|Introduction||Planning the Season||Theme||Venue|
|Room Arrangement||Budget||Menu Planning||Organizing an Event|
|Pre-event Tasting||Event Rules||Waitstaff Instructions|
The continued success of any Bailliage is directly related to the quality of the events it sponsors. Therefore, it is very important to plan the details of each party carefully. Most Bailliages spotlight the annual or semi-annual induction as their gala event. However, every event requires thoughtful attention. Whether it's black tie or amical, the planning is crucial. The investment of sufficient thought and time in the planning process ensures that the resulting event will be the very best it can be. It's always good management for the present, and the future, to involve as many members of the Bailliage as possible in the planning and execution of any event sponsored by the Bailliage. The involvement of the officers and the membership in the realization of Bailliage events will increase rapport, camaraderie and attendance, not to mention a hands-on understanding of the complexities of staging a Chaine event. Nothing forges lasting bonds, loyalty, and pride like working together on a complex project. Another happy, and vitally important, result of broad involvement of the membership is the identification and training of future leaders.
Planning The Season
Working with Your Bailliage "To Plan the Season" Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that a Bailliage likes to conduct six to nine events a year. It's obvious that any Bailliage that active must plan ahead. An Officer's Meeting, most appropriately the last one of the season, should be designated as the planning session for the following year. Pass some tasty appetizers and settle in to brainstorm some seriously fun parties for the coming season. As a general rule, most Bailliages plan the Induction Dinner to be the pinnacle event of the year, so establishing the date (or dates) of the induction is probably the first order of business. The rest of the season's calendar can be built around the Induction Dinner date. There are many types of functions to explore. The more unique the party the more the reputation of the Bailliage is enhanced. It's a challenge to keep party ideas fresh from year to year; however, that's also the great fun of leading a Bailliage. The list of party possibilities is almost endless but includes:
- formal and informal events in restaurants
- events in private homes and other special sites
- luncheons, brunches, and other, tastings, picnics, teas
- visits and tours of culinary and establishments and regions
- cooking classes and demonstrations
Choices definitely must be made and since variety is the spice of life be sure to balance your season with a little something for every taste.
- The brainstorming session might proceed with some of the following topics:
- Number of events to be scheduled.
- Most successful events the Bailliage has sponsored.
- Should any past event be repeated? With updating, of course.
- What about events of other Bailliage's? Reinterpreted with local style.
- Parties, other than La Chaine, Officers have attended, read or dreamed about.
- New foods to try? Exotic
There are thousands of party idea/theme possibilities (See Party Theme Ideas in Resources section). The list is limited only by your imagination. Of course, some themes lend themselves better to invitations, decorations, food. You might want to try the exercise in the Resources section of this guide to get an idea of how to work through a theme notion.
A list of fifteen to twenty party ideas is ideal to work with for a season of six to nine events. There will be ideas which are unsuitable for obvious reasons: unavailable appropriate space, no local restaurant or caterer able to prepare the type of food required for the party, insufficient enthusiasm from the Officers, etc., but enough workable ideas can be sifted from that number to create a tentative calendar. (When the calendar is finalized copies should be sent to the membership before the season starts so that dates can be reserved. Busy people will appreciate your consideration and you may find that attendance will also increase.)
Over the next few months, the suggestions and the notes from the Officer's Meeting should be worked into the final six to nine events for the year. The Bailli, either independently, or with the assistance of the Officers, must now call the restaurants, caterers, etc., to pin down precise dates. Themes, if applicable, must be assigned to the events, and it's a good time to begin thinking about (and shopping for, if necessary) appropriate invitations.
By the time the first Officer's Meeting of the new year is called, the Bailli is ready to organize the first event of the season. This cannot be effectively done without a good solid plan in place.
Gershwin's 100th Birthday A party theme is like a script for a play. Once a theme has been created, everything else follows accordingly. Party themes are also useful simply because they afford a very creative way of expressing the focus of the evening. Inspiration for themes can come from an endless variety of sources: magazines, books, people, movies, plays, museum exhibitions, television programs, operas, concerts, ballets, great literature and poetry, history, current events, newspaper stories etc. A master list of ideas can be maintained (see Theme Party Ideas in the Resources section) and added to as new ideas occur. One should always be on the lookout for great party themes. Remember inspiration can originate from the most unpredictable sources. Consider an unusual theme, taking a concept out of its normal context. A luau is expected in July, but in snowy February a lifeless loft turned into a sandy beach, complete with orchids and palm trees, is a welcome surprise.
Or imagine the possibilities of an elegant Thirties Tea -polished, refined, and quiet, in gentle surroundings with proper service. Be adventurous in your event theme choice. Dare to be different. The most memorable Chaine events are the most unique.
A specific theme, such as "In a Persian Garden," is much simpler to manage than a general one, such as a costume ball, unless, of course, you clearly state the specifics--asking guests to dress in a particular style or period, for instance.
The most important choice you will make in determining a theme is whether the guests are expected to become "actors," by wearing costumes or playing games, or whether their presence is all that is needed to make the party complete. The theme, once chosen, should be carried out in the invitation, food, decor, music, favors, and as frequently as possible, the style of dress. The party should unfold with the polish of a well-written drama, yet be open to spontaneous improvisation.
When planning a theme event, remember that the invitation is critical. The invitation sets the tone, tempts the members and their guests' curiosity. Choose, design, or create your invitation with care--you know what's in the details. And this is a crucial detail. Even if a theme dinner is not the plan for the evening, it is still vital to "set a mood for the dinner." Whether it's rustic, sophisticated, opulent, whimsical, quirky or exotic--people love to be transported to another place or time.
