The Greater Charleston Restaurant Association's Feed the Need program continued Wednesday with chefs from Charleston Grill serving lunch at Crisis Ministries, and a crew from NBC's 'Today Show' came out to cover it.
"Everybody, is it good? Everybody enjoyed it? Did you get your ice cream sundaes?" said Mickey Bakst, general manager at Charleston Grill, as he walked into the dining area. Some of the diners responded approvingly; others simply nodded with full mouths.
Bakst started Feed the Need, which organizes Charleston-area restaurants to serve every Wednesday at soup kitchens, more than a year ago when Crisis Ministries announced it would have to cut back on feedings because of budget cuts.
Early on, he wrote to producers at NBC about the program. NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders, who covered the story Wednesday, said he waited until Feed the Need had lasted a year before pursuing the story. "Being a cynical journalist, I wanted to see it actually happen," Sanders said.
NBC Producer Mary Ann Zoellner said the crew also was shooting on location at participating restaurants including FIG, where they dined Tuesday night.
The midday meal came as a surprise to many in the dining room Wednesday. Marty Nelson, who stays in Crisis Ministries' veterans' dormitory, said soup-kitchen lunches usually consist of leftovers from the previous night and are more a matter of subsistence than enjoyment.
"Everything is out of this world," said Nelson, 53, as he finished up a plastic tray with lasagna, baked chicken, green beans, carrots and dirty rice. "Today it's more than survival; it's a special treat."
Charleston Grill executive chef Michelle Weaver said running the kitchen at Crisis Ministries was similar to running any other banquet. "This is what we do every day; it's just a different venue," Weaver said.
Bakst, ever the Charleston tourism booster, said that the national exposure from the NBC coverage would be a public relations boon for the city.
"I think having the 'Today Show' and having them see the generosity of the Charleston restaurant community as a whole is a reflection on what they call Southern hospitality," Bakst said.
NBC will edit the segment for several weeks before airing it on the show.