Ben’s Friends Fundraising Dinner Kicks Off in Raleigh June 2

Dine for good via this fundraising dinner supporting hospitality workers seeking sobriety.

It’s easy to be distracted by the amazing food and drinks at local restaurants and bars—but those people serving you each have their own story, which may or may not involve personal struggles like addiction. Enter Ben’s Friends, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supporting hospitality workers seeking sobriety that’s kicking off its national fundraising tour with a dinner at DTR’s Oak Steakhouse June 2. 

A collab between Oak Steakhouse’s Todd Woods, Jolie and Crawford and Son’s Scott Crawford, and chef Sam Diminich of Restaurant Constance in Charlotte, the dinner includes passed apps and four courses with beverage pairings (boozy or nonalcoholic!)—plus a silent auction and live jazz trio. 

Rewinding back to 2016, Ben’s Friends was founded by restaurateur Steve Palmer (of Oak Steakhouse, O-Ku and Colletta fame locally) and restaurant vet Mickey Bakst after former chef Ben Murray took his own life following struggles with alcoholism. 

“Ben’s Friends started because both myself and Steve were sick and tired of hearing about restaurant employees losing their lives to addiction or destroying their careers because of it,” says Bakst. “Each time we got together, we shared another story of someone in the industry affected by addiction. We figured if we could create a community of sober restaurant people, many would join us.”

And join them they did, as the org now boasts groups in ~20 cities, including Charlotte, Asheville, Chicago, Richmond, Austin, Charleston and more—not to mention general nationwide meetings held on Zoom daily, plus separate Zoom meetings for men and women on Wednesday nights. 

When it came to the fundraising dinner tour, the duo chose Raleigh as the first stop because of Palmer’s restaurants here and his friendship with sober chef Crawford. 

“I love supporting my recovery community, especially Ben’s Friends,” says Crawford. “They are making a tremendous impact, offering help and hope to so many in our industry who are suffering from alcoholism and addiction.” Supporting sobriety and our state’s best culinary talent? Sounds like a win-win.

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.