Jon Stewart and Mario Batali Fête Food Bank in Chelsea

111865898 Jon Stewart and Mario Batali Fête Food Bank in ChelseaAfter quipping that the 2011 Can-Do Awards Gala was the nicest seder he had ever been to–and drawing attention to the especially “geometrical shape” of the Chelsea Piers banquet hall–guest Jon Stewart got serious.

“Four hundred thousand meals a day are served at the Food Bank,” Stewart said. “It really is a remarkable organization.”

The Food Bank For New York City’s fundraiser also served as a platform to honor committed members of the organization for their dedication to the hunger-relief cause. Among those recognized were Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Food Bank who will retire in May after 23 years of service.

“You challenge us to give more, to do more, to say more, to fight hunger,” said Co-Chair Mario Batali. “I believe when I started coming to this event about 11 years ago we made somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000. Tonight I can tell you we’re probably going to break $1.4 million. That’s all [fellow co-chair] Susan [Cahn] and Lucy. You showed us that we can make a difference and we hope to carry on the legacy.”

Celebrity chef Rachael Ray particularly enjoyed the meal, albeit with a touch of poignance: “When you’re at an event like this you try to imagine what it’s like to be hungry and it makes you ten times more grateful for eating anything,” Rachael Ray said.

That’s not to say that guests were unable to pinpoint a few guilty pleasures, or in Mr. Batali’s case, guilt-free pleasures.

“I feel no guilt at all about pleasure, to be quite frank with you,” said Mr. Batali, who donned orange crocs for the evening in support of the food bank’s signature color. “I’ve just come off of two weeks of vacation and I probably had a piña colada every morning.”
And the confessions kept coming. Designer and self-proclaimed ice cream “whore” Isaac Mizrahi prefers mint chocolate chip, actor Dominic Fumusa admitted to a “strange addiction to Jujyfruits,” and when hung-over, the only thing Sarah McLachlan wants to see is a McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish. (We thought she was an animal-rights type!)

Noticeably absent from the event was ardent supporter Stanley Tucci who, according to Batali, was “in London filming a movie and sending dirty text messages as we speak.” Still, Tucci sent his support by means of technology and it was announced that he would match every thousand dollar pledge and above for ten minutes. Pledges could be sent via text message and were displayed for all in that strangely shaped room to see.

“Literally, we couldn’t be worse than if we were in a line,” Mr. Stewart said. “This is maybe the dumbest fucking shape I’ve ever seen for a banquet hall in my life. But I mean that with all due respect to Chelsea Piers and to the piano that is always here.”

cnolan@observer.com