Chef Marcus Samuelsson was standing in the dining room of the six-month-old Red Rooster on Tuesday night fielding a question about how his restaurant came to be such a power center. In March the Harlem eatery was the site of a $1.5 million fundraiser for President Obama’s re-election campaign, and on Tuesday, it was playing host to a benefit for New York’s Family Justice Centers, which provide legal and counseling services to victims of domestic violence in the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Ronald Perelman and Halle Berry were co-hosting.
“Now why do you have to do that to me?” the celebrity chef said with a wide grin. “It is the most powerful room in New York City tonight… I just think it’s a great cause and Mr. Bloomberg’s been kind to us. He’s come up here before and it was great when the president was here as well – both presidents – when Clinton and Obama were here.”
Mariska Hargitay, Yoko Ono, Kevin Liles and Estelle, as well as a field of Perelman and Bloomberg acolytes, had all turned out for the evening, which raised more than $450,000. As guests dined on Samuelsson’s soul food creations, which included as macaroni and cheese, collard greens and cornbread, Bloomberg and Berry hopped from seat to seat (“Halle and I are going to move from table to table so each of you can say you had dinner with the mayor,” Bloomberg joked during a introduction heavy on the self deprecation.)
After dinner, the party moved to a club space in the basement, where Estelle was due to perform. As Berry came downstairs, the actress, who was once the victim of domestic violence herself, explained why she’d made the one-day trip to New York.
“This is just very important to me,” she said. “I’ve lived it on some levels and I know the importance of giving back.”
Earlier, Berry had noted that in her 15 years as the face of Revlon, she had never had a fight with Perelman (“We realized that’s because we don’t live together and we don’t have sex,” she explained. “Exactly,” Perelman said.) During her table hopping it appeared as if she also had also gotten along famously with the mayor.
“He’s done a lot of good for this city, and I love this city, so there’s a healthy respect that I have for him,” she said. “I think we felt that tonight.”
And as for the restaurant?
“I’ll definitely be back,” she said. “The short ribs were amazing.”