A great event for a great cause.
The Can Do Awards is a gala ceremony celebrating the Food Bank for New York City in which so many New Yorkers are provided meals daily when they can no longer afford food. The gala was hosted at the luxurious Cipriani Wall Street. The first dish that was served was a salad of roasted baby artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, arugula, avocado, and crispy parmesan. After that, the emcees of the night, Mario Batali and Michael Symon took the stage to welcome everyone to the event. The President of the food bank, Margarette Purvis, came up to talk about the food bank and the impact it has had. She emphasized how many people still are hungry in NYC and how it is their mission not to focus on the growing number of hungry people but instead focusing on providing every hungry person with a meal. After she finished her speech, Mario invites a special surprise guest to speak, former President Bill Clinton. President Clinton gave a speech commending the food bank and all that they are doing for New York as well as talking about how he had to persevere during his time in office much like the food bank is doing now. With him leaving the stage, the night’s first award went to Sultana Ocasio, Director of the Muslim Women’s Organization. She received the award and she spoke about her organization which provides halal food for people in her community that need assistance. After her, two students from the East Bronx Academy for the Future welcomed another honoree to the stage, Lauren Bush Lauren, founder of FEED. Lauren talked about starting her organization FEED and how they are expanding across the country. Each purchased item from her store helps give back to the community. After her speech, dinner was served. Dinner consisted of chicken cacciatore with organic tri color baby carrots and tri color roasted potato noisette. After dinner, Billie Harris started a live auction which had the following prizes:
-A Bank of America luxury suite to Billy Joe’s concert at Madison Square Garden.
-A Yankees game against the Rays for 80 people.
-A travel experience alongside Andrew Zimmerman where you will film with him to the location he is planning on going to.
-David Chang, Michael Symon, and Mario Batali cook for 16 of your friends in your living room.
After the auction ended, the third honoree of the night was introduced. Tanya Fields is the Executive Director of the BLK ProjeK, which turned areas in the Bronx to gardens for sustainable food. She helps give the community a source of fresh produce so they can use it in their meals. After that, Grammy award winning singer Estelle performs songs like ‘Conqueror’ from her appearance from ‘Empire,’ as well as her hit song ‘American Boy.’ After her performance was done, dessert was served which was a vanilla crème meringue cake.
Mario Batali and Michael Symon:
Q: Are there any food trends or new recipes that you’re excited about that you want to share?
Mario: Let me tell you, I am so much more interested in old stuff than new stuff right now. I am actually more interested in this old Sicilian cookbook that I got for my birthday from the 1580s than any trend I will see.
Michael: I think we think similarly about food. Old is always new and the farther you can keep it in the past, the better you are with the food of the future.
Q: What is it like to be at the gala tonight?
A: I am so excited. I am a born and bred New Yorker and I think it is really great to have an organization that helps other New Yorkers and I feel really lucky to be a part of that.
Q: Any food trends or recipes that you’re excited about that you want to share?
A: I am really into anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric and ginger and cinnamon. I think it is really great for digestive health as well.
Q: And being a native New Yorker, what are some of your favorite food spots to go to?
A: It’s totally opposite from anti-inflammatory foods but New York is an incredible place for food, really the epicenter for everything, but New York has the best pizza.
Q: Do you have a go to pizza joint?
A: I love Joe’s pizza in the West Village. That’s my staple, I’ve been going there for years.
Q: What is it like for you to be at this event?
A: I think the best thing about being at this event is that we are all here to combat hunger security in NYC and we are all trying to do our part to make a difference. I think this is my fourth year coming, and it seems to get bigger and bigger each year and they raise so much money. So it’s really all about us coming together. But, the problem is that we are still coming here, because there is a problem in this very rich town. And the richer it becomes, the more of the divide.
Q: What are some recipes that you’re discovering that you would like to share?
A: Well, right now I am tracing my roots from West Africa, Nigeria and the Bioko Island, and I am researching some of the ingredients my ancestors ate. And my ancestors are also from Portugal and Spain and so I want to take all of this and use it as if I am coming over now and as if I am using this information as my food DNA.
Q: Any food places in New York that you love that you want to share?
A: Whitegold Butchers on the Upper West Side. I love South Asian taco. I am really a simple person and after having fancy food I really like simple food. The Kimchi dog at Whitegold Butcher is amazing.
Photo Credit: Getty Images for Food Bank For New York City