The Roots, Mario Batali Weather NYC Thunderstorm for Red Charity Dinner
The dinner launched the Bono-led charity's monthlong fundraising campaign for AIDS relief.
Milli Vanilli's "Blame It on the Rain" was blasting from the speakers as 1,000 sopping-wet guests arrived at New York's Pier 26 on Sunday for the Red Supper, a dinner launching the Bono-led charity's monthlong fundraising campaign for AIDS relief. A monstrous thunderstorm had presented additional logistical obstacles for the event's host, Mario Batali, and the chefs he'd enlisted to prepare an outdoor meal for the masses in NYC.
"Nothing's insurmountable," Batali said, sipping a berry cocktail and sampling an appetizer. "You go back and you look at them and they're all happy. Maybe the rain has been dumped onto their grill or their fryer isn't really hot right now but it will be in a minute. Working under slight adversity is how you can really tell a great chef from a pretty good chef."
Teamwork, the kind needed to eradicate AIDS and the kind that makes for a great meal, was the theme of the evening. Each of the 10 chefs were assigned to two-person teams that would create four-course menus served to guests, who included SNL's Vanessa Bayer, actress Carmen Ejogo and DJ Hannah Bronfman. Among the highlight dishes were a grilled lobster created by Del Posto's Mark Ladner and Elizabeth Falker (formerly of Orson in San Francisco), a dry-aged strip steak with ramps from Barbuto's Jonathan Waxman and Cleveland chef Michael Symon, and The Spotted Pig's April Bloomfield and Little Owl's Joey Campanaro's seafood boil.
Foodlover Questlove was on hand with The Roots — not long after the Roots Picnic wrapped — for a concert that was brief (Batali commented that it was one of the world's shortest) but mighty and included their dance favorites like their classic "The Seed" and Charles Wright's "Express Yourself." The band has a loyal fan in Batali, who insisted, "There's no more exciting, funky, juicy, jam-inducing group than The Roots right now."
While the majority of attendees eagerly, obsessively chronicled their meals, others — like longtime Red supporter and chairman of the board of its sister organization One Tom Freston, who admitted his palate skewed more toward McDonald's than fine dining — were just excited for whatever the great minds came up with. "My favorite thing to eat is anything anyone else makes, so I'm very much looking forward to having something somebody else makes tonight," laughed Batali. "I'm not cooking. I'm here to just shake hands, kiss babies and run for mayor."
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.