I’ve had the pleasure of attending Dîner en Blanc New York, for the past 4 years. I’m not sure which is actually better, attending and being a part of Dîner en Blanc or having this extraordinary opportunity to meet new friends whom you would never have the opportunity to meet otherwise.
We caught up with Kim Schulster, Manager of Volunteer Recruitment for Dîner en Blanc, with her first year back in 2011.
Kim is responsible for securing and training all volunteers and Group Leaders. Group leaders escort groups of guests up to around 5000 people from 26 meeting points around the city. Then safely and with much care, the leaders escort these groups to the secret location.
Each leader not only has the difficult job of making sure everyone on their list arrives at the DEB secret location but that they take good care of their groups throughout the evening.
This year, Kim is overseeing 126 volunteers who all love Dîner en Blanc.
How do you make it appear seamless?
Kim Schulster: We put our focus on the members — members are guests of the event — they are the ones who help us to make DEB special each and every year. We read all the comments and answer all emails. DEB is all about what we see and hear from the leaders and volunteers who work full-time. They are the ones who make it fun. We have the leaders fill out a form each year, then use this information to make the experience even better the following year
So is it all based solely on member feedback?
KS: Yes. Once you attend you become a member the following year. Members can actually purchase an absentee membership but not show up the year that they purchase but are allowed to come the following year.
How long have you been in the event planning industry?
KS: I’ve worked in this industry for 17 years. I’ve been with DEB since 2011. In 2013 I decided to launch my freelance career. Then the following year I came back to DEB. I’ve worked for several companies as a freelancer, including Airbnb, Nike and the incredibly stunning Ian Schrager Hôtel Public, to name a few.
What other DEB events have you worked or attended?
KS: I have been lucky enough to go to DEB Miami, LA, and DC. [They] were all magical!
Take us through your DEB evening.
KS: My first focus is on the members and my group leaders. To be honest, when everyone starts arriving, it’s a controlled chaos. I hold my breath for it seems like 20 mins. Then, the first hour or so, I see everyone finding their space, setting up their creative tables and settling in. Slowly but surely I watch it all come together and it’s just breathless!
Do you ever have time to enjoy and relax during the event?
KS: Yes, I enjoy the event once I know the members are settled. It’s a delicate balance. I actually go thru the same process as the members. I bring my table and chairs. You must experience it to be able to talk about it and to have the knowledge to make it better each year.
What are you anticipating will be the most talked about this year?
KS: Simply another marvelous time, good weather, and great energy. To watch this labor of love, all 5,000 or so members, carefully prepare their meals with precision, chairs, table, flat wear, glasses and decor for their tables is like watching a movie unfold in the cutting room.
How in the world do you work and experience it all at the same time?
KS: For me it’s simple, I have wonderful friends and we plan it out perfectly. We each bring 2 plates, champagne glasses, flatware etc, which then cuts down on one person having to bring it all. You know, romance is a big part of it for many. But it’s also about my best friends, watching them experience DEB for the first time is magical, being able to give this experience to someone else is even more special. I’m blessed to have made such great friends from the many incredible DEB events and to have the ability to be there for the same reasons as the many members.
Photo by Eric Vitale
Describe this year’s location, in one iconic word without giving the location away?