compliance will see one barred from the event even after paying and availing themselves to the venue on the day.

The location of the event is not revealed to guests. They are transported to the venue on the day after meeting at an agreed pre-destination.

On the same night that the Nairobi launch was taking place, a premiere DEB was taking place at the Great Lawn of downtown West Palm Beach’s waterfront, in a rain-delayed event attended by hundreds. This is truly a rain or shine event. For more information on Diner en Blanc, visit their website.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION