A popular mainland charity is coming to a restaurant near you
A popular mainland charity is coming to a restaurant near you,writes Ruth Williams
Chi Fan for Charity Hong Kong is a chance to do just as the name suggests, to sik fan (eat) for charity. The event is billed as an alternative to buying a table at a charity banquet.
Instead, it offers seats in at least 18 hot restaurants and all proceeds from the night's wining and dining go to charity.
On November 16, each restaurant will set aside a table for about 10 guests and create a special menu, most with wine pairings and other drinks included. Every table has an official host.
Established in Beijing four years ago, Chi Fan for Charity events have raised more than HK$2.1 million for mainland charities. All proceeds from the Hong Kong ticket sales will go to the Child Welfare Scheme, which funds projects in Nepal that help change the lives of children, youths and women.
Funds from the Beijing event on November 2 will be donated to projects caring for orphans and educating girls in rural areas. The Shanghai night the following weekend will benefit rural education schemes, the disabled and homeless.
In Hong Kong, half of the money raised will help fund the Jyoti Street Project that provides services to children living and working on the street.
The other half will go to anti-trafficking organisation Shakti Samuha. Run by survivors of human trafficking, the group's initiatives include educating women in remote communities, as well as creating opportunities for earning an income.
The response to Chi Fan For Charity from the city's restaurants has been overwhelmingly positive, says organiser Cherry Ng Pak-wai. "People love the concept, the idea of an interconnected evening across the city, meeting friends and new people," she says.
"There's no dress code; you can wear whatever you want and everyone will get together at the after-party."
Chi Fan For Charity was founded by Michael Crain, a former chief of staff at the US embassy in Beijing. He came up with the idea after attending many fundraisers where restaurants donated gift certificates.
"I knew I couldn't ask any restaurant to close its doors and give us the entire space, losing an entire night's income, but I did think the restaurants could provide Chi Fan for Charity with a table of 10."
For the first event, Crain asked some philanthropically minded friends to host a table and invite their friends.
"I wanted to start small but with little effort we had 16 restaurants agree to participate. The after-party was really an afterthought, but it brought all the tables together somewhere everyone talked about the incredible meals they'd had."
Crain says the hosts are an integral part of the event. "All the hosts have been incredible and brought their own style and friends to the table. The ability to meet in a relaxed atmosphere, enjoy an incredible meal and conversation together, all for a good cause, means all have a great time."
At the Hong Kong event, diners will meet a group of hosts including photographer Joyce Yung and Derek Ting of Supercapitalist fame, who will co-host a table at Alfie's.
At Stone Nullah Tavern, author Xu Xi will share literary tales over modern American cuisine, while at Blue Butcher, author Nury Vittachi will hold court. Blue Butcher head chef Danny Chaney says he and his team are looking forward to cooking "some great meat" and doing their bit to help.
The charity's spread to Shanghai and Hong Kong has been driven by participants at Beijing events, with Crain providing encouragement and advice to help get the newer events started.
There are tables at 53 Shanghai restaurants this year, including 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, M on the Bund and Downstairs with David Laris. The Temple Restaurant Beijing and Maison Boulud are among the 56 restaurants taking part in the capital's event.
Crain says Chi Fan for Charity now reaches a broad cross-section of Beijing food lovers. "The attendance has moved from primarily expats to an equal number of expats and locals. This has been interesting, as in the larger population more local Chinese become more philanthropically minded."
While the name Chi Fan for Charity may not mean much outside Greater China, Crain hopes the concept will translate. "I would love to see Chi Fan for Charity type events set up all over the world with the monies raised going to local charities," Crain says.
"We all love to eat and we all love to see our friends and meet new ones. I hope the idea is copied again so more and more worthwhile charities benefit and those less fortunate receive the support they deserve."
Tickets include free admission to the after-party at Kee Club.
Tickets for dinner and the after-party cost from HK$750 to HK$1,500 and can be purchased through chifanforcharity.org from 9am on October 16.
Alfie's (The Reserve)
Tel: 2530 4422
Tel: 3427 2288
Tel: 2613 9286
Chez Patrick Restaurant
Tel: 2541 1401
Tel: 2907 1968
Tel: 2525 3599
Tel: 2111 1197
Tel: 2525 9191
FoFo by el Willy
Tel: 2900 2009
Tel: 2873 3353
Tel: 2810 9000
Pak Loh Chiu Chow
(Hanoi Rd branch) Tel: 2723 6828
Tel: 2563 3444
Tel: 2915 1638
Tel: 2730 8027
Spices, The Repulse Bay
Tel: 2292 2821
Stone Nullah Tavern
Tel: 3182 0128