Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Harlem, a Feast for Ethiopia Famine wall street journal reports

Marcus Samuelsson and Maya Haile at a Fashion Week show.

Restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson hosted brunch Sunday for a couple hundred people who had trekked to Harlem from the neighborhood and as far as Charleston, N.C.. But the afternoon eats weren't at his buzzy Red Rooster, but rather at the apartment he shares with model wife Maya Haile.

The $50 suggested donations for the event, billed as "Brunch for the Horn of Africa," will ultimately go to NGOs in Ethiopia providing drought and famine relief, he said.
"I firmly believe there's a call for events and charities to be much more democratic,"Mr. Samuelsson said. "What you get for 50 bucks today is access: You get to meet amazing people, it's personable, it's not in a hall somewhere, you can dress however you want to dress."
The menu was half at-home Ethiopian, half soul-inspired food: injeera flatbread and collard greens, yellow lentils and fried chicken. "Maya stayed up and cooked all day, all night with her friends," Mr. Samuelsson said. "We wanted to keep it homey."
At brunch, guests could purchase $10 raffle tickets for prizes including books signed by the host and fellow celebrity chef Eric Ripert and bottles of champagne.
Ms. Haile and Mr. Samuelsson said there was no particular monetary goal, but that they would continue to sell raffle tickets through fall, with donations from their fashion and restaurant industry friends. Money raised, they said, will go toward clean water, clothing, food, medical supplies and education, and will be delivered to local NGOs when Ms. Haile visits Ethiopia in October. (The couple said they were still deciding on which NGOs, exactly, to work with.)
The house was packed with friends and friends of friends, many with connections to Ethiopia, including novelist Maaza Mengiste and Staffan Tillander, the former Swedish ambassador to Ethiopia. Others registered via the Web.
Yowon Kim brought friend Josh Seifert. "We had brunch plans and I said, 'Josh, if I get tickets, this is where we're going," said Ms. Kim, who lives in the neighborhood but is waiting to go to Red Rooster until the hype dies down.