NYC: Combining Advocacy And Great Food

Tuesday night's Toast to the Children benefit for the pediatric program at Bellevue Hospital brought together 17 of New York's best restaurants at Tom Colicchio's Riverpark restaurant including Barbuto, Kin Shop and Blue Smoke. The event is hosted by our man Colicchio himself, so it's no wonder that the focus is so food-heavy (we're certainly not complaining).

The annual benefit supports the nonprofit organization — Children of Bellevue — which advocates for a superior level of hospital care for children and their families. Colicchio became involved with Children of Bellevue after the birth of his first child 19 years ago. On Tuesday, he recounted his experience at his first benefit for the organization, thinking: "we could do this better." He and his many chef connections have been involved ever since making for a much more savory gala experience.

Each year, Toast to the Children honors several individuals and this year's were none other than Food Republic co-founder Marcus Samuelsson and TODAY show co-host Al Roker and Senior Producer Jacyln Levin. Samuelsson was honored for his commitment to charity, including the $115,000 donated to UNICEF's Tap Project as a result of his win on Top Chef Masters in 2010. Roker and Levin were recognized for their series "Al's Book Club for Kids," which recently celebrated its 12th anniversary.

Amidst the excellent wine tastings and addictive ice-creamwiches from 'wichcraft, it was almost hard to remember that this wasn't only an upscale food festival, but in fact an event to celebrate a very worthy cause.