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How You Can Dine for a Good Cause with Chef Mario Batali

Chef Mario Batali (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)

You may already be familiar with (RED), a global initiative to help end AIDS started by musician Bono and Bobby Shriver, but there's a food-centered offshoot—EAT (RED) SAVE LIVES—that's combining delicious events with opportunities to help raise funds and awareness to combat AIDS.

Throughout the month of June, restaurants across the country will host benefit meals, as well as many other fun, delicious events and deals. But the whole campaign kicks off with a big dinner in New York City on June 2nd, hosted by Chef Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain. Since that sounds like a dream event to us, we were eager to speak with Batali for his thoughts on the dinner, the campaign, and why giving back is important to him.

Chef Mario Batali at last year's event. (Photo by Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for (Red))

Cooking Light: Tell me a little more about the June 2nd event, including any food highlights you might be able to share. Mario Batali: June 2nd is the campaign kick-off. Anthony Bourdain and I are hosting and the line-up of chefs is hot—including goddess Nancy Silverton all the way from LA. But it’s more than food: There’s Jon Batiste and Stay Human performing and a group of fun and smart Instagram influencers ready to shoot and post! Tony and I might have some surprises lined up too...

CL: Why is food a good fit for the (RED) campaign? MB: Food brings people together and to the table. Everybody loves to eat, and there’s this special unity around food that just feels good. The restaurant community in particular really rallies around philanthropy and it always amazes me how much the food community does when there’s passion and purpose behind a cause.

CL: If people can't make it to the big dinner in NYC, what else can they do to support the cause? MB: Just eat! The whole month of June, there will be special (RED) activations all across the world – in restaurants, local food markets, and in food trucks so you don’t have to spend big or be fancy to make a difference.

CL: Why is this project particularly important to you as a chef? MB: As a chef, our instinct is to feed and nourish when you know someone is suffering. You just want to help out in any way you can. Feeding people and helping to raise money – this is how we do it. Plus, it’s just 30 cents a day for one day’s worth of lifesaving HIV/AIDS medication. That’s the cost of one cherry tomato! Knowing there’s a way to combat this disease and being able to help – that’s just what we do.

CL: Any advice you'd like to share on how people can use their love of food and cooking to make a difference in their own communities? MB: Everyone has their favorite neighborhood joint they frequent all the time. Tell them about (RED) and our mission and have them sign up to be part of it and host their own EAT (RED)-themed fundraising event! You’d be surprised how many will get on board!

Tickets are priced at $100, with 100% of proceeds going to The Global Fund to fight AIDS, the beneficiary of all (RED) monies. $100 is enough to provide 9 months of lifesaving HIV/AIDS medication to a pregnant woman living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa – medication, which helps ensure that her baby is born HIV-free. Click here to purchase tickets.

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