There’s one unusual thing about The Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, N.J.—the menu has no prices.
Recently opened by rock star Jon Bon Jovi, the restaurant is an extension of Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, his charitable organization. The restaurant serves nutritious meals prepared from its own organic gardens, along with ingredients provided by a local branch of Whole Foods. The emphasis is on down-home dishes such as gumbo, three-bean chili, barbecued grilled salmon or pork chops with fig and apple chutney.
The restaurant is not a soup kitchen. Customers are served meals based on the volunteer work they’ve done for local community organizations, or they may “pay it forward” by pledging to volunteer in the future. Those who can afford it may cough up a suggested donation, or pay a bit more if they choose to do so. The Soul Kitchen grew out of Bon Jovi’s work with local food banks, and reflects his desire to solve the problem of hunger with dignity.
“If you come in and say ‘I’m hungry,’ we’ll feed you,” he says. “But we’re going to need you to do something…if you want to come and want to make a difference, leave $20 in an envelope on the table. If you can’t afford to eat, you can bus tables, you can wait tables, you can work in the kitchen as a dishwasher or a sous chef.”
Bon Jovi, who lives in nearby Middletown, N.J., serves on the White House Council for Community Solutions. His Foundation has built 260 homes for low-income families in the area. Despite a busy recording and touring schedule, he works in the restaurant at least once each week and plans to stay active in the operation.
“Last Friday, I was at the White House,” he says, “got on a train, changed in the bathroom and got here in time to wash dishes Friday night. I’m the dishwasher, for real. I can’t cook a lick.”