Lessons Learnt from Diner En Blanc – Food is Meant to Unite, Not Divide

by

Dear friends,

As the blogger directly involved in the Diner En Blanc incident, I am thankful of the many people who came up to support our local delicacies that we are so proud of, and the blogging community. The encouragement demonstrated by everyone makes me feel both proud to be a Singaporean and a blogger.

With that said, I have to emphasize what I have said in my earlier blogs posts: That I hope it is all a big misunderstanding and we should keep calm.

The organisers of Diner En Blanc has announced on their Facebook that “we would like to clarify that Diner en Blanc worldwide welcomes local food as can be seen in many international events both passed and upcoming. Menus in Barcelona, Mexico, Kigali for instance, all include local food.”

I consider that case closed.

From the Diner En Blanc online discussion, I feel I need to emphasize on three points:

1) Our purpose is not to incite any form of anger, whether it is towards the organisers or the French. We should not stereotype people based on perceptions and assumptions. Sorry, I do feel some of the online comments are really uncalled for. This may be a mistake or miscommunication made by a small group of people, and we should acknowledge that there are others in the organizing team who planned very hard for this.

2) There are many other groups of people who have started their own initiative or picnics – whether it is Diner En Noir, Eat Tau Hway Day, Makan Ho Chiak, Makan Day, or Super White. These are creative and fun, and celebrate the spontaneity of the online community. However, we should not set up ‘camps’ wearing all red or all black, near them, for any purpose to spoil the Diner En Noir event. The original spirit of Diner En Blanc is the celebration of life and togetherness, which I am fully supportive of. Also, let us be gracious towards our French visitors.

3) The majority of criticisms are targeted towards the PR agency, who is seen as a PR failure for ignoring social media and undermining bloggers. I do think they know what they are doing, and are aware of the consequences. I have always kept an open communication with the PR agency involved. All I can say is many PR companies have to follow the strict instructions of their clients (or they would lose their business), and all my PR friends can vouch for the number of times clients would go against their professional advice. Two lessons learnt: Clients should trust the experts to do their stuff; and bloggers should always keep a healthy relationship with the PRs (vice versa).

Let us show to the rest of the world that We Have Class. And Daniel’s Food Diary will emphasize: Food is meant to Unite, not Divide. Peace.

The original Dîner en Blanc entry
I Have Been Told To Remove My Blog Post; I Have Decided I Won’t

Update 1: 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.
(Luke 17:3)

Update 2: From PR Agency THOX Pte Ltd, “This email serves to confirm that we have officially disengaged ourselves from working with the client (Diner en Blanc Singapore) as of last Friday 24 Aug 2012, due to a misalignment of views. We certainly look forward to working with you again on other events.”

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Comments

  1. I agree with you. They have clarified and they have apologised. We should be gracious to accept it and move on. Now feed us with more food reviews please!

  2. It seems to me that they may have removed their facebook page just moments ago. I wonder if it’s an attempt to stop people from commenting further or simply to keep everything secret from now on…

  3. a slight mistake in your post above in point 2 when you asked people not to spoil the magic of Diner En Noir… when it’s actually Diner En Blanc.. 🙂

  4. However, we should not set up ‘camps’ wearing all red or all black, near them, for any purpose to spoil the Diner En Noir event. The original spirit of Diner En Noir is the celebration of life and togetherness, which I am fully supportive of. Also, let us be gracious towards our French visitors.

    I think you meant Diner En Blanc?

  5. Hi Daniel, in pt 2 I think you meant “Diner En Blanc” instead right?

    In any case, it’s been real interesting to see how locals can get really riled up over anything to do with food. As with the curry incidence, it has been laced with tinges of the Us VS Foreigners. Just hope the organizers (not the PR company) are able to realize what makes us Singaporeans – in Asia, food takes precedence over formality.

  6. I disagree with you that “many PR companies have to follow the strict instructions of their clients (or they would lose their business)”.

    The role of the PR is to manage the communication process between the client and the public. This means the PR have a responsibility to also warn inform the client that how and what they communicate will have its consequences.

