Five things to keep in mind before suiting up for Toronto’s upcoming Dîner en Blanc
By Anna Silman
Dîner en Blanc 2011 at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris
Dîner en Blanc, the 25-year-old “secret dinner party” from Paris, is finally coming to Toronto on August 9. While a copycat version of the event took place last fall in the Distillery District, this marks the first time that the real deal will be touching down in Toronto. For those hoping to join in on the fun, there are a few things to know about the monochromatic pop-up event.
1. If you’re not a VIP, you’re probably not going. With the invitation process described as a “friendly co-optation system,” getting into this colour-free dining extravaganza is not easy. Registration takes place in three phases, with the first round of invites reserved strictly for previous members and “friends of the organization” and a second round for the “friends of friends” recommended during phase one. Only in phase three can the plebs get their shot at picnic prestige (you can sign up on a first-come-first-served waiting list). But with an ethos that firmly supports “quality over quantity,” non-VIPs shouldn’t hold their breath for an invite.
2. Expect a cheesy location. Having originated in Paris, the original DeB has taken place at some of the French capital’s most recognizable locales, from the Eiffel Tower to the Champs-Élysées, so you can be sure that only Toronto’s most postcard-friendly locations — CN tower, anyone? — will be forming the backdrop for this al fresco dining spectacle. But don’t try to camp out in advance; locations will only be revealed immediately prior to the event.
3. BYO… everything. Along with food and drinks (wine and champagne only, no beer or hard liquor), diners will have to bring their own white folding chairs and tables, with the exact table dimensions specified in advance. While there is no set menu, the event’s Facebook page offers a host of hoity-toity suggestions for what guests should bring in their picnic baskets (hint: think “quality menu items and China dinner service”). That means no Mickey D’s, please.
4. Play by the rules. While the event may be of French origin, it certainly isn’t laissez-faire. There are a plethora of rules to adhere to if you don’t want to find yourself blacklisted (get it?) from future events. These include a strict white-only policy in both attire and seating (white tablecloths will be provided), arrival and departure solely by public transport and a pre-organized, sex-segregated seating plan. So don’t even think about playing musical chairs.
5. Toronto is cool now. With a new Soho House slated to touch down in time for TIFF, Toronto looks like it’s finally being given its due as a city worthy of playing host to the world’s most ridiculously pretentious organizations. In holding the event, Toronto will join the ranks of 23 other cities worldwide — 12 of which have just been added this year — including New York, Barcelona and more exotic locales such as Kigali in Rwanda and Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire. Apparently, becoming a DeB city is a big deal: according to the (hopelessly self-congratulatory) website, “the event’s photogenic quality adds to the city’s image of a modern and stylish city, open to the world.” Even if the event’s not, it seems, open to its own residents.