Chef Marcus Samuelsson Hosts Benefit For Harlem Explosion Victims

News & Views | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 03/31/2014 | 10:45 AM EDT

The famed restaurateur and Harlem resident brings community together amid tragedy

Chef Marcus Samuelsson is using his fame and powerful network to bring a little relief to the victims of the East Harlem gas explosion that left eight people dead and at least 100 people left homeless.

The blast, which caused two five-story buildings to collapse in the streets of Harlem about two weeks ago, shook the community, both literally and figuratively.

“I was at my restaurant about 10 blocks away when I heard it and felt a big shake,” Samuelsson told The Root. “Like most people who live in urban areas, I didn’t really respond because there is always something going on. I didn’t know immediately that something of this magnitude went down. When I walked over later and witnessed the devastation, I knew I had to do something.”

Samuelsson, who is the co-owner of Red Rooster, an upscale restaurant in the heart of Harlem, says he was so affected by the tragedy that he decided to do something about it. The former “Next Iron Chef” contestant decided to host a benefit called “Harlem Helps,” which will take place on April 2 at Ginny’s Supper Club, underneath his restaurant. Donations will help people affected by the explosion, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross Greater New York: East Harlem Collapse Relief fund. Tickets are $175 for general admission and $350 for VIP. The highly revered chef is also using his network of mega chef friends throughout the New York City.

Samuelsson said part of his decision to host such a fundraiser was because he feared that the incident would be forgotten about due to more polarizing stories as of late, including the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. It also hit home for him because he lives about four blocks away from where the explosion took place.

It’s directly in my community, and it’s something that could have happened to any one of us,” he said. “I always feel that when a tragedy happens, it’s important for the community to come together. Harlem has always been a community that picks up together. That’s what we’re doing here.”

(Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

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