Sunday August 17, 2008
By CHIN MUI YOON
Let us introduce you to the latest dining craze to sweep Europe: a meal up high. Really high.
GASTRONOMY has reached new heights – literally! Imagine digging into your foie gras while suspended 50m in the air and looking upon, say, the dramatic Eiffel Tower or the breathtaking old city of Istanbul at sunset.
This intriguing experience called Dinner in the Sky was created by Belgian events management company The Fun Group and creative agency Hakuna Matata, partnering with Benji Fun, a Belgian company specialising in organising fun and crazy events.
With an emphasis on crazy! How on earth did this strange idea come about, we wondered, and shot off an e-mail to the address at the website, dinnerinthesky.com. Concept director David Ghysels replies, saying the whole thing came about almost by accident in May 2006.
“The Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe Association (Paris-based association of Europe’s top young restaurateurs) wanted to communicate that they were the ‘Gastronomy at the top’ so we gave them that, literally.
“The whole idea is to provide an extraordinary experience that is very exclusive and original.”
Ghysel’s daughter Elisa was one of the lucky ones that had that original experience when she blew out the 11 candles on her birthday cake at the first dinner in the sky on April 24, 2006, in Brussels.
The idea caught on quickly and Dinner in the Sky events have been held all over Europe as well as in Canada, America, Dubai, and South Africa.
Not just dinners, either: VIP events, champagne breakfasts, cocktails, and even meetings have been organised. Also, I can imagine this would be a godsend for celebrities trying to escape ever-present paparazzi – surely their privacy will be secure up in the sky!
And yes, Ghysels says numerous enquiries have flooded in from Asian countries.
“A group of Thai businessmen has been invited by Chivas (the premium whisky producer) to a gourmet dinner prepared by Le Mess in Brussels to evaluate this idea. We are certain an Asian nation will be hosting a Dinner in the Sky by the end of this year!”
The dining platform, which measures 9m x 5m, easily accommodates a waiter and three chefs in the central well. Catering is not included in the price but, of course, a client will rope in only the very best restaurants for a meal that would surely be a once in a lifetime experience.
Ghysels says Dinner in the Sky clients have served everything from sushi to lobsters, tapas to the best of French haute cuisine. Open fires are not allowed due to fire and safety regulations but gas barbecues and electrical cooking devices are fine.
How does it all work?
Say you’re the lucky recipient of this unique dinner invitation. You take your place at the beautifully laid table sitting on the platform of a crane – probably in a breathtaking location – and buckle your seat belt. Once everyone’s on board, the entire table will rise slowly into the sky carrying guests, host, chef, waiters, and the food!
The platform can seat 22 people, and each booking lasts eight hours. So, at an average of two sessions per hour, over 350 people will have the chance to enjoy the experience.
Dinner in the Sky events can be organised anywhere, from a golf course or castle to a historical site. All that’s required is a surface of around 500sq m that can be secured and for which the client has authorisation to use.
Not enough fun? Ask for a second crane that can raise a smaller entertainment platform to the same height as the table – you could book anything from a pianist to a live band!
Some of the more memorable events arranged by Dinner in the Sky so far include an evening of fine dining prepared by Alain Passard from the very elite three Michelin starred Parisian restaurant L’ Arpege; this dinner was held in front of the lovely Cathedral of Amiens in northern France.
Another two dinners that were out of this world: the one held by the historic Villa Borghese in Rome, and one during which the platform hung over the shore of Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait, the gateway between Asia and Europe.
Such a sensory and gastronomic treat will cost you between €17, 000 and €35, 000 (RM84, 000 and RM173, 000) for each eight-hour session.
Okay, now comes the question I’ve been dying to ask: what happens when one needs to go to the loo?
“About toilet facilities, it’s like in a normal restaurant,” explains Ghysels.
“You ask the waiter where the toilets are, and then you go down. It’s just a bit less discreet because the whole table goes down too – but it takes less than a minute!”
For more information, or to arrange for your own Dinner in the Sky (in which case, please do notify StarMag by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org), visit the website at dinnerinthesky.com.