How Chefs Are Giving Back This Holiday Season, And How You Can Too

One of the the things that strikes us about working with so many chefs here at Food Republic is the amount of time, and effort, they devote to charitable causes. The chefs' reputation is to work hard and play harder, and for some, that may be the case. But many of the culinary icons we've come across over the past few months have a passion and commitment to helping others that you rarely see in other high-profile professions.

This was most clearly the case over the last couple of months in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, where chefs from near and far pitched in to raise money through benefit dinners, while preparing warm meals for relief workers.

Chefs rarely ask for publicity for these efforts, understandably, but we feel they deserve credit. And we also think that the chefs featured here have chosen to throw their support behind some great organizations and causes that we hope will inspire you if you're in a position to give this holiday season. Here, chefs are listed in alphabetical order by last name, with quotes from the chef when possible, about their charities of choice.

Daniel Boulud

One of New York's most revered French chefs and American culinary authorities, whose empire includes the three Michelin-starred Daniel, Café Boulud and DBGB Kitchen & Bar, Boulud has been an active Citymeals-on-Wheels board member since 2000. In addition to opening his restaurant doors for charity events, Boulud makes time during the busy holiday season to carry out the Citymeals mission at the ground level. He writes in: "As a professional chef, I have the privilege of cooking for food-loving guests every night, but Citymeals provides the opportunity to share my passion with those who are less fortunate. We have so many elderly neighbors in this city in need of nourishment as much as human company, and that's what we're delivering today."

Sean Brock

Sean Brock is chef-partner of Husk and McCrady's in Charleston, South Carolina. He writes in: "My charity of choice these days is an organization here in the Lowcountry called Fields to Families. It's all about feeding the hungry, but they go about it in a new and exciting way. The people who need help rarely get nutritious foods and frequently they are eating from cans. This organization uses the food that can't be sold from local farms — or food that farmers don't have time to pick. This food usually goes into the compost pile. Volunteers go to these farms and pick the food from the soil and deliver it to the needy. Its a beautiful circle that helps feed so many people nutritious and delicious foods from our fields and farms."

David Burke

Table to Table is David Burke's charity, which is held near and dear to his heart. This is a local charity in New Jersey that collects prepared and perishable food that would otherwise be wasted, and delivers it to organizations that serve the hungry of Northern New Jersey. Burke is on the board and contributes to this charity in many ways, including giving food from his Rumson, NJ restaurant, Fromagerie.

Andrew Carmellini

Andrew Carmellini is the man behind Locanda Verde, and The Dutch in NYC and South Beach. He most recently opened The Library at The Public Theatre. He is also a founding member of NYC Food Flood with fellow chefs including George Mendes, Marco Canora and Seamus Mullen. The organization,, through a series of dinners, has raised thousands of dollars to help those in need. Carmellini was also heavily involved in D4D in the months leading up to the Presidential election.

Paula DaSilva

Paula DaSilva is the executive chef behind 1500° at the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach. She is a proud supporter of Chefs for a Cure, a fundraising event benefiting the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). "Chefs for a Cure is a wonderful opportunity to bring talented chefs together to raise money for cancer research," says DaSilva. "The AACR created a fund in the name of my dear friend Leah Caputo, who lost her battle to breast cancer. Through Chefs for a Cure, we are able to bring chefs, family and friends together to honor her memory all while continuing to raise awareness and funds for cancer research." All proceeds raised are donated to the AACR so they may continue their search for a cure to this awful disease that affects so many lives every year.

Alain Ducasse

The French master, whose US restaurants include Benoit New York and Adour at The St. Regis Washington, D.C., supports President Bill Clinton's Clinton Global Initiative. He sent us a message explaining why: "The Clinton Global Initiative resonates with me for its globally focused mission that affects change on a local level. In partnership with them, I started a program to specifically help women from an impoverished suburb of Paris who have limited opportunities to move their lives forward. The program, initiated in 2010, is designed to educate 15 women every year to receive a culinary degree in a year (instead of two) while working in one of my restaurants or that of another friend chef. There are several restaurants that will place them once they finish the certification program. It is rewarding for me to see them push themselves forward and build their future. Now in its third year, the program opens to other suburbs of Paris, and other chefs joined me in welcoming these women in their kitchens such as Guy Savoy, Thierry Marx and even the head chef to the Prime Minister of France, amongst others."

