Bruce Richards stood under a party tent anchored by multiple stakes in the lawn of his Southampton home. He was hosting the United Way of New York City “What’s on the Table?” benefit Saturday night.
“They promised it will all be back to normal tomorrow,” said the chief executive of Marathon Asset Management LP, who clearly didn’t mind supporting programs that fight hunger and boost nutrition in New York City.
Wearing a light-blue Brioni jacket, Richards and his wife, Avis, welcomed more than 300 guests to their property. Her dressy white shorts were covered in pink and yellow flowers. Tickets were $250, and the event raised more than $200,000.
Among its many initiatives, United Way of New York City funds urban farms, teaches healthful cooking, and brings local farm produce to food pantries.
Nutritionist Leigh Kusovitsky said she spends about 25 percent of her job at food pantries and soup kitchens.
Last week a family at a pantry in Queens, New York, left with a bag of whole-wheat pasta, fresh eggs, green beans and bread from a local bakery.
“It looked like what anyone would get at a supermarket,” Kusovitsky said, adding that the United Way promotes and funds “client choice” at pantries, allowing clients to select their own food.
Guests had their choice of produce from a farm stand set up near the driveway. On their way out they filled up brown paper bags with peppers, eggplant, zucchini and corn.
During the party, healthy fare came on small plates prepared by chefs at Tom Colicchio’s restaurants, including peaches served with prosciutto or sweet ricotta, from Craftbar’s Lauren Hirschberg.
William Hardie, a managing director at Houlihan Lokey, gave the evening a boost with his $40,000 bid for a dinner prepared by Colicchio with music by Jon Bon Jovi. The chef and the rocker were event co-chairmen.
Was it odd to be helping the hungry at a party in the Hamptons? “Whatever it takes to get people to show up and open up their wallets, that’s what it’s about,” Hardie said.
Colicchio’s wife, Lori Silverbush, encouraged guests to call their representatives in Congress to protect funding in the Farm Bill for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Her documentary about hunger, “A Place at the Table,” is set for theatrical release in February 2013.
“What’s hard is when people don’t ask the obvious question, which is why we have double the food we need in this country, and people are still hungry,” she said.
John Demsey, the group president of Estee Lauder Cos. Inc., checked out the rose garden with hybrid varieties planted by the home’s former owner, philanthropist Carroll Petrie.
Interior decorator Raphael Di Tommaso, who is working on the home, pointed out highlights on the first floor such as an old snooker table and books he arranged by color.
On the kitchen counter were home-baked muffins and Think bars. The Richards family eats healthy, said son Dylan, a junior at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School.
With the help of his film-producing mom, he presents 90-second videos on a show called “Dylan’s Lunchbox,” in which he cooks nutritious meals with restaurant chefs. They appear on YouTube and NYC Life, the flagship station of NYC Media, the official network of the City of New York. A half-hour series of the same name is scheduled to have its premiere on Oct. 31.
“He makes a very good challah,” his mom said.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)