Dine Out, Fight AIDS
Chef Daisy Martinez Shares Why Everyone Should Break Bread in the Fight Against AIDS
by Larry Buhl
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]ining Out For Life hosted by Subaru, now in its twenty-fourth year, is set for April 30. It’s an HIV/AIDS fundraiser that’s easy to participate in. All you need to do is go out to eat, provided you go to one of approximately 3,000 participating restaurants, bars and cafes. Participants will donate between twenty-five to 100 percent of sales that day to fund care, prevention, education, testing, counseling and other HIV/AIDS services.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Dining Out For Life spokesperson Daisy Martinez. She’s the star of Viva Daisy! on Food Network and the author of three bestselling cookbooks, including Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night.
In addition to her renown as a chef, Daisy has been involved in a variety of humanitarian efforts, including Latinas Unidas in Rochester, New York, the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, and the American Cancer Society Gala/Brooklyn Chapter. Working with DOFL, she’s sharing her passion for food to fight HIV/AIDS.
Martinez not only shared her philosophy about DOFL, she also gave me a little advice about my own kitchen.
Larry Buhl: I’m almost embarrassed to say that after reporting on HIV issues for years I had never heard about Dining Out For Life until now. I know, I’m bad. I need to get out more.
Daisy Martinez: We’ll you’ll have to come join us this year.
What is the importance of this event, and why did you decide to get involved?
I have been a part of it since 2012 and I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t heard about it before then. I love it because it’s a very happy event that’s about something serious. You can feel the solidarity and the hope. The whole journey of HIV has been a long one. There have been great advances but there is a way to go.
Living in New York with such a diverse population, I don’t know anyone whose life hasn’t been affected by this scourge one way or another, whether it’s a friend or family member. This really brings to light under a really happy occasion. I think it’s wonderful. The restaurants and restaurateur who have signed on with Dining Out For Life donate a percentage of the proceeds for that day towards HIV research and care.
Today you don’t hear that much about HIV. It has fallen by the wayside. When it was rampant and couldn’t be controlled it was much more front page. When the medical cocktails and the quality of life improved for people suffering with the virus, it kind of went off the radar. This offers the opportunity to bring awareness to the issue.
It’s also disturbing to hear those who grew up in the age of the cocktail who don’t think much about the risks.
On a practical level, what happens during the event? Is everyone at the restaurant on April 30 there for Dining Out? Is the menu different? Is there an announcement?
The restaurants don’t change their menus. It doesn’t matter whether you go there to participate or not. The restaurant will donate an agreed-upon percentage of their gross for that evening. Whether you’re there by serendipity or going to support the cause, you’re actually helping out either way.
How much money are you hoping to raise?
Last year we raised $4 million. Every year the bar goes up and more cities get involved in the Dining Out For Life program. This year I think we should go for $5 million.
Where does the money go?
Usually the money goes to a local HIV organization that can properly serve the community. It’s not like the money the restaurants donate goes into outer space. It stays within the community.
How are people hearing about Dining Out For Life nationwide?
We are involved in social media of course. We have a Twitter account, @DineOut4life, and #DiningOutForLife and a web site, www.diningoutforlife.com.
On the web site you can find what restaurants are participating in your city. If no restaurants in your community are participating, you can petition. Raise a flag. Let’s get out there and make some noise. This is something that should be nationwide, worldwide. The more the merrier. This is an issue that is not going away. Young people who don’t remember the eighties don’t know the horror. We need to make HIV education a priority in our schools because it’s not going away.
We are in sixty cities in the U.S. There should be many more. I like to celebrate in Philadelphia because it’s where I started participating in the Dining Out For Life campaign. Steven Starr is a fantastic restaurateur who hosts in one of his restaurants in Philly. He’s amazing. He shows up and shows support. It’s really a way of bringing the community together. The vibe is so cool.
What sets you apart from other TV chefs?
I don’t take myself seriously. I’m not a rocket scientist. I’m slinging hash. You have to have a sense of humor in the kitchen. Cooking should be fun. It should bring joy.
I had an incident that put things into perspective. When I was in culinary school we were learning knife skills where you cut a hundred pounds of vegetables into different shapes. One of the students couldn’t get it. The instructor would go by her table and make her dump tray after tray of vegetables that were not up to standard. Out of frustration she broke down and cried. And the instructor came up to me and asked me to take her out of the kitchen, bring her to the ladies room, help her calm down. I did and when I came back he pulled me aside and asked if she was okay. I said yes, she was just frustrated. He said, “Nobody should cry in the kitchen. There’s nothing to cry over. It’s all shit in twenty-four hours.” That brought it into perspective for me.
Hopefully not shit while it’s in the kitchen.
[Laughs.] No, twenty-four hours.
I have to say, that crying woman would be me. When I have people over I take on too much and make it a big production and too often something goes terribly wrong.
The art of the kitchen is organization. Do as much prep work beforehand. And there should not be too much to do when your guests are over. Because you don’t want to be making things when they’re over. You want to enjoy your time with them. Anything you can cut and bag and put in the fridge, do it. Like a salad, there are so many components, and twenty minutes of chopping and peeling. Bag it, put it in the fridge and then when people are over it’s already done. Anything you can do beforehand, do it.
Talking directly to our readers, what do you want them to know.
Come out on April 30. Take your honey or family out to dinner. It’s a win-win. You’re getting a great meal. Go to www.diningoutforlife.com and see where you can help support it locally.
Maybe it can be extended to two days next year.
That’s a great idea. I’ll run that up the flagpole.
Yay, I helped.
[Laughs.] You did!
Larry Buhl wrote about California’s new law that provides condom access to men who are incarcerated in the March issue.