Food aficionado Ted Allen is a natural spokesman for Dining Out For Life (DOFL), the popular cause that raises money for AIDS service agencies nationwide.
The longtime supporter says DOFL is one of the coolest causes in the U.S. because its concept is so simple and pure.
“All you got to do is go out and eat,” Allen said. Participating restaurants will then donate a portion of the proceeds on Thursday, April 24, to efforts to fight AIDS.
Allen said the restaurant industry tends to be very tolerant and very supportive of DOFL. It’s a win-win situation for all: Restaurants get new business, and patrons learn about new restaurants. Chefs gain new fans, and the wait staffs enjoy more tips.
“It’s an opportunity to get together with friends and eat together,” Allen said. “There’s nothing better than breaking bread with your friends.”
Ironically, Allen will not be able to “break bread” with friends on April 24 because he will be busy taping episodes of the Food Network’s “Chopped,” where he is the host. Since its premiere in 2009, “Chopped” has challenged chefs to create a spectacular dish from a “basket of mystery ingredients.” The culinary competition has three challenges as chefs are “chopped” one by one until a winner is declared.
The man who hosts “Chopped”
“Chopped” returned this month with new 39 new episodes on the menu. After five years, Allen still waxes enthusiasm for the show.
“This year, there’s no rest for the wicked,” he said, laughing.
“Isn’t it fun?” Allen said. “It’s interesting to watch the judges taste the dishes made out of impossible combinations of ingredients!”
Allen praised the iron stomachs of judges, who are subjected to eating odd dishes created from exotic ingredients that the ordinary diner might avoid. He said there is bravado among judges that he admires.
About the only time judges spurn a dish is when chefs cut themselves with a sharp knife and blood possibly oozes into the food. Safety, after all, is paramount. But celebrity judge Geoffrey Zakarian once refused to eat a dish made with Durian, considered the world’s stinkiest fruit.
For the most part, chefs are good sports after being chopped. “People who get chopped do want to understand why they got chopped,” he said. But Allen recalled one guy, who he described as “very arrogant,” who made quite a scene after getting chopped.
New show set to debut
On Sunday, Allen’s presence on TV will expand with the addition of his new Food Network show, “America’s Best Cook.”
Celebrity judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Cat Cora, Michael Symon and Tyler Florence will mentor 16 amateur cooks representing East, West, North and South for bragging rights as “America’s Best Cook.”
A little background
Allen, 48, was born in Columbus, Ohio on May 20, 1965. Although his career is focused on food, Allen holds a degree in psychology from Purdue University in Indiana and a master’s degree in in journalism from the Science and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University.
Early on, Allen started working as a restaurant critic and food writer for papers and magazines in Chicago. He also began contributing columns to Esquire magazine.
The LGBT community will recall that Allen made a national name for himself as the food and wine connoisseur on Bravo TV’s hit show, “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy,” which ran from 2003 to 2007.
Allen says fans today know him more for “Chopped” than for “Queer Eye.” But he still cherishes the impact that “Queer Eye” had in popular culture as well as on his own career, and freely admits to having had a “crush” on younger cast member Jai Rodriguez. “Jai keeps getting cuter and cuter,” Allen said, laughing.
Allen has also written two cookbooks and he appears on other Food Network shows such as “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” You’ve also seen him as a judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.”
Life is full, as Allen married his longtime partner, Barry Rice, on July 30, 2013 in New York City.
Find a DOFL event near you
Click HERE to find the nearest DOFL event anywhere across North America.
Click HERE to find a participating restaurant in San Diego.
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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at [email protected], @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.