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CHICAGO Saturday night's holiday party for employees of Balyasny Asset Management (BAM) drew some 260 guests, and the fact that many of them were out-of-towners flown in from locales as diverse as India, London, and New York, wasn't lost on the event's planners. On the second level of the Chicago Cultural Center, where the party took place, guests checked in by locating their names in a series of personalized luggage tags that dangled from a manzanita-branch centerpiece.
The unusual table cards were the first in a series of surprises that event producer Jung Lee of New York-based Fête had planned for the evening. Lee worked in collaboration with Natalie Cross, a personal assistant to one of BAM's executives, and said that her goal for the holiday celebration was to “create a fun, hip party that keeps people on their toes the entire evening,” and thus make them want to stick around for the whole event without feeling that doing so was “an obligation."
The fourth-floor Sidney R. Yates Gallery served as the dining room, where tables of different heights and lengths created eclectic environments within the space. In lieu of traditional dinner service, Lee asked Food for Thought to present the meal “Russian style,” which involved “food coming at guests from all angles” to give the dinner ”an interactive feel,” she said. On the menu: garlic panko-crusted halibut, roasted Italian stuffed pork loin, and New Zealand rack of lamb.
While a surprise entertainer—magician and mentalist Craig Karges—performed after-dinner tricks, vendors worked to complete the transformation of the second-floor G.A.R. Hall, where a cocktail reception took place during the first part of the evening and which Lee wanted to to have a different feel by the time guests returned to it for dessert and dancing.
The gallery's main bar, which had been lit in blue throughout cocktail hour, took on a red glow for the after-party. Clusters of lounge furniture featured bottle-service fixings (such as glasses, liquor, and mixers) so that guests could prepare their own drinks. And to ensure that Balyasny employees felt comfortable dancing—a rarity at company parties—Lee strategically placed the dance floor to the side of the room, and not at its exact center. “That way, people don't feel like everyone's looking at them when they dance,” she said.