Inside Dîner en Blanc with Kim Schulster

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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.


Photo by Jennifer Heffner

We caught up with Kim Schulster, Manager of Volunteer Recruitment for Dîner en Blanc, with her first year back in 2011.

Kim Schulster

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 AirbnbNike 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!

Photo by Jane Kratochvil

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?

KS: Memorable.

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Grace Capobianco, CEO/Publisher of Downtown Media & Production was born to be a visionary. She has spent the majority of her life working, developing and marketing innovative media products that not only engage and inform but also bring entire communities together. Utilizing her personal vision as a professional guide, Grace started her first company, Tropical Publishing, when she was just 27 years old and from this moment on, she knew that entrepreneurship was her passion. On a perpetual quest to bring innovative and relevant news to communities, she also created, developed and published the first ever Chamber of Commerce magazine for the Palm Beaches, The South Florida Office Guide. Evolving within the realm of publishing, she moved on to launch Up The Coast magazine in the 1980’s, a guide to Jupiter, in north Florida, where the population aggrandized from 9,000 to more than 70,000 today, and then continued to hone in on niche markets with the launch of publications like Alternative Medicine and NewBeauty. Simultaneously, she launched ATSI, a telecommunications company, which sold Mitel and Siemens products to her publishing clients. The idea of Downtown Magazine NYC was born for Grace in the wake of the devastation of 9/11. A Lower Manhattan resident at this time, Grace saw firsthand the incredible sense of community the neighborhood had demonstrated during these trying times, as well as its immense strength and perseverance. She explored every angle of launching a magazine that would speak to this community but initially felt the timing was just too soon. It wasn’t until 2010 that Grace felt the community was ready to hear its voice and launched Downtown Magazine NYC.