I cannot take credit for this idea, though I wholly endorse it.
I’m a big believer in eating where the locals eat. You don’t go to Boston and eat at a Red Lobster when there are 100 seafood restaurants that are better and have fresher fish? Why would you go to the Southwest and eat at a Chili’s, when authentic Tex-Mex is around every corner. Why would you waste time at an Olive Garden in Syracuse when there are at least 10 better Italian restaurants within a 10-mile drive?
It’s comfort, I suppose. I do the same thing with coffee. I drink a lot of Starbucks for the quality and consistency, though I could probably get a better cup on my morning commute from a local shop or just make my own. But coffee and a bowl of spaghetti are not the same. Much in the same way a slice from L&B Spumoni Gardens differs from the Sicilian slice at the Times Square Sbarro (Does Sbarro even make a Sicilian? For the sake of argument, let’s say that they do.).
Not all national chains are bad. The Cheesecake Factory, for all of its dietary infractions, is enjoyable. So is P.F. Chang’s. They are not my first choices, but they do not personally offend me. But, we’re not talking about higher end here. I’m looking at the mid-range, “why-are-you-eating-here-when-there-is-a-local-restaurant-that-does-it-10-times-better” sort of establishment, where the atmosphere, ambiance, service and cuisine have that forced corporate feel.
A month or two ago, Farmington, N.Y. bureau chief, and Smartest Person I Know, Prof. Brian Moritz, suggested that I needed to do another challenge with my Walk To End Alzheimer’s fundraising. A few years ago, I bet my staff and board of directors that they could not raise a combined $25,000 for the event. If they did, I would shave my head. They did and I did. It was a cold December.
Prof. Moritz’s idea was simple. I needed to degrade myself in the most inhumane food-related way possible. So, dear readers, this is the challenge. If I raise $1,500 for the Alzheimer’s Association for the 2014 Greater Syracuse Walk To End Alzheimer’s by 11:59 p.m. on October 4, 2014, I will eat at the national chain restaurant of his choosing.
There Is, Of Course, More To The Story
Prof. Moritz (and our wives) will accompany me. We will have a four-course dinner that he will order on my behalf, consisting of an appetizer, soup or salad, entree and dessert. I get one preemptive strike, in case he tries ordering me salmon marinara or a filet mignon crusted with pecans, goat cheese and imitation crab.
There may be video. There will be photos. There could be livetweeting. There may be vomiting. And following the meal, I will post an honest-to-God review of the experience to this blog. Prof. Moritz will also write a companion piece or two.
Let’s Make It Interactive
It wouldn’t be a Jared Paventi challenge if you, dear reader could not get in on the act.
- For a gift of $100, you can consult with Prof. Moritz on what I have to eat during the meal
- For a gift of $150, you can having naming rights to the course (I will hold a sign with your name next to the dish, take a photo, and use it in the review). Limited to four donors.
- For a gift of $250, you can join us at dinner and experience my pain in person (Donor responsible for their own transportation, food and drink costs.).
- For a gift of $500, you can consult with Prof. Moritz on which restaurant we visit and join us at dinner (Donor responsible for their own transportation, food and drink costs.).
- For a gift of $1,000, we’ll take Prof. Moritz out of the loop. You choose the restaurant and join us at dinner. He will get a proper haircut and shave before dinner (he has this mid-30s hipster professor thing going on). And, at a mutually agreed upon future date, I will cook you dinner at my home. (Donor responsible for their own transportation, food and drink costs. I, of course, reserve the right to refuse your donation if it turns out I don’t want you in my house.). Limited to one donor.
So, why is this important?
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in America. More than 5 million Americans have it, and 15.5 million others provide unpaid care to them. One in 9 Baby Boomers will develop it. It will bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid unless a cure is found.
Walk To End Alzheimer’s is the largest national event aimed at defeating the disease and supporting those touched by it. Yes, I work for the Alzheimer’s Association. I have lost two grandparents and multiple other family members to the disease, as has The Wife. This is more than just a job. It’s a personal mission.