When creating the opening gala for a speaker series that challenged attendees to ask themselves profound life questions, Calgary, Alberta-based event production company POP Kollaborative turned the questions on themselves.
“This was an event professional's dream,” says POP president Kenneth Kristoffersen, CSEP, describing the Calgary Chamber of Commerce's launch gala for its “iF” speaker series. “How often does one get to look at a client and say, ‘I want to push people's expectations and the norms,’ and have them actually say, ‘Yes’!”
Encouraged to think outside the box, Kristoffersen and his team began posing design- and food-related questions aimed at inspiring themselves to go beyond the standard sit-down dinner. “We wanted to design a gala that would cause people to ask themselves questions,” Kristoffersen explains. “There was to be no dancing at this gala and it would not be a long evening, so we decided to focus on the decor and the food and beverage as the primary means of provoking outside-the-box thinking.”
To that end, the decor was kept simple yet provocative, with mirrored walls and clear Ghost chairs. Centerpieces featured simple square glass vases with flowers unexpectedly turned upside down and submerged in water. Clear plastic menu cards doubled as napkin rings.
The real questions arose, however, when creating the menu. For the first course, the event team set the tone by asking the question, “If you could have dessert first, wouldn't you?” The result: an optical illusion of “strawberry shortcake” — in reality a citrus-scented goat cheese mousse and roasted striped-beet mille-feuille with a pomegranate-balsamic reduction that visually mimicked the real thing. This was served by 100 young ballet students, proving that service itself can be an art form.
For the second course, the question posed was, “If two are better than one, shouldn't you?” The answer: two separate “mini meals” — lamb and duck, each complemented with its own starch and vegetable. The dessert course asked the question, “If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, couldn't you?” and featured yet another optical illusion: mock “fried eggs and toast” made of tropical fruit jelly with coconut panna cotta and hazelnut biscotti with a berry coulis.
The entertainment portion of the gala featured a performance by the Alberta Ballet, choreographed to the songs of Canadian-born pop star Sarah McLachlan.
“Using an innovative way to wrap guests into an experience and lead them through the essence of the iF conference took the event over the top,” says Kristoffersen, who asks the question, “If you could plan it, would you?”
Pop Kollaborative 403/264-9801; www.pop hasawebsite.com