Ted Allen wants you to go out on Sept. 20

Baltimore will hold its annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser on Sept. 20. Once againg, participating restaurants will donate at least 20 percent of their daily take to Movable Feast. Ted Allen remembers his first Dining Out for Life.

"I remember the first Dining Out for Life I participated in," Allen said. "It was 21 years ago, in  Chicago, at an Italian restaurant named Bella Vista, which is now closed. I got the pasta and cream sauce. It was a first date."

The "Chopped" host is a national spokesman for Dining Out for Life, the annual dining fundraising event that raises money for AIDS service organizations. The actress Pam Grier and chef Daisy Martinez are the others.

Dining out For Life was created in 1991 in Philadelphia and quickly spread to other cities, and its simple fundraising model has been widely imitated. Diners will often make an donation to the cause. "It's a win-win-win," Allen said. "Dining out for Life puts customers in seats, the kind of loyal customers who will reward your restaurant."

Allen discounted the suggestion that events like Dining Out for Life had lost some its urgency. "I don't know that there is a sense of complacency," he said. "The number of cities has increased." Allen said that most of the promotional work for the event happens in April, when almost all of the 60-some cities participating in Dining Out for Life hold their events. Baltimore is one of the few cities that doesn't.

Allen has a new cookbook, "In My Kitchen," which he said is partly a response to the books that are designed to get people out of the kitchen. "I want to rekindle the idea that the kitchen can be a place of adventure and discovery. Cooking might be enjoyable with your friends, families and kids," Allen said.

Although Allen had nothing but admiration for the speed-skills contestants demonstrate on "Chopped," he admits it's not real cooking, or even the kind of cooking he's partial, too. "My favorite food is slow food," Allen said -  slow-braised pork shoulders, chilies and stews. "I'd rather be cooking than playing golf."

For a a list of participating restaurants go to diningoutforlife.com/baltimore




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