Roland Celette, the popular French cultural attaché who is leaving Washington in two weeks, has a very good friend in local businesswoman and arts supporter Susan Lehrman. She picked up the tab for an unusual and fun party at the French Embassy on Tuesday evening. It was an American cookout with meaningful French touches, such as well-chilled Champagne, rum punch and sangria, a paella the size of a Smart car, as well as hamburgers with all the fixins.
The party was Celette’s second farewell on French turf. Last month, Ambassador Francois Delattre hosted a cocktail reception at his residence in Kalorama. That was the formal adieu. The fete at La Maison Francaise was casual and benefited from lovely, sunny weather. The guests, friends, and embassy staff gathered on the front circular driveway that is anchored by a large pool and dramatic gilt sculpture. They were entertained by a lively jazz combo. Celette is well known for his love of music, including jazz, and his love of food. The paella was from one of his favorite DC restaurants, the Spanish Taberna Del Alabardero.
As for the hamburgers, we asked the “chefs” if they were up to grilling this American classic. They laughed and said, “absolutely.” They did seem to know their techniques. What was interesting, though, was that many of the guests on the buffet line ate their burger with only the bottom bun, and also a knife and fork. Vive la différence.
When we reached him today, Celette said of the party, “Oh my god, we had a good time.” He said it went past midnight and by the end some of the 200 guests ended up in the pool. “It was fun,” he said. Clearly there should be more cookouts at the La Maison Francaise, underwritten by Susan Lehrman.
Celette returns to France at the end of the month. His successor as cultural attaché is Catherine Albertini. Her start date has yet to be announced.