A Moving Evening with Culinary’s VIPs

Some of the biggest stars in the culinary world showed up last night for one of the biggest fundraising events to fight hunger of the year, and as the New York Society Editor for Haute Living, I was fortunate to secure an RSVP to the magnificent fete.

Before we get to the details of food, fun, and festivities, a little background on the purpose of the evening. It was the Food Bank for New York City’s annual Can-Do Awards, and this year’s honoree was none other than Mr. Bam himself, Emeril Lagasse, along with Bank of America, Wakefern/ShopRite, and St. John’s Bread & Life. Co-chaired by chef and author Mario Batali and his wife Susan Cahn, and hosted by Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee (and previous honoree) Stanley Tucci, the dinner took place at Abigail Kirsch’s Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers on the Hudson River, where REM front man Michael Stipe served as the honorary dinner chair.

When I first arrived, I perused the items on the auction tables and checked out the décor, all of which were superbly done. Once we made our way to the tables, we started the first course of the evening with shrimp and crab salad, before moving on to the Classic Beef Tenderloin Au Poivre, peppercorn-crusted sliced tenderloin beef topped with frizzled sweet potato, brandied beef jus, truffled white cheddar flan, asparagus and caramelized pearl onions.

Wines for the evening included a 2008 Framingham sauvignon blanc, 2008 pinot noir, and I was also pleased to see other beverage sponsors during the earlier part of the evening like Stella Artois and Leffe.

The Food Network sponsored the Champagne and dessert, which we took in before Stanley Tucci spoke to the crowd of more than 800 about the purpose for the affair, the fact that with the resources that are available to us here in this country, hunger is one of the problems that should be easiest for us to solve. As the host and honoree, and with gregarious personalities to boot, naturally Mario Batali and Emeril had many words of insight to share about the topic, including that the Food Bank for New York City understands the landscape of the problem within the city and makes it possible to touch millions of lives each day, and that the organization allows many in need to have peace of mind when it comes to their nutritional needs. It was said that people who are already poor have been hit the hardest and will take the longest to recover from current economic challenges.

Sponsors like Delta Air Lines, Whole Foods, Britta, and Barilla are to be commended for their corporate support of the evening and the cause.

Certainly it was quite the star-studded affair, as guests included Chris Canty, U2’s The Edge, Helena Christensen, Salman Rushdie, John Cusimano, Rachel Ray, Katie Lee, Mick Rock, and Anthony Bourdain. And while all the guests enjoyed a spectacular dinner and live musical performance by Buckwheat Zydeco, the theme of the evening was not lost in the glitz of it all. The stories hit home and demonstrated to all that hunger is an omnipresent challenge that must not be ignored.

In addition to being a celebration of a deserving philanthropist, the Can-Do Awards Dinner is also quintessential in helping to provide support for the 1.3 million New Yorkers who rely on soup kitchens and food pantries for their next meal. This year in particular is crucial, since the unemployment rate has hit an all-time high of 10.6 percent, and one in five do not have food to feed themselves or their families.

Food Bank for New York City has been working for 27 years as the city’s major hunger-relief organization, fighting to end food poverty and hunger. It distributes food to a network of around 1,000 food assistance programs in New York City, and helps provide around 300,000 free meals a day.

Check the Haute Living events page for more scenes for this evening.