Inside Sidney Poitier's 'Dinner Of A Lifetime'

Food connects people in a way that not many things can. Sitting down at a table and sharing a meal with friends — or even strangers — can create a unique space for laughter, tears, confessions, triumphs, and good old-fashioned storytelling. And if Oprah Winfrey is hosting the dinner, you can count on second servings of all of the above.

Such was the case in 2007, when the benevolent goddess Winfrey bestowed upon fans of the late Sydney Poitier the "Dinner of a Lifetime" on her show (via Oprah). In fact, Poitier was the guest of honor for the event, so ostensibly, the extravagant, emotional, planned-to-perfection dinner was for him. But by all accounts, it would be hard to tell who walked away from the evening with more: the legendary actor himself, or the people who were able to express directly to Poitier what an impact he has had on their own lives. 

Poitier's book "The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography" had just come out at the top of Oprah's Book Club list, and guests of the evening were all readers chosen from around the country. Such a special dinner called for a setting and a menu that reflected the heart of the intention ... And Wolfgang Puck and his team at Spago, designer Ellen Welden, and party planner Colin Cowie were up to the challenge.

Wolfgang Puck gave Sidney Poitier and guests a dinner to remember

Wolfgang Puck is known for many things: his famed Hollywood restaurant Spago, his smoked salmon pizza, and the line of food at your grocery store that bears his name. But you might not have known about the chef's friendship with Poitier. The pair met 50 years ago, according to Puck's recent Instagram tribute. The chef often cooked for Poitier and his family at their home and at Spago. So, it was only fitting that Puck catered the "Dinner of a Lifetime" because, as Puck put it, "We know what he really loves" (via Oprah).

A lobster and scallop salad with a blood orange vinaigrette was paired with a 2003 Cotes du Rhone for the first course that evening, followed by a wild mushroom porcini risotto with a 2003 Sangiovese. By the time the main course — a pan roasted organic chicken with black truffles and a yellowfin potato puree — was served ... "Well, it would be the sixth time I've pinched myself because of this gathering," Poitier said. Discussion of Poitier's book and career writ large inevitably sparked conversation around the agency of Black Americans in Hollywood, interracial marriage, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. 

A red velvet cake made to look like an exact replica of Poitier's book was served last, along with a moving toast from Winfrey: "Here's to you, who I have loved my entire life, and even before I was born."