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Dining Out For Life: Mingle

April 12, 2013

Helping people is what I love to do. Sometimes that may be hard to see. But the driving force behind this blog is to try and make things better. I’d like to do more, and maybe one day I’ll be able to figure out how to balance my available time, the need to make money, and the desire to heal the world.

For now, I’ve been given a small opportunity from the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York. So over the next two weeks I’m going to help them promote their April 25, Dining Out for Life event by highlighting a few participating venues on the FLB.

Besides being flattered that they reached out, the clincher was that in discussing how this promotion actually works, I learned that just about 100% of the money collected goes directly to programming. Overhead expenses are largely covered through other grants, so the money you donate by eating at a favorite restaurant goes right to helping people in need.

Plus doing this gives me an excuse to eat at some restaurants I’ve been meaning to visit for far too long, and talk with some interesting people.

One of those interesting people is Jose Andrew, who is a co-owner of Mingle on Delaware Avenue. While most restaurants are generously donating between 20-25% of their revenues from the evening, Mingle is the only restaurant in the region and one of just a small handful of restaurants participating nationally that are donating at the 100% level.

Naturally, there’s a story. And it’s a fairly remarkable one.

Jose’s mother is locally revered chef Un-Hui Filomeno who is the chef and co-owner at Mingle. And the story starts with her. As Jose tells it:

Mom was born and raised in Korea. She converted to Catholicism when she came [to the U.S.]. And we received our first communion at Blessed Sacrament when we moved to this area. And the biggest thing she ever taught us when we were younger was the idea of giving and receiving.

While there is a strong belief system about the importance of giving in Jose and his family, it’s also personal, as they recently went through a health crisis of their own. Jose explains:

My mother was diagnosed this time last year with breast cancer. Between the surgery, radiation and chemo and so on for about a year now, she’s just got about an inch of hair. But that was the biggest thing I realized, is that I came that close to losing something in the physical world I really admired, loved, and respected. And literally the doctors of oncology kept us together. I saw what they were doing and they had no connection to me. In reality it was just a job, but they went above and beyond.

So when it comes to the AIDS Council, and people like Kat Brown, it’s not just a job, they go above and beyond. As far as the help that we received, we’re giving it back. It may not be towards breast cancer, but here’s a group who gets it.

Jose has a goal. He’d like the restaurant to donate a million dollars to charity. His investors, when they first heard this, weren’t terribly keen on the notion. But when Jose further explained how much money they would have to make over time to be in such a position, it sounded like they collectively breathed a sigh of relief.

There is a generous spirit that runs through the restaurant. It doesn’t reside just in one guy. Chef Un-Hui backs this initiative, as does partner Julie Royston. Jose also made a point to say, “our staff backs it too, which is cool because a lot of times you meet walls.”

Speaking of staff, Mingle is bringing in 25% more staff to deal with the business on the day of the event. You know, on the day they are donating all their food, labor and overhead costs to the AIDS Council.

The goal here is to donate money and to make it easy for other people to get into the giving spirit. Because through the restaurant’s participation, you can give a lot more money away to charity than you might have otherwise, using Mingle as a conduit.

To that end, even though dinner reservations have filled up between 6:30 and 8:30 on the night of the event, the restaurant is pushing the option of take out. Because they are donating all the income generated through those sales too.

Let’s be clear. Mingle isn’t handing over the profits from the day, they are donating the entirety of their gross revenues. So if you stop in for lunch and buy an $11 plate of dukbokki, you’ve just donated $11 to the AIDS Council. And they still do have openings at lunch. So call ahead and book your space.

If you’ve griped in the past that their food is too expensive, now is your chance to eat it entirely for free. Well, technically you will be making a contribution to the AIDS Council for the regular price of their dishes. But all of that is going directly to programming.

It’s really amazing, as is their house-made gochujang, and Jose’s seemingly endless supply of positivity. But if you go, seriously, their dukbokki is fantastic. Check it out here.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Kerosena permalink
    April 12, 2013 11:31 am

    Thanks for the reminder! Called this morning and got my lunch reservation!

  2. April 12, 2013 1:18 pm

    Thank you Daniel! Our Team is so excited for the 25th. Each reservation is an opportunity for us to showcase our food and to give back! Thank you for the Opportunity!!!

  3. Kat permalink
    April 12, 2013 2:32 pm

    Fantasic post! I read it with tears in my eyes!

  4. April 14, 2013 6:50 pm

    What an inspiration! I’ll definitely be calling to make a rsvp.

  5. Barb Veltman permalink
    December 1, 2013 4:57 am

    First went to Mingle with meet up group from On the Edge when Jose graciously welcomed us into back room for a cocktail and conversation. Went this past Saturday and met Julie, co-owner. What a nice and fun lady! The food, ambiance, staff and overall experience is outstanding! Warm and a an extremely inviting and lovely dining experience. A restaurant that makes you feel welcome, experience like you’re in your own dining room, and a menu with such variety and taste, will be disappointed… this place! It is definitely one that will continue to please and capture a slew of regulars. God Bless Mom on her Breast cancer plight, my sister, my many friends, and all those fighting breast cancer, you will never walk alone, you are loved and you will always be in my heart and prayers.

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