Dîner en Blanc | Seeking Beauty In The Unexpected

6 November 2017

Guests attend Dîner en Blanc at Chicago’s Theater on the Lake on Thursday August 24, 2017. Photographer: Christopher Dilts / Sipa USA

Dîner en Blanc is an experience like little else. Combining mystery, prestige and absolute elegance, the event is an exceptional opportunity for residents of 1000M to connect with beauty.

Dîner en Blanc, which translates to Dinner In White, began in France with François Pasquier in 1988. Pasquier was inspired by the simple but powerful motivation to share an elegant meal with close friends. One day, he spotted a couple in all white enjoying a bottle of champagne at a picnic table.

“There was the spark,” says Roger Hobby, one of five hosts or organizers of the Chicago Dîner en Blanc. Nearly three decades later, this spark has spread to more than 70 cities around the world, with nearly 120,000 guests participating globally each year. Chicago has participated since 2012.

Dîner en Blanc distinguishes itself with its peculiar guidelines. For starters, attendees must dress completely in white. “Why white? To recognize each other as being part of the party!” Hobby explains. Guests are also required to bring many of the essentials of a traditional dinner party, including tables, chairs, cutlery and napkins (no paper or plastic allowed; only the real stuff). They can also bring a gourmet meal or enjoy a picnic basket from the party’s caterer. And everything — food as the exception — must meet the color code. Finally, the party’s location is not released until the day of.

 

The annual event sparks lifelong friendships.

“There’s something magical about coming upon the venue and discovering it, as opposed to knowing where it will be all along,” says Hobby of the mystery surrounding the location.

Roger Hobby began attending Dîner en Blanc 17 years ago in Paris. “A friend sent me an email one day asking if wanted to go to dinner and if I had all white clothes. A passion was born that night.” He adds that he was captivated by the connection guests make at Dîner en Blanc. “People start lifelong relationships with new friends, job networks and yes, sometimes even romance.”

Hobby has played a pivotal role in ensuring that Dîner en Blanc thrives in the Windy City. In 2012, he heard the planned Chicago party was being cancelled. Hobby was committed to keeping his passion alive in his adopted hometown. So with no budget and barely six weeks, Hobby and a group of like-minded friends joined together to create the first Dîner en Blanc in Chicago under the international banner. This premier Dîner en Blanc was celebrated by about 500 guests in the South Garden of the Art institute of Chicago, right in 1000M’s neighborhood. Today, Dîner en Blanc Chicago has grown to include nearly 4,000 participants.

 

Chicago has celebrated this international tradition since 2012.

Dîner locations are selected based on size, accessibility and, of course, the location must define iconic Chicago beauty. The party’s location let’s “people rediscover their own city, especially parts of it they may have passed by thousands of times, but have never truly seen,” says Hobby.

One of Hobby’s favorite traditions is the event’s unwavering commitment to preserving each Dîner location. After the party concludes, guests leave nothing behind — no trash, no footprints in the grass, no stray streamers or balloons. Hobby remembers the Director of the Palais-Royal in Paris looking on in amazement when she realized the venue was more pristine after the Dîner than before. The guests were “even picking up old cigarette butts,” remembers Hobby.

After all his years participating, Hobby is still fascinated and charmed by the annual event that provides such a mysterious elegance. “It is an event like no other,” he emphasizes. “Your first year you should be prepared to be overwhelmed and amazed.”

Perhaps this year, the Cultural Mile will act as the stage for the 2018 Dîner en Blanc. 1000M’s neighborhood is a perfect location for this unique expression of beauty. Interested parties can sign up to learn more about the 2018 Dîner en Blanc at: https://chicago.dinerenblanc.com/register.

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Dîner en Blanc // Clandestine Location // 2018 TBD // Chicago.dinerenblanc.com