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Chefs Make Change

Bill Clinton Stars at Mario Batali Awards Dinner

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President Bill Clinton Accepts the Golden Pie Service Award from Mario Batali.

Ken Goodman

It's not every day that Mario Batali hands out a Golden Pie Service Award. In fact, he'd never given one out before last Sunday night, when he handed one to President Bill Clinton.

Clinton was the star of an astonishing crowd that came to Del Posto to support the Mario Batali Foundation, which works to keep kids well fed, well read and well cared for. The Edge signed a red KitchenAid mixer for the silent auction (it sat next to one embossed with the presidential seal and signed by Clinton; it was out of my price range before bidding started). Rachael Ray posed for pictures with people who said they were her biggest fans, then went to sit with Francis Ford Coppola. The author Richard Ford gave a remarkable speech after the first course green salad with black truffle dressing ("It's exploding with truffle flavor" was how REM's Mike Mills accurately described it).

Jimmy Fallon rewrote the lyrics to "Fire & Rain," which included the refrain "I've seen Clint Eastwood talk to an invisible man." Fallon performed after guests had finished their Emperors pasta, a dish Del Posto's chef Mark Ladner named for Clinton. To make it vegan for the president's diet, Ladner topped penne with very, very slow-cooked vegetables and whipped soy protein (it's like mascarpone, Ladner said).

There was a vegan option to the main course New York strip steak, too: An awesome cauliflower steak drizzled with salsa verde. Then Clinton spoke. He thanked Batali for his outstanding work, particularly on the issue of children's hunger. It was possibly the first time in the history of charity dinners that everyone wished a speech had gone on longer. Even more good news: The dinner was part of two-day event that raised over half a million dollars for the MBF. It's never too late to donate: Check out the mariobatalifoundation.org.

Related: Chefs Make Change: Mario Batali
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