Ted Allen talks Dining Out for Life in St. Louis on April 26

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Make plans to eat at participating restaurants tomorrow, April 26, for Dining Out for Life, and you’ll be contributing to a great cause to help local people living with HIV and AIDS.

During DOFL, dozens of area restaurants donate at least 25 percent of proceeds to support the Saint Louis Effort for AIDS. DOFL national spokesperson Ted Allen, who hosts “Chopped” and was a judge on “Iron Chef America” and “Top Chef,” among other accolades, said this annual fundraiser is a “win-win-win” for everyone.

“We all have to eat, so why not go to one of the restaurants that will accomplish something meaningful and important?” he said. “Go to a participating restaurant, order something extra, make a huge impact and help raise a ton of money that will save lives and requires no special effort.”

As a spokesperson for the nonprofit, Allen utilizes his platform to “do something positive in the world” and help get the message out. “A lot of people watch ‘Chopped,’ so [my audience] is a way to help shine a light on the cause and attract people’s attention,” he said.

During the epidemic of the ’80s, AIDS affected primarily white, gay males. “I qualify for all three,” Allen said. “I came out quite late at 26 and wasn’t active before that. If I had been, I would’ve been an excellent candidate to be positive and would’ve died with those who were positive. It’s the least I can do to support this effort.”

Allen also said it’s important to reach out to younger generations regarding the seriousness of the disease. “While we now have medicine and therapy that prevent it from being fatal, it’s still a very serious thing and needs to be avoided,” he said. “Patterns of the disease have shifted, and more people of color and women of color are testing positive. The face of disease has changed somewhat, but it’s not any less serious.”

All donated funds provide education on the prevention of the disease, as well as comprehensive support for those it affects. 

“You can be confident the money raised in your town is going to help people in your community,” Allen said.

Although Allen only visited St. Louis once as a child, the Gateway Arch remains his favorite monument.

“When they were building the Arch, it was controversial,” he says. “Some people said the money should be spent on more practical things. A city official said spiritual needs are as important as tangible needs. Cities need symbols and icons that make them instantly recognizable. It’s funny how a decision so many years ago will bear fruit forever. No one will ever let that Arch fall down.”

A full list of St. Louis locations participating in Dining Out For Life is available online

Lauren Healey is associate editor at Sauce Magazine.

Sauce Magazine is a sponsor of Dining Out for Life.