By:Â Saira Malhotra
Last week, the Associated Press reported that Jon Bon Jovi is rocking more than just music. On October 19th, 2011, Jon launched a restaurant, Soul Kitchen, in his home state of New Jersey. This Red Bank based establishment checks all the boxes in terms of style, cuisine, health, sustainability and ambiance and is as upscale as any other in this town. But there is a difference. This is a ‘pay-what-you-can’ restaurant, and if that is a struggle, then you barter a meal in exchange for your service to the restaurant or community.
The restaurant is just one of many projects Jon and his wife Dorothea have been involved in under the umbrella of their company ‘Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation’. Alarming figures of 1 in 6 people being food insecure, prompted them to play their part in the community and as the years progressed so did their role. They started off assisting at a New Jersey based Food Pantry and performing at fundraising events to raise money for local charities. Under the Soul Foundation, they went on to build 260 homes for low-income residents and amidst other projects; they have now rolled out this ‘for the community, by the community’ restaurant Soul Kitchen.
The menu at this restaurant is certainly worth its salt among even the most cognoscenti of restaurants. Boasting of dishes, such as, grilled chicken breast served with homemade basil mayo and rice pilaf, cornmeal crusted catfish with red beans and rice, and grilled soul seasoned-salmon with sweet potato mash and greens, there is no short changing here. Furthermore, there are elements of ‘farm to table’ with the produce that is picked from the garden outside the restaurant. His objective is not to respond to people as just a function of filling empty stomachs, but rather, he aims to bring pleasure to people who may feel downtrodden upon due to their own dire circumstances. He wants families to have dinner at the restaurant and eat with self-respect using silver ware and table linens and have the chance to bond as a family. What is provided for here is a fabulous meal and nourishment for the soul.
How does ‘pay what you can’ work? It is suggested that you pay $10 for a three course meal consisting of primarily local and organic sourced foods. If you can’t afford to financially contribute, there are many other ways you can contribute. You can wait tables, help with dishes and if you don’t feel well suited to any of these tasks, you can help with projects for other charities. After volunteering, you are given a certificate which can be used to redeem a meal. As they say, there are no free lunches, and Jon couldn’t find a more appropriate way to demonstrate this. Soul Kitchen is not a soup kitchen and everybody pays their dues. “This is not an entitlement thing,” Bon Jovi said. “This is about empowering people because you have to earn that gift certificate.”
When Jon isn’t busy washing dishes at the Soul Kitchen, he is writing songs for his 2013 album, an album that has been inspired by tough economic times and its impact on a human level.
What would you pay to eat at Bon Jovi’s restaurant?
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