Photo credit: Renée Suen for Toronto Life Magazine, taken from Dîner en Blanc - Singapore Facebook page
2pm, Monday, 27 August: Thóx sends out emails to "inform [the media] you that [they] have official disengaged [them]selves from working with the client (Diner en Blanc Singapore) as of last Friday 24 Aug 2012, due to a misalignment of views."
Noon, Saturday, 25 August: Dîner en Blanc - Singapore's Facebook page was disabled.
11.30am, Saturday, 25 August: Daniel Ang of Daniel's Food Diary posted 'Lessons Learnt from Diner En Blanc – Food is Meant to Unite, Not Divide'. He later updated the post to include, "The Head Organiser of Diner en Blanc Singapore Clemen Chiang has written an email to apologise and I have accepted the apology. Forgive and forget."
8.36am, Saturday, 25 August: Dîner en Blanc International and Dîner en Blanc Singapore issued an official statement of apology that included:
"Dîner en Blanc is the worldwide success that it is because every host city gives it a flavor of local culture, ingredients, customs, setting and people. You can imagine that participants at Dîner en Blanc in Vancouver prepare different meals than participants at Dîner en Blanc in Barcelona. We dispel any belief that our organization equates local food with junk food. Our commitment to providing you with a unique experience of conviviality and dining requires that you enjoy a carefully prepared meal of your choice while encouraging you to shy away from commercially prepared ‘junk’ or ‘fast’ food. Anything else that is tasty, original or traditional is welcome.
"On the topic of bloggers: Dîner en Blanc International and its international partners respect and value the work bloggers do across the globe. Digital and social media have made great contributions to our success and we are grateful. Our local team has asked a blogger to remove a suggestion from his blog. Doing that was an error, it will not happen again, and we apologize."
11pm, Friday, 24 August: Dîner en Blanc posted a statement on its stance on local food on its Facebook page. It said: "Diner en Blanc is a celebration of food culture whereby local food should be included; what is not encouraged is 'fast food' which goes against the multiple-course meal concept of the event."
Local food is discouraged at an exclusive dinner event titled "Dîner en Blanc - Singapore", and this is not sitting well among some bloggers in Singapore even before they could sit down for a meal.
The hush-hush food party is a mass picnic pop-up event taking place at an undisclosed location in the city, set to happen on 30 August.
The controversy apparently started on Tuesday, 21 August, when food blogger Daniel Ang - of Daniel's Food Diary - posted an entry about Dîner en Blanc. In his post, he provided details about the event. He also jokingly included a list of white-coloured local dishes that diners may take along.
Then, four days later, he tweeted at 2.52pm: "Dear fellow bloggers, this is the post I was told to removed by Dîner en Blanc. I hope I have your support [link provided]." This is the first time he has been asked to remove his blog post, he claims.
When asked why, Ang said, "The French organisers conveyed to the PR company that they were not happy with my post. The argument was that chicken rice and tau huay [bean curd] were not in line with their image." He confirmed that he cleared the blog post with Dîner en Blanc - which is managed by Singapore's PR company, Thóx - before putting it up.
|Dîner en Blanc's Facebook reply | Photo credit: Dîner en Blanc - |
Worried that he was going to cost Thóx its contract, Ang removed the post for one day on Thursday, 23 August and did some investigation of his own.
He went to Dîner en Blanc - Singapore's Facebook page and asked via his personal account if local food was considered "quality food" (one of the rules for attending the event). To this, Dîner en Blanc Singapore replied: "We do not encourage local food as the rules and the event concept [as the Parisian original] are one and the same."
Two hours after he removed his blog post, Ang received a phone call. He was informed that there was not enough space at the event, so organisers would not be able to accommodate him at the party. The PR company also mentioned that all bloggers would not be invited.
Blogger Irene S of Moonberry was one of those who received the phonecall telling her she was uninvited. She posted a response at 10am on 24 August titled, "Singapore tau huay too low class for French upscale event Dîner en Blanc?!"
When asked how she felt about being struck off the invitation list, she replied: "The PR company was only doing its job - what it was told to do by the organisers. There must be a cultural misunderstanding. It's a shame, everybody loves food - I treat [not attending Dîner en Blanc] as a missed opportunity."
|"You do not own [bloggers]; Neither do you own the Internet."|
Out of missed opportunities, however, new ones surface - Irene S and friends are organising a "Dîner en Noir" on Saturday, 1 September. "It'll be in good fun and not snooty, and it'll make a statement - [these events should be] about food and the celebration of it. We'll all dress in black. It'll be invite-via-friends only."
Ang claims that he knows at least 10 bloggers who have received similar phonecalls telling them that they would not be able to attend the event.
At around 3pm on 24 August, Ang reinstated his original Dîner en Blanc post on his blog.
An hour later, he followed it with a response on his blog, titled, "I Have Been Told To Remove My Blog Post; I Have Decided I Won’t". In the response, he details how and why he was asked to remove his post.
Ang closed with a plea: "You do not own [bloggers]; Neither do you own the Internet. I urge [local organisers and attendees] to stand along-side with us, that our Singapore local delicacies that we grew up with, lived with, feed our children with, and feel so proud of, that represents our colourful heritage – can appear in a white prestigious picnic like Dîner en Blanc."
When contacted about Ang's posts and the reaction Ang has been getting, Thóx replied that they were unable to comment.
Dîner en Blanc was launched in Paris 24 years ago by François Pasquier and friends. While Paris’ Dîner en Blanc now assembles nearly 15,000 people each year, Singapore is the first Asian country to host it. Dîner en Blanc has also been held in Lyon, Amsterdam, Munich, Zurich, Berlin, Montreal and New York. The Asian premiere of this word-of-mouth, social media-promoted dining event has limited its first-edition guest list to 2,000 people. The location has yet to be revealed.