Gary Myles, editor
We often think of dining as a way to convene with friends and family, to build relationships with clients and to socialize with colleagues. Dining out can also serve the purpose of helping those in need – suffering from disease, addiction or homelessness; otherwise at risk; or just down on their luck.
“Is the rich world aware of how four billion of the six billion live? If we were aware, we would want to help out, we’d want to get involved.” – Bill Gates
Seattle is blessed with a restaurant and food community that recognizes great things can happen by joining forces with loyal patrons. Most of these dining opportunities entail a percentage of your check going to one charitable or nonprofit organization or another. Some, like FareStart, go beyond simply donating money by providing to those in need of a second chance an opportunity to learn a trade.
Profiled here are six examples of how to dine out in Seattle while, at the same time, being of service to others.
On the last Thursday of every April, more than 150 Seattle-area restaurants, grocery stores, cafes and bakeries participate in “Dining Out For Life”, a regional event that attracts thousands of diners from throughout the Pacific Northwest in support of the eradication of HIV and AIDS. The 17th Annual “Dining Out For Life” event is April 29.
Thirty percent of the cost of a participating-restaurant meal will be donated to Lifelong AIDS Alliance. This organization is committed to preventing the spread of HIV and to providing practical support services, meals, housing assistance and insurance for those whose lives are affected by HIV/AIDS.
A donation of $25 or more on the night of Dining Out For Life qualifies you as a member of Dining Out’s “20% off Tuesdays” club – 20% off your food bill at participating restaurants every Tuesday for the remainder of the year.
Since 1992, the Women’s Funding Alliance has held its annual “Art of Dining” event, an auction gala that features cuisine of the Seattle-area’s top women chefs. Proceeds are donated in support of social change on behalf of women and girls of the Puget Sound region. This year’s “Art of Dining” event is on May 6 at 5 p.m. at Fremont Studios (155 N. 35th St., Seattle).
The featured Five Star Diva Chefs include: Lisa Dupar of Lisa Dupar Catering & Pomegranate Bistro; Christine Keff from Flying Fish; Leslie Mackie from Macrina Bakery and Café; Tamara Murphy of Brasa and Elliot Bay Café; and Debi Zeri from Lola. Included among the Alliance’s honorary chairs is Kellye Testy, the new dean at the University of Washington School of Law.
If you can’t make “Dining Out for Life” or “Art of Dining”, but like the idea of directing a portion of your dining dollars to a charity of your choosing, you’ll be interested in dining at one of the restaurants participating in Seattle’s “Celebrated Chefs”. The roster of participating restaurants includes a who’s who of Seattle restaurants, each of which donates 5% of dining proceeds to a charity of the diner’s choice. Just remember to pay your bill with the same credit card you registered during enrollment and the donation to your cause will occur automatically.
FareStart exists to serve the community. The restaurant is part of an effort to address homelessness by providing training of adults and youth, assisting with job placement and teaching life skills.
We reviewed FareStart’s lunches in August. For dinner, FareStart runs a Guest Chef program each Thursday night, which has raised more than $2 million to date. Each Guest Chef hails from a well-known restaurant or catering service in Seattle and works with the training program participants in the kitchen to create food that is top-notch.
During the course of the meal, the chef explains the food and the program to the customers and volunteers. The volunteer wait-staff is friendly and upbeat, and the dinners are a bargain at $24.95. Volunteer opportunities – available and popular – are listed on the website.
FareStart also teams up with community partners to raise money for its job-training program and to introduce our community to its mission. Key events are the 6th Annual “Guest Chef on the Waterfront” (July 14) and the 18th Annual “Great Food. Better Lives” Gala Auction (October 17).
If you want to support FareStart while sipping some Syrah, with the skyline and Puget Sound as your backdrop, consider attending “Sip Sexy Syrah At Salty’s!” on April 21, from 6-9 p.m. at the Salty’s in West Seattle. Salty’s chefs will be preparing delicious appetizers to pair with wines from 40 different Northwest wineries. Tickets are $45 and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to FareStart (700 Virginia St., Seattle; 206-267-6223).
For more information on any of the events listed here, check the FareStart website.
Some restaurants are strongly committed to giving back to the community and they give back in substantial ways. Take, for example, Canlis (2576 Aurora, Seattle; 206-283-3313).
The restaurant’s owners, Chris and Alice Canlis, have followed the 60-year tradition of community service started by the restaurant’s founder, Nicholas Peter Canlis. The restaurant supports events and organizations such as FareStart’s Guest Chef Night and Union Gospel Mission’s Women and Children’s Shelter.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
The local wine community has also pitched in to make a difference. In February, Seattle Uncorked put on the Exotic Wine Festival at Teatro ZinZanni. The event was a fundraiser for Art With Heart, a Seattle nonprofit organization that provides creativity-based therapy programs to high-risk children experiencing mental health issues.
Twenty-three Northwest wineries showed up to pour for the good cause. And they weren’t serving Chardonnay. As the name of the event suggests, the local winemakers, who included Gamache Vintners, Kana Winery, Smasne Cellars and Syncline to name a few, offered their most exotic and interesting blends. To add to the experience, the cast of Teatro ZinZanni performed around the venue.
Keep your eye out for upcoming similar events around town. Who doesn’t love to sip great wine for a great cause?
Originally published in the April 2010 issue of the King County Bar Bulletin. Reprinted with permission of the King County Bar Association.