Wally Joe

Memphis chef Wally Joe donates his money and time to the Memphis Mid-South Food Bank, and is planning a benefit dinner for the organization in 2013. On a national level, he participates in many Share Our Strength events, and has even hosted a dinner at Wally Joe Restaurant for the cause. He writes: "We are in the business of feeding and nourishing people. It's our livelihood, but we have to remember those less fortunate than us."

Tony Maws

With a cooking style that blends pork pyrotechnics — a Vermont pork trio of suckling confit, grilled belly, spice-crusted rib, for example — and a deep knowledge of New England fishing and farming, Tony Maws has become one of Boston's kitchen heroes. He runs the show at Craigie on Main in Cambridge and writes in about his favorite charity. "Food insecurity is a serious issue, and supplying children with unhealthy food just to fill their bellies is not the answer. I have a four-year-old son, Charlie, who is an adventurous eater and it's really important that we, as parents, build the foundation for him to make great food choices as he grows. We support Share Our Strength because they take their programming and outreach seriously by providing a similar foundation in their programming and education aimed ending childhood hunger long-term."

Viet Pham

Viet Pham of Salt Lake City's Forage writes in: "I'm actually doing a charity dinner this Saturday to benefit the Park City Foundation. It's important to me to be involved in charitable work because it enables me to reinvest in my community, our youth, and the less fortunate. Forage has experienced much success these past years and I am extremely grateful. We would not be here if it wasn't for the support of our community. During times of need it's important to know who we are, where we're from, and to share compassion with one another."

Wolfgang Puck

The multinational restaurateur supports numerous causes, including Meals on Wheels. He writes in: "We believe it's important to give back to the communities that have contributed to the success of our companies over the years," Puck says. "Meals on Wheels helps people find local senior meal programs, helps local meal programs recruit volunteers and helps businesses develop corporate sponsorship and volunteer programs for senior meal programs. During the holidays, it's especially important to make sure everyone has a good meal."

Dale Talde

Talde, of popular Brooklyn restaurants Talde, Thistle Hill Tavern and Pork Slope, is keeping his charitable efforts local. He writes in: "I'm supporting the Brooklyn Recovery Fund, which directly benefits our community and those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Our neighbors are fighting to recover from this devastating storm, and we all want to do our part to help them get back on their feet." As part of their charitable push, Talde and his restaurant partners, David Massoni and John Bush, recently organized a benefit at Pork Slope that featured comedians Wyatt Cenac, Eugene Mirman and John Hodgman guest bartending and The Roots' Questlove on the 1s and 2s.

Bill Telepan

Since 2008, Bill Telepan has been the executive chef of Wellness in the Schools. As the first chef involved with the program, he has spearheaded its goals by developing nutritious school menus, training cafeteria workers and teaching culinary and nutrition concepts to students, parents and teachers. He writes in: "I believe healthier bodies make healthier minds. So kids deserve the best possible food and environment in which to grow and learn."

Michael Tusk

Michael Tusk is chef/owner of Quince and Cotogna in San Franciso. His charity of choice is Share Our Strength. He writes in: "16 million children in America are living in hunger. That's 1 out of every 5. We have enough food in this country to go around, but not enough effective ways of getting food to kids. That's why I got involved in Taste of the Nation — because I think every child in America deserves a warm meal. I believe in the importance of living locally, from the ingredients I source for my restaurants to this event, which benefits local organizations like Children of Shelters and Three Squares. I'm honored to be a part of this event and can't wait to help raise even more money and awareness this year."

Andrew Zimmern

One of our favorite food writers and television hosts recently partnered with UNO Chicago Grill to introduce two family-size pizzas, available for take-out nationwide. Ten percent of the sales of his Mediterranean and Artichoke Bianco pies will be donated to SUS, a non-profit that provides direct services to Veterans. We writes in to tell us why he's involved. "As a board member for Services for the Underserved in NYC, and also a recovering addict/alcoholic who has experienced homelessness for extended periods of my life, I am acutely aware of the need in our communities to help any way we can. As someone with a broad platform, I feel it's my responsibility to give back. Frank Guidara at UNO's feels the same way. As activists, we both have seen the need, incredible need, in our veterans communities, and what better place to keep focusing on than the men and women who sacrifice so much? So we decided to partner on the pizza idea and I couldn't be prouder of who I am doing this with, and most importantly who I am doing this for. This is not about PR spin or marketing plans, this is about two partners coming together to do more for vets because we can, and because we want to."