White dinner in the White City

The world’s classiest pop-up dinner club, originally from Paris, comes to Israel for the first time.

Participants in Quebec’s ‘Dinner in White,’ a worldwide spontaneous formal dinner in an undisclosed urban location. (photo credit: D.E.B. INTERNATIONAL)
Participants in Quebec’s ‘Dinner in White,’ a worldwide spontaneous formal dinner in an undisclosed urban location.
(photo credit: D.E.B. INTERNATIONAL)
Imagine sitting in one of Tel Aviv’s nicest public plazas, Habimah Square, basking in the sun and looking at the beautiful flowers, when suddenly, hundreds of people dressed in white descend on the space.
The men and women are dressed in their finest clothes – lace dresses, funky fascinators, elbow-length gloves, dinner jackets, bow ties, fedoras – all in white, of course. One woman is even wearing a wedding dress. All carrying tables, chairs, tablecloths and picnic baskets, they stop in the middle of the plaza and set up for dinner.
As if their appearance, seemingly out of nowhere, is not mysterious enough, suddenly they wave white napkins, parasols and hand fans in the air, and start eating and drinking white wine.
After about an hour of a calm, pleasant dining, the people dressed in white light sparklers and wave them in the air. Some are propelled toward the sky in makeshift balloons, lighting up the night.
Then, the people gather their plates and wine glasses, fold their tables, and the square is left as it was, as if the magical white dinner had never happened.
That is exactly what took place when Diner en Blanc, or Dinner in White, an international high-class pop-up dinner club, held its first event in Tel Aviv last week, kicking off the city’s annual Layla Lavan or “White Night” festivities with 300 revelers in Habimah Square.
The same thing will happen again in an undisclosed location in Jerusalem on August 10 for Tu Be’av, the Jewish holiday of love, on which it is traditional for single women to wear white.
Diner en Blanc was invented in 1988 by Francois Pasquier who, after spending several years away from Paris, decided to throw a picnic and reconnect with his old friends. He invited them to the Bois de Boulogne park, telling them to bring their own food and wear white so they could find each other.
The rest is history. Since then, Pasquier has organized the Parisian Diner en Blanc each year, a dinner that attracts over 15,000 people, and similar events are held in 50 cities on six continents.
No matter where Diner en Blanc takes place, guests are not told about the location until the last moment, and they all immediately appear, dressed in elegant white clothing, and spread out their popup dinner, turning a public space into a sort of performance art installation.
Israel’s version of the ultra-classy dinner club was initiated by Tiferet Zussman, Shahar Cohen,Pierre Levy, and Fiona Kanter.
Levy made aliya from Paris in December, and immediately decided that the pop-up meals he so enjoyed in the City of Light would be a perfect match for the White City.
“This is the White City and it has a White Night, but there was something missing – the White Dinner,” Levy quipped, sporting a white fedora and smoking a cigar. “Bringing it to Tel Aviv and soon Jerusalem puts the cities on the international scene.”
Levy, an investment banker, is working on organizing a community for young, single French-speaking olim in Tel Aviv, because to succeed in aliya, he explained, you need a community and friends.
Similarly, he said Diner en Blanc is a group project.
“Without a team, we wouldn’t have anything,” Levy said.
Cohen, 24, who was Levy’s real estate agent when he arrived in the city, played an instrumental part of that team.
Dressed like a flapper in a white fringed dress and white headband across her forehead, Cohen said the event “raises the level of the space. Everyone here is part of a work of art.”
“In Israel, food is very connected to culture,” she pointed out. “This is like a giant Friday-night dinner, without the connection to religion.”
While Levy and Cohen worked on the Tel Aviv event, Zussman, also 24, saw a photo of the New York Diner en Blanc online and decided she had to bring it to Israel.
When she consulted with Diner en Blanc International, they informed her that a Tel Aviv event was already in the works, and she joined Levy and Cohen.
As the Hebrew University business major described planning the event, dressed in a white lace dress, people around her lifted glasses of white wine and shouted “L’chaim!” “I love this. This event is my baby!” she exclaimed, adding that the planning was stressful, but now was able to enjoy the fruit of her labor.
After all of the team’s hard work, the Tel Aviv dinner did not disappoint. The 300 people followed the rules closely and the white meal looked as magical as it did in any other city in the world, appearing out of nowhere, setting an example of class and good taste, and then disappearing.
“It’s a white dinner in the White City,” Zussman said. “It’s beautiful.”