Jon Bon Jovi gives his wife, Dorothea Bongiovi, an attagirl as she prepares a table at the opening of the JBJ Soul Kitchen Wednesday afternoon. The yard outside the restaurant, below, features a vegetable and herb garden. (Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
With a heavy rain irrigating the vegetable garden behind him and cameras streaming the event live, pop star Jon Bon Jovi inaugurated a pay-what-you-can-or-work-it-off restaurant on Monmouth Street in Red Bank Wednesday afternoon.
Dubbed the JBJ Soul Kitchen, the eatery is “not a soup kitchen,” Bon Jovi told a tent packed with press and local officials. “We hope to empower individuals who just need a hand up, and enable some who just need to lend a hand.”
Two years in development, with kinks worked out nearby at the St. Anthony of Padua Community Center and the Lunch Break food and clothing center, Soul Kitchen features a menu featuring healthy food, including some from the onsite garden.
It also displays no prices. Patrons will be asked to pay what they can afford, and if they can’t afford anything, to volunteer at the restaurant itself or at the Lunch Break, Bon Jovi said.
Backed by his JBJ Soul Foundation, which has helped fund the Parker Family Health Center nearby on Shrewsbury Avenue, the restaurant was fueled by an awareness that one in five Americans households live at or below the poverty level and one in six Americans is “food insecure,” he said.
“We believe this is a time for this restaurant,” he said, gesturing to the adobe-colored structure that was last used as a Volvo repair shop. “This is place based, and built by community by and for this community.”
“This is Anytown, USA,” he said of Red Bank. “This is America. We can fix this problem.”
Bon Jovi referred to the restaurant, where he washes dishes, as a “pilot” venture that could be replicated elsewhere.
“There’s a great need for them, both in urban and suburban environments,” he said, before leading a media pack into the restaurant for a tasting.
Doling out praise and thanks, Bon Jovi called out his wife, Dorothea, and former Mayor Ed McKenna, who he said guided the organizers “in a very New Jersey kind of way” to completion of the project.
The couple have a home in Middletown.
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