"This event combines the culinary arts, mixology and philanthropy - how could it not be perfection?," said co-chair George Lancaster. "We hope people not only come out and dine but also remember there is still a need to raise funds and awareness."
Along with Lancaster, co-chairs Jessica Rossman and Travis Torrence will welcome diners to at least 40 and counting eateries across the city taking part in this delicious fête.
On a larger scale, Houston is just one hub for this nationally-coordinated fundraiser, which culminates with more than 50 sister participants that have delivered promising results in years past. In 2018, more than 50 regional HIV service organizations partnered with 3,000 participating restaurants, 3,000 volunteers, and 300,000 diners to raise $4.1 million for people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States and Canada.
HIV/AIDS is a heavy burden to shoulder, but it is now a much more treatable disease than it was 20 years ago. We’ve moved from an HIV/AIDS diagnosis being a death knell to it being a manageable disease, and we’ve also made strides toward eliminating the stigma it creates.
We still have miles to go, but the advancement of PrEP (a pill that taken once daily helps reduce transmission rates by more than 90 percent) and the scientific proving of U=U (meaning, undetectable viral loads equals untransmittable viral loads) have lightened the impact of HIV/AIDS.
Mentioning his reason for participating, he says, "It's a unique, perfect fit for me. It touches on things I care about. It gets support for people."
He mentions that life in the culinary world is a tough path, especially with razor thin budgets and colossal chances of failure, but Allen mentions that restaurants are one of the main avenues for community gathering and experiences.
"Restaurants are always the first place we turn to for support, and they always step up. Generosity is built in. Running restaurants is not easy, and profit margins are low, and despite that, they are the most giving," he said.
For dining out, an activity most of us would have been doing anyway, Allen reminds us of another benefit. "All of the money raised in Houston is spent in Houston to help your own neighbors. It's an elegant model, and it gets a lot done," he said.
With that said, save your appetite for Thursday and then feel free to stretch both the wallet and the belt buckle a little bit knowing that by Dining Out For Life, we're strengthening an important cause in the most saliva-worthy way possible.
"This is the perfect opportunity to make a meaningful impact in this fight. We all have to eat, and if it's within your budget to go have a meal that helps people, why wouldn't you do it?," he said. "It's all about the overall experience of feeling really good about supporting local groups and supporting restaurants and having an excuse to have more champagne or dessert."
Cheers to that.
Dining Out For Life, sponsored by Subaru and Ponaman Healthcare Consulting, takes place Thursday at participating restaurants. For information, visit AIDSHelp.org. Prices vary per restaurant.