The Venue Very often Chaine events are held in restaurants. But frequently, if there is a great space available or if a wonderful private home or club is a possible site, take the opportunity to plan a unique party around it.
To view Venue Ideas in the Support Info section, click here
Round tables of six or eight are considered by many party planners to offer the best opportunity for conversation and service. A single long table, a U-shaped table, multiple tables positioned like spokes in a wheel or other creative configurations are also appropriate (tables of four or fewer should generally be avoided for Chaine functions, if at all possible). Dais seating of the officers is never recommended orencouraged.
When you first meet with the professionals involved in the planning of the event, be sure to discuss what ballpark budget you have in mind. Make as accurate an assessment of the cost of the event as possible and set the total cost. At this time you may want to consider a contract itemizing the cost of every detail you have agreed to and clearly outlining the method of payment. Your event cost must be determined before you can set the price of the event.
Planning the Menu
If a theme has been selected for the event, the theme will be a determining factor in the type of food. the other professionals with whom you will be working as far in advance as possible to discuss with them what you envision. If you have no idea of what you expect, you may very well get less than the chef's best.
It is common practice to request that the chef prepare a possible menu or menus which can then be considered by appointed members of the Bailliage.
Even though the choice of menu is finally up to the bailli in consultation with the Vice Conseiller Culinaire and the Vice Conseiller Gastronomique and/or Dinner Chair, remember that it's one thing to challenge the chef, it's another to request a menu that he/she is not enthusiastic about preparing. In order for everyone to benefit you want to show the chef at his/her very best.
Finally, be sure everyone involved in the planning of the event understands what kind of function is anticipated. Discuss the range of expertise of the host establishment/caterer and the services they will provide. Be very sure you are comfortable with the final arrangements. If you are uneasy or if you sense something is not completely clear, spend a little time sorting out why. A little time spent at this early stage will pay off many times over the night/day of the Big Event.
Organizing an Event
A great party is definitely a work of art. In fact it has many attributes of the best theatrical production. All parties must have a script with a defined beginning, middle, and end. When the curtain goes up, the momentum generated by the combination of script, direction, set, props, acting, music, and energy--if it comes together-- should elicit enthusiasm and appreciation from the audience. Maybe, even a standing ovation.
Before the excitement of opening night can be a reality, a lot of behind the scenes is required.
Like a theatrical production, a great party appeals to all the senses. It is a magical combination of food, drink, decor, music, people, and energy. Each element must complement and combine with the other to create a masterpiece.
The secret to a wonderful event is simple: be organized, plan down to the last detail, and follow through. The first thing one must do is create the master plan and then follow it.
Although you should always be open to spontaneity, a schedule (or Function Sheet) worked out well in advance will help keep the party in motion and on point. Decide what the highlight of the event is to be and when it should be achieved as well as how soon after the highlight you would plan to have the guests begin to leave. Pace the dinner so that guests don't stay more than forty-five minutes to an hour after dessert.
At every event, plan to allow sufficient time for the appropriate recognition and accolades to be presented. Your guests usually understand that these presentations signal the conclusion of the event unless they are informed otherwise (of after dinner drinks and cigars, etc.).
Type of Event
It is important to first select the appropriate type of event to fit the venue, time of year, time of day, and degree of formality desired. Here are some of the basic party formats to choose from:
- Supper/Supper Dance
- Induction Dinner
Pre-event dinners are strongly advised. They provide several opportunities: to determine if the courses and to make sure that the dinner will meet the expectations of the members. At the initial meeting of the bailliage and the host establishment, agreement should be reached on how this dinner cost will be covered.
The dinner should be scheduled, at the convenience of the chef, well in advance of the event and should include those most intimately involved with its planning. Sometimes the dinner is scheduled at lunchtime.
Having each participant make notes, course by course, based on established criteria developed at the beginning of the meal, can be helpful in arriving at a clear consensus at its conclusion. Subsequently, this consensus should be tactfully communicated to the chef.
What's in a name? In the case of these pre-event dinners, it's good will, so be careful what you call this dinner. In the past it was often known as a test dinner, a very judgmental term.
Basic Rules for Chaine Dinners
Except for the most informal events, the following rules will be observed:
- Smoking is not permitted until after the dessert, to preserve our palates. In many eating establishments today, smoking is not permitted in the dining room at all.
- Water is served upon request, but readily available.
- Speeches are not permitted during dinner except for expressions of appreciation, explanations of foods, and introduction of guests. (All service staff should be instructed in advance to continue serving when narratives are being presented. However, entertainment must cease during such presentations.
- Food is to be eaten when served, as this is the moment of peak quality and a sign of respect for, and appreciation of, the labors of the chef and kitchen staff.
Instructions to the Waitstaff
Except for the most informal events, the following rules will be observed:
- Concurrent service is the ideal.
- If there is any question, please ask the guest if he/she is finished with a course before removing the plate. When it has been determined that the last diner has finished, all plates should be immediately removed.
- Staff should provide water if requested.
- Unless custom dictates otherwise, it is recommended that seasonings (such as salt and pepper) not be placed on the table, as most chefs take pride in properly seasoning their dishes.
- bread accompanying a course should be served before the food is placed on the table.
- Speeches are not encouraged at Chaine functions (except during the Induction Ceremony). Short commentaries on food, however, are appropriate, interesting and educational. The service staff should continue service while narrations are underway. Entertainment, however, must cease during such commentaries.
To become a member it is necessary to be recommended by two current members and to file an application.