[ Photo by Kalan Elizabeth/Playscape International ]

As it usually is, the 8th annual Diner en Blanc in NYC, was a year of firsts. It was the first occasion that boats were essential to take attendees to the event. It was the first time Governor’s Island was revealed as the secret location. It was the first year Marc Forgione signed on to be the featured chef for the prepared picnic baskets that guests can opt in to. It was also the first attempt to accommodate 6,500 people, the largest Diner en Blanc to date and the organization took on all these opportunities in stride.

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[ Left: photo by Jane Kratochvil. Right: photo by Konrad Brattke Photography ]

I was able to speak with Christine Tripoli before the event, who was one of the main organizers in 2016 and helped take on the duties again this year.  She has done many large-scale events in New York and still feels like DEB is a unique experience to produce, different from any other event that happens here.

“When it comes together, so magical, people care so much about it.” With a waitlist of 45,000 people, it’s no surprise that the group that gets selected for this event, really bring out all the bells and whistles every year.

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[ Left: photo by  Konrad Brattke Photography. Right: photo by Travis Crawford ]

Location was really a challenge though. According to Tripoli, “NY is a really big city, but it’s hard to find a place that can accommodate that many people and with so many rules and regulations, this was the best location for what we want to do.” Governor’s Island provided the space but getting that volume of individuals over to the party provided another set of challenges that the event needed to overcome. Guests and organizers remained in good spirits despite the lag time in travel and the threat of rain, that seemed to stay away enough to not ruin the evening. The ride over provided gorgeous views of the city and remained a backdrop for the party on the island.

[ Photo by Travis Crawford ]

Tripoli also spoke of Marc Forgione being invited to participate.  “His team is so lovely, lovely operation, very excited about the concept and experience. The picnic baskets are beautifully curated and right for the occasion.” I also had an opportunity to bend Marc Forgione’s ear and he mentioned that when he was approached with the opportunity to be the featured chef for Diner en Blanc, he wanted to make sure he was not cooking for 6,000 people! Once it was ironed out that Great Performances would help him execute his vision, he curated 4 picnic baskets for 1000 people couldn’t be reheated, which created yet more puzzles that needed to be solved. Being an Iron Chef though, Marc was up for the task and looks for opportunities that get him out of his comfort zone. He created a pescatarian, vegetarian, a basket that was void of restrictions and one that was made with all white foods.

[ Photo by Travis Crawford ]

What’s coming up for Forgione next? His family is about to welcome a baby boy, which will take up most of his time and he has a new project that will be announced at the beginning of the year, but until then he said he’ll be focusing on making great food in his current restaurants.

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[ Left: photo by Kalan Elizabeth/Playscape International; Right: photo by Travis Crawford ]

Tripoli worded it perfectly when she said, DEB is a “curation of NYC, all backgrounds, all parts of the city, ethnicities, different people to come together in celebration, beautiful night, quintessential NY night. That was what surprised me most about this event, NY at its’ best.” After this year we can’t wait to see what they accomplish next.

– Stephanie Carino

Photos by Travis Crawford, Kalan Elizabeth for Playscape International, Jane Kratochvil, and Konrad Brattke