Gossip Girls in Chanel at Four Seasons and David Rockwell's High-Tech Taste on Paper Plates

By Ted Kruckel November 6, 2009, 4:33 PM EST

Chanel's Fete d'Hiver at the Four Seasons Restaurant to benefit The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Photo: Bill Farrell-Patrick McMullan

There are so many reasons why I’ve never seen an episode of Gossip Girl.

For starters, I’m not really sure what channel is the CW, and besides, doesn’t CW make you think of country music? By the time New York magazine was calling Gossip Girl “Best. Show. Ever.” I decided I was too late to the party. Couldn’t I just hold my breath for a few years till it faded away? How stupid.

Because as with the last cult hit show in the New York area, The Sopranos, Gossip Girl’s far-flung cast is relentless in pursuit of publicity and as a result, I see one or two of them at every single party I go to, and it is always a big deal, despite the fact that they all seem so tiny in person.

But even I have figured out that the biggest of them all is Blake Lively, and her arrival in Chanel at the Fete d’Hiver, which the brand sponsored for The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at the Four Seasons Restaurant on Wednesday, November 4, was one of those real Day of the Locust moments—paparazzi swarming and shouting her name, young society girls knocking people over to get close to her.

This made it a little tricky in the Grill Room, where Chanel Fine Jewelry had set up a row of vitrines with some truly amazing one-of-a-kind diamond pieces, which Chanel displayed on “live” crystals and allowed guests to try on, and did brisk business at that. The two ladies from their accessories flagship on Madison and 64th Street were pros; I had chatted them up earlier, and their security guys seemed on the ball, moving in closer and closer as one wife turned to show her husband how the diamond snowflake brooch could work as a hair accessory. But I’d be lying if I didn’t think, “If ever there was a time to grab some rocks and go, this is it.”

Perhaps because of the crowds, a stuffed white peacock perched on the balcony in front of the DJ booth was mysteriously spirited away during the cocktail hour, making some wonder whether it had been stolen or eaten. Either way, it was missed.

To escape the madding, I snuck into the Pool Room to check out the dinner styling by Bronson van Wyck. The tables were simple and smart with dark, blood-colored peonies and long black tapers on clear glass candlesticks. It was clever the way van Wyck used a few rental pieces mixed in with the restaurant’s usual service ware to make an overall custom look. The black water goblets (from Party Rental Ltd.) in particular stood out.

The pool installation was a clever idea, but perhaps lost in translation. A spokeswoman told me they were mercury balls, large and small, and from far away I believed her, though up close I could see that they were stainless steel and made a pinging noise while swirling in the currents that made me wonder if they were going to break or dent. But once the lights went down and the room got loud (and it did) I doubt anyone noticed.

It was a busy week for The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Just a few days before, they had launched the second edition of Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations, their member cookbook. But this isn’t a charity cookbook like my mother used to work on—this one was edited by The New York Times’ Florence Fabricant, published by Rizzoli ($35), feted by Bloomingdale's, and is now for sale in bookstores nationwide. The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s former president, and Celebrations preface writer, Leslie Jones recommended her husband’s filet mignon recipe to me. I cook filet all the time, and this simple but rich cognac crème sauce sounded really good. I’ll let you know.

Speaking of food, I had decided that after eating my way through Food Month in October, I was going to give culinary events a pass for a while. But I got sucked into New York magazine's 11th annual New York Taste on November 2, lured by David Rockwell's event design.

I really admire David, who I have known forever. He is a busy boy, designing restaurants and Broadway shows and running AIDS charity Diffa. But here he had lent his services for City Harvest, the beneficiary of this annual event (which was at capacity with more than 1,000 guests).

For some reason I’d been able to avoid this event for 10 years, but seeing Rockwell’s name attached gave me real pause, and reminded me that smart events can last a long time if they stay fresh.

Here he did two large hanging installations made from paper plates clipped together. They acted as dividers in the cavernous Skylight studios (the second season at this venue), where more than 40 chefs had set up to ply the ravenous crowd with their morsels.

One paper wall had each plate pierced with an intricate laser design resembling a set of snowflakes. The second was truly amazing, with a perfectly focused projection of a type of food—one minute salad, then pasta, then fruit—all changing in geometric patterns all the time, but never in any predictable order. David told me it was all done with one projector, which seemed impossible until I asked Joan MacKeith, Rockwell Group’s director of public relations and marketing, who emailed:

“The software was custom written by Rockwell Group’s Innovation Lab in C++ using openFrameworks (which is an ongoing open source project that the Lab uses a lot). Writing the software ourselves allowed us to create custom calibration tools to tailor the program to the space. The software randomly generates the order of the images each time it transitions to one of the five tastes (or chef photos). In addition, each plate flips back and forth at another randomly determined interval, creating a dynamic pattern every time it switches to a new taste. During the moment it switches, it chooses between one of seven transitions we created (i.e. flipping from left to right, or flipping outward from the center in a pattern).”

Clever, those Rockwell lab kids, no? I asked David what happens to sets like these—does he recycle them? “The software we’ll use again. The paper plates we’ll eat lunch off of.” The next day, along with Patti Smith and Marc Jacobs, David received an award from Pratt Institute. He gave a keynote presentation at the BizBash Expo in New York last month, too, which I heard was inspiring. As I said, busy boy.

I also liked the surfaces of the bars he designed, which I thought were some sort of stone. Turns out that the main bar had an innovative green countertop composed of 75 percent recycled content from event sponsor ECO by Cosentino. It’s a surfacing material that has all the same properties as a quartz surface. Fooled me. Check it out for yourself at

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