For years, we’ve known Jon Bon Jovi as one of the many musical mougs from New Jersey who made it big. While you might assume he’s busy in the studio working on songs for his newest record (which you’d assume correctly…the rockers next CD will be hitting shelves in 2013 followed by a world tour), what you may not have known is that he and his wife, Dorothea Bongiovi, have been active in the community the rocker grew up in trying to make a difference for those less fortunate. The pair are at it again and have just unveiled their latest project to try and give back.
The Soul Kitchen is the new gourmet restaurant the couple have opened. However, it’s not like any celebrity gourmet restaurant you’ve ever heard of, this is one everyone can afford. Their “pay-what-you-can” menu offers some of the finest gourmet quality meals to those who can’t afford to eat out. Paying customers are asked to leave what they can in the envelopes left on the tables while those who can’t pay money are simply asked to pitch in.
“With the economic downturn, one of the things I noticed was that disposable income was one of the first things that went,” Jon explains. “Dining out, the family going to a restaurant, mom not having to cook, dad not having to clean up – a lot of memories were made around restaurant tables.”
“When I learned that one in six people in this country goes to bed hungry, I thought this was the next phase of the Foundation’s work.” he added.
The Foundation Jon is talking about is the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. Other projects they’ve completed through the help of their namesake is building 260 houses for low income families, charity concerts, a local food pantry they began helping in several years ago, and their soup kitchen, Lunch Break, which feeds over 100 people per day, the one that started it all.
Now, after a year and $250,000, The Soul Kitchen is open to those who still want to enjoy fine quality dining at a price they can afford while giving back to the community.
“This is not a soup kitchen,” Bon Jovi makes clear. “You can come here with the dignities of linens and silver, and you’re served a healthy, nutritious meal. This is not burgers and fries.”
The restaurant offers a menu rich in gourmet soul food you’d find in any of the areas most famous eateries. Cornmeal crusted catfish with red beans and rice, grilled chicken breast with homemade basil mayo and rice pilaf and grilled salmon with soul seasonings, sweet potato mash and sauteed greens. Not only do the options sound mouth watering, many of the ingredients were grown in the herb and vegetable garden right outside the doors of the establishment.
“There are no prices on the menu, so if you want to come and you want to make a difference, leave a $20 in the envelope on the table. If you can’t afford to eat, you can bus tables, you can wait tables, you can work in the kitchen as a dishwasher or a sous chef,” he says. “If you say to me, ‘I’m not a people person,’ I say, ‘That’s not a problem. We’ll take you back to Lunch Break to volunteer with those people. If you don’t want to volunteer with that, we’ll take you to the Food Bank.”
“If you come in and say ‘I’m hungry,’ we’ll feed you,” he says. “But we’re going to need you to do something. It’s very important to what we’re trying to achieve.”
Once you’ve volunteered at these places, you’ll earn a food certificate good at The Soul Kitchen for your meal. This idea is all part of a bigger plan for the Foundation to help bring back some community and help people who are struggling know that there are people out there who care about them while giving a little back in return.
“This is not an entitlement thing,” the rocker adds. “This is about empowering people because you have to earn that gift certificate.”
Bon Jovi urges those who can afford to dine out to patron The Soul Kitchen to help make this a true community resource. They are open for dinner near the Red Bank train station in central New Jersey Thursday through Saturday and also offer Sunday Brunch. He and his wife have been staying active in the restaurant and the New Jersey moug we all know and love has been working there at least once per week to pitch in. While you might think he’s busy creating delicious dishes to don the menu with his decades of experience dining in the worlds best restaurants, you might be surprised.
“Last Friday, I was at the White House, serving on the Council for Community Solutions, got on a train, changed in the bathroom and got here in time to to wash dishes Friday night,” he said. “I’m the dishwasher, for real. I can’t cook a lick.”
We have to say, this is by far one of the coolest things we’ve heard of recently. We wish Jon and Dorothea and the rest of The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation much success.
So what do you think about this Celebstalkers? Isn’t is great to see celebrities giving back to the community?