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As New York gears up for the 4th installment of Dîner En Blanc taking place on Monday, August 25th, a prestigious, spontaneous, one-of-a-kind dining experience, we had a chance to pick Gilles Amsallem’s brain about what’s in store for this year’s event.

NewYork 2011 - Photog. Navid Baraty-Gotamist8

7 Questions for  Gilles Amsallem about Dîner en Blanc

SC: How did you get involved with Dîner en Blanc?

GA: I had an acquaintance who is a friend of the founder’s son (Aymeric Pasquier), and I suggested that he ask Aymeric to contact my company Selavi Global as we have had experience for 10 years in the US producing quality events for 200 to 5,000 people. It was a perfect match with Aymeric and his partner Sandy Safi, who run Dîner en Blanc. We have the same values, the same DNA, the same standards of quality, elegance, and sophistication with fun and no attitude. Selavi had already organized many white-themed parties all around the US for years, so we were excited about the possibility of partnering with Dîner en Blanc, which is such an institution around the world.

When Dîner en Blanc began in Paris, it was held without consent from the city, but nowadays cities are aware of the organization and there is proper authorization, permits and insurances before the events.  Is it difficult to get permission to hold this event at some of the most iconic spaces in the city?

GA: It is indeed extremely difficult, more than anyone can imagine. The most complicated elements are the permits from the city including liquor permits, and well as sound. People are concerned initially of the idea of a flash mob, but this is not what we are. Dîner en Blanc is an elegant picnic dinner; totally controlled, fully authorized and extremely detail oriented in keeping with U.S. laws. It isn’t easy. We are very unique and plan to stay that way.

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How stressful is the planning of an event of this caliber when people only find out the location last minute? What would happen if there was inclement weather?!

GA: It is stressful like any other event, but the more you plan in advance, the less stressful it becomes. We’ve gained great experience now with our 4th year in NY and other cities. There is no improvisation, we repeat the scenario two or three times so we are sure everyone will have the best time possible. The most difficult element is keeping the location a secret, as we are limiting the few suppliers access to the location and they all must sign a NDA.

Rain is always on our mind; we always tell our guests that rain or shine, we will be there and they would have to bring their umbrellas. Isn’t it romantic?  That said, it has never rained in New York during our events over the past three years!

How did Moët & Chandon Champagne and The Bordeaux Wine Council become involved with this project?

GA: Our company Selavi Global has been the consumer engagement partner of Bordeaux Wines (CIVB) for the past 3 years in the US. So the impromptu Dîner en Blanc picnic offers the ideal milieu to celebrate the art of living and the  exceptional white wines that are produced in the Bordeaux region. We then decided to introduce them to the Dîner en Blanc family, which happened to be the perfect match for DEB in NY and LA. In addition, Dîner en Blanc and Bordeaux wines represent such a complimentary pairing of food and wine with celebration and conviviality. The refinement of Bordeaux seeps into all aspects of its culture, history and lifestyle, and we’re delighted to bring it to the intrepid urban explorers attending New York’s Dîner en Blanc.

Regarding champagne, as the French like to pop a bottle of champagne whenever they celebrate any occasion, partnering with a brand like Moët & Chandon, especially since the champagne served is Moët Ice Impérial, a bottle dressed in white, was only natural.

How did Todd English get  signed on to provide special dinners through Great Performances Event Planning?

GA: Todd was one of the many chefs who stopped by the event last summer and he fell in love with it! So we invited him to curate special dinners for the event this year in New York for those guests who order their food on Dîner en Blanc’s NY website. He is curating special dinners for guests in New York who order through Dîner en Blanc, in association with Great Performances Event Planning. We could not be happier as it is the first time we are have a master chef with so much talent and charisma involved with us.

NewYork 2011 - Photog. David Giral

How will this year compare to past years of Dîner en Blanc?

GA: The last few years of Dîner en Blanc were amazing , but this year, we have a totally different view and perspective for Dîner en Blanc. Guests will love it more than ever… but on top of all we have exciting new ‘firsts’, a celebrity chef preparing the food and amazing wines from Bordeaux, what a treat for a picnic!

What is the craziest story you have from the past three years working on this event? 

GA: Dîner en Blanc takes 3 to 4 months to prepare the logistic and details for a smooth event. However 2 years ago, the press, the media, the guests and everyone else had a date confirmed for a venue in July but we got the signature of the Lincoln Center less than 3 weeks before the date planned, so we had to pull out the event right away in that short crazy timing. Selavi and the Dîner en Blanc team worked non stop 24/7 and we still don’t know how we did it, but we had the most beautiful event ever.

– Stephanie Carino

Photos via Dîner en Blanc and BR Public Relations