By Duane Wells
Originally published on Advocate.com April 30 2009 12:00 AM ET
Ted Allen has become a household name because of his love for food and wine.
First gaining notoriety as a contributing editor to Esquire magazine and later as the food and wine specialist on Bravo's Emmy-winning hit series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Allen has gone on to author a collection of classic recipes titled The Food You Want to Eat and host the culinary-themed series Food Detectives and Chopped for Food Network. Along the way, Ted, Renaissance man that he is, has also found time to serve as a judge on Iron Chef America and Top Chef.
Now Allen is using his celebrity to draw attention the fight against HIV and AIDS, a cause that is near and dear to his heart. For the last two years, Allen has served as the spokesman for Dining Out for Life International, an entirely volunteer-driven, international fund-raising event that began in Philadelphia in 1991 with a small group of restaurants agreeing to donate a significant portion of one evening's proceeds to local HIV/AIDS service organizations. Since that time the event has extended its reach to over 50 cities in North America.
On April 30, Dining Out for Life and Ted Allen invite those who care about supporting HIV/AIDS service and education organizations in their own cities to simply enjoy a meal with a significant other or a group of friends at one of over 3,500 participating restaurants across the nation and, in the process, make a difference in the communities around them.
Advocate.com:How did you first get involved with Dining Out for Life?Ted Allen: I really, really like this fund-raiser for three reasons, I would say.
Of course, the real heroes in the war against HIV disease in the '80s were the activists and the health care providers and the people who dedicate their lives to this, often with very little pay. But there are, of course, millions of people who can't do that for one reason or another. They work 80 hours a week or they have children ... whatever the reason may be.
Dining Out for Life is a way that anybody can make a truly meaningful contribution to the fight against AIDS in such an easy way, by just going out to dinner with friends at the right restaurant. And as easy as it is, it's also incredibly effective. There aren't many fund-raisers that can pull down as much as $4 million in a single day as this one does. I love the efficiency of that.
The second reason for me is that whenever you're trying to raise money for something, the restaurant community is almost always the first place you go, because they always step up. This is a fund-raiser that allows them to step up again but that also benefits the restaurants and the chefs because it puts new people in their restaurants and hopefully builds their business, which has never been more important than right now when the economy is bad.
And the third thing is that every penny that is raised in your community stays in your community. You're helping out people right in your own backyard. I just find that really appealing.
Moreover, Dining Out for Life seems to form a symbiotic relationship between the restaurant community and those of us who care about fighting HIV/AIDS that lasts well beyond this one night, wouldn't you agree?I think you're absolutely right. I think it just cements the relationship between the customers and the restaurant emotionally. If you're the type of person who cares about HIV/AIDS and you learn there's a restaurant in your community that shares that concern, which we should all have and I think we do, then it's only natural that we appreciate the businesses that participate in the community and give back to the community. Of course, they have to have good food!
Is this your first year as spokesman for Dining Out for Life?It's my second year, so I must not have screwed it up too much the first time.
So where will you be dining out this April 30? Or will you be hitting a number of places?I haven't quite decided yet. I think what Barry [my partner] and I are gonna do is go down to Philadelphia. The charity was founded in Philadelphia, and we were thinking of taking the train down to Philly and doing something in the city where this all started. But we haven't picked our restaurants yet. It might be kind of fun to bounce around and do more than one -- that's a good idea.
Well you're the spokesman, so I'm sure the restaurants would welcome you with open arms if you decided to make several pit stops over the course of the evening.Hey, gotta represent.
Gotta represent indeed.