On Saturday, chefs, restaurateurs, musicians and entertainers came together while staying apart for the first Harlem Serves Up! fundraiser, to help the famed New York neighborhood's residents and businesses reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Red Rooster chef Marcus Samuelsson and marketing executive Herb Karlitz, the hour-long event sprung from the Harlem EatUp! festivals the pair founded six years ago to draw attention to the neighborhood.
This year, given the pandemic's restrictions on gatherings and its disproportionate damage to communities of color, the organizers decided to refocus Harlem EatUp! as a televised special—Harlem Serves Up!—featuring top names from America’s culinary world, such as Mashama Bailey, Carla Hall, Kwame Onwuachi, Melba Wilson and Andrew Zimmern. EatUp! alums and philanthropists Daniel Boulud, Emeril Lagasse and José Andrés showed up too; Andrés' World Central Kitchen hunger aid organization was a beneficiary of the event. “We created Harlem Serves Up! as a way to continue to support this iconic neighborhood and community even in the face of the pandemic,” Samuelsson told Unfiltered via email.
Hosted by news anchor Sandra Bookman and TV host Tamron Hall, the show's entertainment featured cooking demonstrations, musical performances and musings from the old school: musicians Common, Sheila E. and Vanessa Williams, plus MC eminences Al Sharpton and Bill Clinton. “It will be an incredible evening of all-star talent,” said Karlitz before the event, “all benefiting nonprofits that fight food insecurity in our community and support our local businesses.” You can now watch the festivities on ABC7NY, and chip in for the cause as well.
In order to bring attention and relief to Harlem’s businesses, the broadcast also featured several local restaurants, like Lolo's Seafood Shack, Uptown Veg & Juice Bar and Make My Cake; many of the neighborhood's staple establishments have struggled to secure adequate financial relief to stay afloat. “Something like Harlem Serves Up! is really a big stepping stone to creating a platform for small businesses,” said Samuelsson during the broadcast as he whipped up some favorite snacks for the camera.
In addition to WCK, charities like Citymeals, Harlem Park to Park and Uptown Grand Central got a financial infusion to support Harlem’s residents in need: a total of $200,000 from the event so far, with corporate sponsor Humana promising to match donations up to $250,000.
Next up: The Harlem EatUp! crew have announced another broadcast of live cooking demonstrations for a cause on July 30, hosted by Samuelsson and chef Lexis Gonzalez with Barilla Pasta. Find more on how to keep the party going!
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