Diner En Blanc postponed due to haze

Head organiser Alex Philippot says he wants to keep the concept of Diner En Blanc, but does not want people to be out in the haze.
Head organiser Alex Philippot says he wants to keep the concept of Diner En Blanc, but does not want people to be out in the haze.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The fourth Diner En Blanc pop-up picnic in Singapore is being postponed because of the haze.

The annual event's new organisers, Fullcolors Event, says this year's SG50-themed edition has been moved from Oct 10 to an unconfirmed date, "in the light of the ongoing haze situation".

The haze is said to last until next month.

In a statement yesterday, organisers said all registration activities have been suspended until the new date is confirmed. Entry passes and e-store items purchased will still be valid for the rescheduled event.

"We understand that some of you may not be able to attend due to the change. As soon as the new date is confirmed and announced, Diner En Blanc Singapore will be able to process refunds on a case-by-case basis," they added.

New head organiser Alex Philippot had said on Tuesday: "While safety is important and I don't want to have people outside with the haze, I want to keep the concept of Diner En Blanc as it is."

More than 12,000 people are on the waitlist for the invitation-only picnic - four times its capacity of 3,000 diners. Each invited guest pays $50 to attend.

The location will be announced only hours before the picnic. Guests must be dressed in white and bring their own tables, chairs, food and drink.

The event, which sees diners gathering at a public space in the city for a gourmet meal, originated in Paris 27 years ago.

The concept was brought to Singapore in 2012 by husband-and- wife team Clemen Chiang and Nicole Yee. However, they left the committee this year as her company, social networking website CozyCot, was moving offices.

The new team is helmed by Mr Philippot, a 41-year-old Frenchman and managing partner at Fullcolors, who attended his first Diner En Blanc just five days after relocating to Singapore last year.

He will host the event with his team of 150 - including his wife Hannah Park, their own events management team, suppliers and volunteers. He took on the role after central organisers Diner En Blanc International, based in Montreal, approached him.

While he enjoyed the event last year, he felt it would have been better if he had dined with friends instead of strangers.

On the day of the event, diners typically follow instructions to gather at a meeting point. From there, they are shuttled to the final location by bus.

Citing the logistical issue of the previous year's events, he said: "They can book it together, but if they aren't on the same bus, they won't be seated together."

For this year's event, however, his team will help facilitate friends who want to picnic together, with the seating allocation arranged according to the group size.

Diners can ensure they will be seated together by selecting the same departure point upon registration.

Mr Philippot also wants this year's Singaporean jubilee Diner En Blanc Singapore to highlight the lifestyle here.

The three menus available for pre-order, for those who do not wish to bring their own gourmet meals, are themed Botanic Gardens ($89 for two people), City Hall ($99) and Istana ($120).

The City Hall menu, for instance, has fusion food items such as a chicken satay tortilla wrap, while the Istana menu features a braised rendang veal cheek with potato mash. The food is prepared by Luxe Catering.

Mr Philippot, who has managed hospitality functions for international sports events such as Formula One and MotoGP, is not daunted by the prospect of running Diner En Blanc, even though preparations began only in August.

"Usually, you need at least six months, but it's not the first Diner En Blanc in Singapore and we have the support of volunteers from previous years' events," he said.

"The authorities know the concept of the event, so it helped to move things along faster."

The picnic has seen a steady rise in attendance in the past three years. The 2012 edition at the Marina Bay Sands Waterfront Promenade drew about 800, while the 2013 edition at Marina Barrage had about 2,000 picnic-goers. Last year's picnic, on Sentosa's Tanjong Beach, attracted more than 3,000 diners.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline 'Diner En Blanc postponed due to haze'. Print Edition | Subscribe