The Good Life - Dining With Ted Allen
Southern California is blessed enough as it is. But on April 28th, Dining Out for Life (DOFL)-the annual fundraising bash that spurs fine local restaurants, nightclubs and bars to support HIV/AIDS services in their own cities-gets a taste of appreciation...and it’s oh, so good. Joining us in the cattle call is openly gay TV personality and host of Food Network’s astoundingly popular Chopped, Ted Allen.
"Ratings are surpassing what anybody ever dreamed of...6.3 million viewers-which is no big deal compared to American Idol. But this is cable. Everyone’s really excited."
Modesty is a virtue, but when you love cooking and learning about culinary arts as much as Ted does, success is almost certain.
"I can’t imagine anything that has more fringe benefits than [working on] Chopped. I go to work on the set and I stand there for 12 hours a day-which is tough on your feet-and I spend the whole day talking about food and cooking with Scott Conant...Alex Guarnaschelli...Marc Murphy-people who know so much. I feel like I’m in a cooking class all day. If I ever have any questions, I can call these people...text them...I just love that. People pay a lot of money for that."
Dining Out for Life has become a very anticipated event as well-which makes one wonder where Ted prefers to satisfy his fundraising palate.
"It’s hard to say this year because DOFL will be on April 28 and we’re going to be in production on Chopped on April 25, so I think I might have to have somebody Fed-Ex my dinner to me."
Being as busy as Ted is, it must sometimes be difficult to remember all the organizations to which he’s associated!
"I really don’t even think of DOFL as an ’organization.’ It’s all volunteers, and it’s really all about the restaurants that are giving their profits. I guess what has changed is that the economy has taken a turn for the worse-which in turn puts a lot of pressure on HIV/AIDS organizations, food banks and meal delivery services for people who are ill.
It’s an important time for us to do what we can. We all have to eat and this DOFL is a very easy way to make a meaningful contribution. That’s what I think is so great about it."
Despite the economic plunge, DOFL’s numbers are still strong. Of course it’s no wonder with establishments like West Coast Tavern, Spread and Mariposa Ice Cream donating 50 percent of their proceeds earned. Moreover, Chef Richard Sweeney of R Gang Eatery has pledged 100 percent of that day’s earning’s to DOFL’s care! Talk about a rebel WITH a cause!
"Raising $4 million with a volunteer group in a single day, there aren’t many fundraisers that can do that,"Ted said.
Indeed. Perhaps this fundraising endeavor should be made global. Ted thinks we still have plenty to accomplish here, where HIV continues to be a growing problem, especially for women of color.
"We have treatments for HIV/AIDS now but the drugs have side effects, and they’re expensive...so I think it’s still important to get the word out."
Professionally, Ted has achieved quite a bit. But is there a field or craft that he’d like to pursue apart from his current jobs?
"I am working on my next cookbook, which is due out spring of 2012-if I can get it finished before we start Chopped, otherwise I’m in big trouble! The working title of the book is The Kitchen Adventure. The idea is that going into the kitchen CAN be an adventure. Cooking is something that I do for fun, not just because I have to eat. All of the recipes-aside from tasting good-have given me an epiphany or discovery...or a technique that really stayed with me. And every recipe has to meet those criteria otherwise I’m not going to use it. A lot of people go out and play golf for seven hours. That’s their idea of heaven. I would rather go into the kitchen with my friends, turn the music on and pour a glass of wine. That’s what we do."
For a complete list of participating restaurants in your area, pay a visit to diningoutforlife.com/sandiego or diningoutforlife.com/losangeles.