    Many times I have gone against my clients’ strict instructions by telling them by doing so would result in more negative than positive coverage. They actually appreciate that I have going against them.

    If the role of the PR is just to follow instructions, then there is no need to hire a PR agency. Just do the communications themselves.

    So the question to this PR agency is that did they counsel the organisers or just did as instructed? It seems like the speed and the untactful response showed that they did the latter.

  7. “The original spirit of Diner En Noir ..”

    did you mean Diner En Blanc? Or Noir?

    in any case, this is the internet, it’s gone viral and totally out of your hands now. Were you expecting anything less? The mob is hungry….makan on!

  8. Ah, Daniel. Commendable post, but I’ll have to say that the damage has already been done and the organisers have shown their true colours. Why continue to support such false apologies and plain deceit? Let the FTs, SPGs and bananas enjoy their Aryan party in the humid Singaporean evening.

  9. Head organiser of Diner en Blanc is no other than the “Dr” Clemen Chiang, who got sued for misrepresentation.
    http://www.asiaone.com/Business/News/My%2BMoney/Story/A1Story20090319-129590.html

    Not sure if the folks from Diner en Blanc International knew that their Singapore head organizer is a crook!

  10. Hi Daniel, I understand you have accepted Clemen’s apology… however, Singaporeans won’t forgive and forget so easily.

    He should have thought about the negative impact he would be creating… after all, has he never had a glass of lime juice from the dispenser with fiery hot fish curry? Or the delectable chicken rice with its fluffy soft white grains and tender meat? I’m sure he has eaten those at least once in his lifetime – so what’s wrong with eating it now, at Diner en Blanc?

    I, for one, won’t simply let it go.

    Long live local food!

  11. Have any of you tried googling Thox PR or Thox Singapore? They don’t exist. No website. No reference to them anywhere on the web apart from in direct connection to their communication with Daniel Ang. How bizarre. In this day and age, how can a PR agency keep such a low profile that they don’t seem to exist at all? No mention on any press release, or any client’s website – nada, nothing. It’s like they don’t exist at all … or have not existed until this episode. How could it be? Is Thox some kinda one-man-band conducted on a micro-shoe string budget? Is it a brand new company that’s only a few weeks old? Does anyone know anything about Thox the PR company behind this PR fiasco?

  12. […] 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 […]

  13. Sorry my bad, I found the Thox website – they do exist. It must’ve been taken offline when I tried to google them yesterday – the same way they pulled their Facebook page.

  14. […] For more background, read how it started, how it unfolded, and I love the line Keep Calm and Eat Tau Huay. More sources here and here.) Share this:TwitterFacebookDiggMoreRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe […]

  15. I won’t be so quick to forget and accept their disingenuous apologies. I don’t blame PR firm, PR only failed in covering up the organizers’ true colors.

    First the organizers tried to have the blog post removed, when that didn’t happened, in a show of great spite, retaliated by withdrawing invitations to all social media folks. What they didn’t expect was the fallout hence the faux apologies.

    We should continue with our own version of our mass public picnic, how can it spoil their event? In fact we are sharing their Diner En Blanc spirit in the celebration of life and togetherness, by dressing up in our favourite colors to enjoy our local delicacies (hawker or not).

  16. Dear Daniel,

    You are most welcome to come to our all-is-welcome event, Diner en Singapour – Red, White & So Much More! that will be a celebration of local food conceived and prepared by our humble stall. The open invitation is at this link https://www.facebook.com/events/516535158372068/ and our website is at http://www.facebook.com/thefamilystovethefamilywok

    Hope to see you this Thurs!

    Rgds,
    Ced

  17. yeah.. ! forgive , forget, eat, drink and be merry !

  18. Daniel, what the organisers did was obviously inappropriate and I don’t agree with what they did. Many others have already chastised them and I won’t repeat them here. And what I have written below is in no way a defense of the organisers. It is more about you.

    When I read your earlier blogs and the one above on “Food is Meant to Unite, Not Divide” and the three lessons that you learnt, I wonder if this is really what you wanted to convey when you first complained about Diner En Blanc? It didn’t seem so.

