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Dîner En WTF?!? How Bored People Must Be For This To Be A Thing!

Courtesy photos sent from year's past
August 24, 2017

We have been offered a complimentary evening at Le Dîner en Blanc San Diego nearly every year since the annual event first came to America's Finest City in 2012. Once was enough. Here's why.

First, a little background - Le Dîner en Blanc is actually a worldwide phenomenon that was launched in Paris by epicurean François Pasquier and a handful of his friends in 1988. That original Paris Dîner en Blanc became a viral annual picnic that now attracts more than 15,000 people annually, and the for-profit event has spread to more than 70 cities around the world.

The basic gist of it is this - after an invite from a previous attendee, hopefuls can sign up for a waiting list that is thousands of people deep and hope to get picked. If they do, they have to pay a membership fee and are assigned to a group leader, who informs the person of the secret rendezvous point the week of the event. Once confirmed, each guest’s participation becomes mandatory, regardless of weather conditions. The strict dress code for the evening is elegant and all white attire from head-to-toe ("No ivory, no off-white, and no beige"). Guests are required to bring a table with very specific dimensions, 2 white chairs and a white tablecloth, as well as a white picnic basket comprised of "gourmet" food, wine (beer and liquor are strictly prohibited), and silverware (no plastic is permitted). During the meal, men sit on one side of the table and women sit on the opposite side. Coming with a member of the same sex? The website notes that you may not end up sitting next to one another. Once finished, guests must leave the event as clean as they found it - with all their belongings, leftovers and litter. What fun?!

When I first heard about the fiasco that is Dîner En Blanc, I could not begin to wrap my head around the appeal of it. Let me get this straight, I thought, you have to obtain an all white outfit (soon after Labor Day, no less, how gauche!) in order to attend an event where you are required to pay an upfront fee (~$40+ per person) for essentially no benefit other than to lug your own table, chairs, dishes, silverware, centerpiece, tablecloth, food and wine to an assigned area of the city (during peak rush hour traffic) to meet your fearless 'leader', only to load your stuff onto a bus to go to a 'secret' location to thereafter unload the bus, set up your table and proceed to eat a meal with thousands of people that you do not know, then to clean up after it all and tote everything home?!?  From the outset, the whole concept seemed to be completely ridiculous and bourgeois, and after experiencing it myself as 'media' (without any of the work involved for regular attendees), I stand by my initial instinct. Dîner en Blanc - more like Dîner en Lame?!? 

How monotonous this life of comfort and excess must be that we have come up with pretentious spectacles such as Dîner En Blanc. Have we become that systematically desensitized to modern pleasures that we need immerse in laborious outings to feel any excitement? Do we really need to inconvenience ourselves with unnecessary 'surprises' for a brief thrill? And due to the current social-political climate, I am going to refrain from deliberating on the overall lack of diversity of attendants of DEB. Maybe the appeal in an event like Diner En Blanc lies in a primal urge to work for your sustenance - a desire to put forth effort for reward, a need to "earn your bacon" sort of speak. If that's the case, I appreciate and understand it. If proceeds went to benefit some charity or the whole debacle was to spotlight a worthwhile cause, I could get behind it. But Dîner En Blanc seems more like an event made for the Instagram feed, another notch on the belt for the shallow, self-consumed narcissist - indulgence for the sake of indulgence.

Okay, for those that think I'm a miserable curmudgeon, go ahead and see for yourself, that is if you can even get in. Here's a tip. The 'rendezvous point' is going to be within a half mile of the fenced off public space where the event is being held. In the past, it's been located at Liberty Station, Embarcadero North and Waterfront Park, to name a few. Wherever the rendezvous point is, look for the closest public open space near it, and that's where the dinner is. Park or get dropped off nearby, set up your stuff, order a white pizza or two from the closest pizzeria, and get a head start on drinking. Or, just don't be a tool and skip this shitty spectacle.