Tonight marks the eighth time that chef/entrepreneur Mario Batali has co-hosted the annual Food Bank for New York City gala.
It will be, however, the first since last November, when Batali appeared on a Time magazine panel and compared bankers with Hitler and Stalin for having toppled “the way money is distributed and taken it into their own hands.”
Not surprisingly, many of Batali’s best customers took umbrage, some calling for a boycott of Batali bastions Del Posto and Babbo. (He later apologized for drawing the comparison.)
Bank of America Corp (BAC:US). opted not to hold a grudge and to aid hunger relief instead by paying the costs of the annual dinner, which is co-chaired by Batali and his wife, Susan Cahn.
Support from the bank, patrons and the Food Bank’s board (of which Batali has been a member since 2003) help cover the nonprofit’s $30 million budget this year. Other board members include Carla A. Harris, a Morgan Stanley (MS:US) managing director; General Atlantic LLC Managing Director Peter L. Bloom; and Arthur J. Stainman, senior managing director at the investment management firm of First Manhattan Co.
“The financial sector support for the Food Bank has been fantastic, and we really need more of it,” Lisa Jakobsberg, the group’s vice president of marketing and business partnerships, said by phone.
The nonprofit’s Can Do Awards Dinner has blossomed over the years into a New York social calendar highlight, attracting Wall Street philanthropists and boldface names to its guest list.
Thanks to the Bank of America gift, all the money raised tonight will support the Food Bank’s operations. The event is the first gala under the leadership of Margarette Purvis, succeeding president and CEO Lucy Cabrera, who served the nonprofit for 23 years.
The party also moves downtown from Chelsea Piers to the Greek Revival-inspired Cipriani Wall Street to give the event a touch of elegance, Jakobsberg said.
Attendees will rub shoulders during the cocktail hour with Batali, Bravo “Top Chef” head judge Tom Colicchio, chef Anne Burrell, the co-host of the Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” and Jon Stewart, the event’s honorary chair. After dinner, patrons will sip cocktails and wine and listen to the rock band Bush, playing gratis.
The evening’s honorees include pasta maker Barilla America Inc., which has supported the Food Bank’s operations; the Richmond Hill, New York-based River Fund New York which works with the nonprofit to feed and counsel the hungry; and New York State Senator Liz Krueger.
The Food Bank gala guest list began amassing star power over the past decade when Cahn married Batali, a Food Network star.
The couple, whose restaurant and gourmet food empire now reap millions annually in revenue, began nudging celebrity chefs and famous friends like former REM front man Michael Stipe, Gwynneth Paltrow and her husband and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, to come to the event.
Longtime supporter Stanley Tucci got fellow actors Kevin Bacon and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick to come to this year’s party. NBC “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon and his wife also signed on as benefit committee chairs.
“Some people who come say, ‘I love Mario Batali, and I want to see what this is all about,’” Jakobsberg said. “It’s one of the many ways that we want to engage people with the hunger issue. This helps us put a face on hunger.”
The Food Bank for New York City’s “Can Do Awards Dinner” is tonight at Cipriani, 55 Wall Street, at 6 p.m. Tickets: http://www.foodbanknyc.org/events/can-do-awards-dinner.
Today’s Muse highlights include an interview with E.O. Wilson and a review of “White House Burning.”
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