A Plaza, A Picasso, and a Picnic In White

Often when walking down the streets of Chicago you’ll see something that makes you stop and turn your head. Not often is it something with the elegance and decorum of Saturday’s Diner en Blanc.

Modeled after the Parisian event of the same name, this was the first time the “flash mob” picnic occurred in Chicago. While a flash mob normally has the reputation of being disruptive this event was a model of civility and the entire event, from attire to place settings, was dressed in white. A thousand people gathered at Harmonization Points throughout the city carting tables, chairs, place settings, and of course, food and drink!

Only a handful of Chefs du Table were aware of the final destination and I was fortunate enough to be invited by co-founder Jen Luby to be one of those lucky few. I met my group at the steps of the Chicago Cultural Center and as more and more pairs of diners donned in white from head to toe gathered you could feel the anticipation. Passersby would stop with curious looks and ask what was happening. The first gentleman to ask me was French, so when I started with “Diner…” he simply smiled and nodded his head. As a Chefs du Table I was charged with building excitement, so early on Saturday I invited my guests to guess the final location for a chance to win two tickets to Ravinia. Two guessed correctly, and I gave a third set of tickets to a couple celebrating their 16th wedding anniversary! 

Since we were so close to our destination our group was one of the earliest to reach Daley Plaza, which allowed us to see the other groups enter en masse and set up their tables. By the time 8pm arrived everyone was seated and ready to wave their napkins, signaling the official start of the dinner. A jazz band invited dancing, and the elaborate table settings and costumes encouraged strolling throughout the plaza. Some guests had sparklers; some had candelabras; all had a grand time.

Mercí to Kelly McCoy Williams, James Borkman, Nicole Lockett, and Jen Luby for bringing this event to Chicago, and thank you to my fellow Chefs du Tables and our Admirals for making this a spectacular night. It was an evening of grace and charm and showed how inventive – and civilized – we Chicagoans can truly be!


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