Foodies convened under one roof last night at Cipriani Wall Street for the Food Bank For New York City’s Annual Can-Do Awards dinner. The annual event was hosted by Mario Batali with future GMA-er Michael Strahan canceling co-hosting duties for unknown reasons. (Apparently he’s going through some drama at his current gig. #teamripa) Honored this year for their commitment to hunger relief were artist Dan Colen, Joey O’Loughlin, and coffee brand LAVAZZA, with Francesca Lavazza flying in from Italy to pick up the award on behalf of her family.
What gets Batali to this event year after year? “Somehow, since when I was in grade school, the idea that hunger relief was not an investment but was in fact a charitable contribution is a complete misunderstanding of what it should be,” he told us before taking to the stage. “Hunger relief is an investment in the future, and hunger seems to be unrecognized by people who aren’t hungry. When you walk down the street in New York, to think that 1.5 million New Yorkers use the Food Bank, a soup kitchen, or a pantry…That means the face of hunger isn’t as different as what we might think. It’s regular people who are still hungry.” Since its inception, the Can-Do Awards has raised more than $14 million dollars, helping to provide 70 million free meals. Every dollar donated to Food Bank helps provide five meals to a New Yorker in need. The famed restaurateur (sporting orange Crocs on his feet) told us he wasn’t nervous about getting on stage for a crowd that included Jon Bon Jovi, Brandon Maxwell, Mike Meyers, Debi Mazar, Jim Gaffigan, Katie Lee, Marc Murphy, Gail Simmons, Geoffrey Zakarian, Jennifer Ferrin, Zach Bliss, and Food Bank CEO Margarette Purvis. “This isn’t an audition!” Batali said. “I’m not going to get the job, so it’s all right. Once you realize that, it’s very easy!”