    Your earlier long blog (I Have Been Told To Remove My Blog Post; I Have Decided I Won’t) or ranting was really out to get the organisers, make them look real bad, deliver the maximum damage to the event. And you did just that.

    Incite anger? Checked.
    Cause a divide? No doubt.
    Unite? Nope…unless you consider the unity among those who were repulsed as a form of ‘unite’.

    As a blogger, you should know the nature of social media, whereby negativity begets even larger negativity. Sometime back, another food blogger also caused a public stir when he had a run-in with a restaurant. That created some very bad impression of food bloggers here.

    It seems this is the way to go – if you are not happy…blog about it…and get the organiser/restaurant or whoever into trouble or bad publicity. Your blog sure didn’t help improve the image of bloggers.

    With your conciliatory blog above, you seemed to have soften your tack and backtrack from your initial rant. So, what made the change in your stance?

    On hindsight, would you have skipped the rant and try your best to talk sense with the organisers? If the answer is no, then, your conciliatory blog above is of no meaning because you already achieved what you wanted from your earlier blogs – to hit the organisers. Telling people that food is meant to unite, not divide, after you have whacked the organisers, is just tau huey turned bad.

    Food for your thought – it is not the food that unites or divides. It is us humans.

    • Hi Kevin, thanks, I agree this has been blown out of proportion. There are details that I chose not to include, because it would make the organisers look even worse. Perhaps you can read InSing’s take, MoonBerry’s blog and some other sources for a fuller picture. Yes, I agree that talking sense is the best way to approach. I think we spent at least 3 days prior to the incident to talking sense. I did take down the post initially, wanted peace, went back to sleep, didn’t want to cause any trouble. But the other side just did not let it go. Well, a learning lesson for all. Am glad the event still went on well. Cheers.

  19. Guess the French don’t like tau huay 🙂

    Its their party so its fair they set the rules… but it’s not very polite to tell someone to remove their blog post especially when it was not offensive or disrespectful.

  20. […] (the dust has since settled following an apology from the organiser). Do read here, here and here for the background. Even though I don’t live in Singapore, I thought I’d join in to […]

  21. […] Updated Entry Lessons Learnt from Diner En Blanc – Food is Meant to Unite, Not Divide […]

  22. Tolong lah people, please lah. A few points you guys need to know:

    1. Diner en Blanc International’s headquarters in Montreal, Quebec Canada, not France! The two individuals running Diner en Blanc International are as follows: Aymeric Pasquier: born in France but now based in Canada and Sandy Safi who is Canadian. So for crying out aloud, even if you wanna talk about the organizers – you should talk about the CANADIAN organizers for crying out aloud. The event may have been started in Paris a long time ago, but the people running the show now are Canadians.

    If you wanna criticize them, then at least get the facts right please!

    2. All the worst mistakes were made by the LOCAL organizers: ie. Clemen Chiang and Nicole Yee. Those two are definitely not French and not Angmoh. They are as Singaporean as they come. Please direct your anger at them, and not the Angmohs.

  23. I kinda have to agree with Kevin here, that Daniel your intentions do not seem wholly without reproach. Maybe you should do some self-reflection, even after posting the above conciliatory post.

  24. Hi Daniel, thanks to Diner En Blanc, I am happy to have stumbled upon your blog. You’re very real and down-to-earth. I think you handled this entire “Canadian/French Picnic” episode and Kevin’s concerns very well. You have demonstrated much grace and dignity. Beautiful spirit. Keep blogging. Now that I’ve discovered your blog, I will be returning for food-finds! BTW someone should turn that “Keep Calm & Eat Tau Hway” into cute T-shirts/Shopping Tote that can be sold from your blog.

  25. […] with the local organisers. Some bloggers decided to play devil’s advocate and questioned the blogger in question‘s share of responsibility leading to the whole social media fiasco.  On the whole, it […]

  26. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it
    or something. I think that you can do with a few pics
    to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is magnificent
    blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

  27. Wow! Very colonial behaviour, may be they forgot it is 2012!! 🙁

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