On the 20th anniversary of the inception of Dining Out For Life I had the opportunity to interview their spokesperson The Food Network’s James Beard award winning host of Chopped, Ted Allen. Ted Allen shared time to chat with Examiner.com about his commitment to Dining Out for Life, how Queer Eye for the Straight Guy evolved, Top Chef, Iron Chef America and more.
There are 50 restaurants giving varying percentage of this one day fundraiser to Moveable Feast – Donating 50% of their proceeds are three very special and unique Baltimore restaurants – 13.5% Wine Bar + Food – Chef Cyrus Keefer, Gertrude’s - Chef John Shields and Woodberry Kitchen – Chef Spike Gjerde. Chefs and restaurateurs are the backbone to fundraising for so many charities – I am in awe of their generosity.
Moveable Feast, a non-profit which offers meal delivery programs to homebound people living with HIV/AIDS and breast cancer, transportation and in addition, a culinary training program. See how your one meal on Thursday, September 17thcan feed many. Feed people, Fight disease and Foster hope.
Dara Bunjon: When you look back at your early days as a journalist in Chicago what were your aspirations? Any dreams of what the future would hold for you?
Ted Allen: I had no aspirations of television. The contract to write for Esquire Magazine was my dream comes true. I wanted to write for a quality magazine; stylish, experimental and one with flair. I had to hustle for the Esquire job, they weren’t found on Craigslist.
DB: How did Queer Eye for the Straight Guy come about? It was pretty brave even for 2003 to ‘come out’ nationally. It wasn’t that long before that Ellen DeGeneres’s career suffered a blow when she came ‘out’ in 1997.
TA: No one took it more seriously being ‘out’ on television. Many didn’t like having it shoved in their faces. It opened a door for the LGBT community. It allowed me to come out to many but a few relatives learned when the show aired.
Since 1933 Esquire Magazine has set the standard for men to be modern world travelers, how to dress, where to dine – numerous service articles, an orientation to being a well rounded male. The folks from Queer Eye were huge fans of Esquire Magazine; it was almost a template for the show.
DB: Thank you for doing your part as Dining Out for Life’s spokesperson for the past six years. In fact, it is DOFL’s 20th anniversary this year. What have been the accomplishments and what do we still need to do?
TA: Over 4 million dollars has been raised annually for DOFL in 50 cities for local AIDS service charities. The money raised in each city stays in that city.
HIV/AIDS has promising therapies and is no longer the automatic death sentence. It initially hit the gay community first but with precautions the incidents of the disease in gays were down. The disease then seemed to spread to women of color and now with young gay men the numbers are increasing. The fight continues.
The real heroes are the activist, health care workers, volunteers. Dining Out for Life is a simple opportunity that by dining out on a specific day at designated restaurants, patrons are making a meaningful contribution. Restaurateurs donate a portion of the proceeds of that evening (and/or lunch) to DOFL. Everyone wins; the restaurateurs fill their seats with new patrons.
DB: How did being a judge on Top Chef and Iron Chef America prepare you for hosting Chopped?
TA: When Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was at its peak (Emmy Award winner), I was on two television networks, Bravo and The Food Network. That was pretty unheard of at that time. It was important to talk about food in a way anyone could understand. Both Iron Chef America
and Top Chef refined that talent, improved my skills to communicate on how food tastes.
It was Alton Brown and Tom Colicchio who influenced me to focus on the food and not who cooked it. They are both scrupulously fair in their judging.
Baltimore, dine out on Thursday, September 17th and help Moveable Feast continue to provide numerous services, free, to people with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. Fifty local restaurants are committed to donating a percentage of the lunch, or lunch and dinner proceeds to this amazing charity. Everyone wins – you enjoy great food, the restaurants fill their seats and most importantly the needy clients of Moveable Feast continue to have meals delivered, receive needed transportation and more.
Dining Out For Life - www.diningoutforlife.com/baltimore Thursday, September 17th #DOFLBMORE