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A version of this story first appeared in the June 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
According to some of the world’s top chefs, the easiest way to get them onboard a project is to have Mario Batali give them a call. But according to Batali, the secret word to convince anyone to do, well, anything is “Bono.” “For me to say, ‘Bono is hoping you guys might help out,’ I can’t think of one person who would say, ‘I’m a little busy that week,’ ” Batali booms.
The co-host of The Chew and owner of 26 restaurants is referring to Eat Red Drink Red Save Lives, a 10-day global initiative he’s spearheaded with master meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda and Bono’s Red organization. Through June 10, more than 500 restaurants and food trucks in 120 cities will offer special dishes and cocktails and give a portion of proceeds to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which, since 2002, has distributed more than $22 billion for prevention and treatment. Among the chefs involved is a New York group who gathered May 27 at Batali’s Otto in Manhattan: Wylie Dufresne (his Alder is participating); Matthew Lightner (Atera); April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig); Amanda Freitag, a judge on Food Network’s Chopped (Empire Diner); Cronut creator Dominique Ansel; and David Burke (David Burke at Bloomingdale’s). Restaurants in L.A. include Pizzeria Mozza (co-owned by Batali), Katsuya and Mr. Chow.
“If Mario asks you to do something, you got to do it,” says Bloomfield, who feels the charity is a perfect fit for those in the food industry. “There is nobody better to raise awareness and money than chefs. Chefs care a lot; they’re love and caring people,” she says. “Any celebrities [should] use their star power to raise awareness.”
All money raised goes to The Global Fund’s efforts against AIDS/HIV in Africa, not to Red itself. The latter’s mission, stresses Red co-founder Bobby Shriver, is to enlist corporations and individuals in the fight, including selling Red-branded goods with companies like Beats by Dre. “People misunderstand the model,” says Shriver, referring to criticism in recent years that Red and parent organization ONE do not make enough direct grants in Africa. “When they hear ‘philanthropy,’ they think we’re making grants. What we’re good at is activism and advocacy.” Red has raised more than $250 million to date, including $3 million this year when U2 made its new single free on iTunes and Bank of America donated $1 for every download.
In a new PSA, celebrities such as Martha Stewart and Top Chef‘s Padma Lakshmi demonstrate that medication costs as little as 40 cents a day per person, holding up small amounts of food estimated to be worth that. “My pizza dough might be a little more expensive,” says Batali. “The fish head might be about right.” Adds Burke: “I don’t even think it can buy you a stick of gum. But 40 cents can save a life.”
Tina Daunt contributed to this story.
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