This summer has been packed with celebrity chef events on the East End. But on Saturday, August 3, health and wellness company La Palestra will be bringing together not only celebrity chefs, but also movie stars, musicians and health practitioners to raise money to educate children about the benefits of healthy living.The company’s nonprofit arm, La Palestra Kids, is all about promoting healthy living through classes educating children on nutrition, exercise and socialization. The programs are free, and are provided to inner-city, low-income families in Harlem and other needy neighborhoods in New York.
Inspired by, and named after, palaestras, public places for training athletes in ancient Greece and Rome, the business, a group of health clubs in Manhattan, is unique in that it’s about incorporating all aspects of a person’s life into their prescribed health regimen. Founder Pat Manocchia said he created La Palestra Kids when he realized how critical it was to prevent future health crises for today’s youth.
“It’s so necessary. These kids don’t have access to anything like this,” Mr. Manocchia said during a telephone interview from his Manhattan office last week. “There’s information and education that kids don’t have access to because they don’t have the money and it’s not right. We do it for free, and for the families as well, the moms and the caregivers.”
To support La Palestra Kids, a fundraiser will be held at East Hampton Studio on Saturday, August 3. The event starts with Pat’s Kitchen Sink Workout for adults at 9:30 a.m., and continues with kids and family classes at 11 a.m. Lunch will be served at noon and a cocktail reception starts at 6:30 p.m. Famed chefs David Burke and Richie Notar will cook dinner, which will be served at 8 p.m., and Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows and six-time Grammy-winning gospel singer Bebe Winans are slated to perform.
Education is what La Palestra, in all forms, is all about, according to Mr. Manocchia. He said that fast-food restaurants strategically target areas around low income schools and residences because it is cheap and accessible, creating nutrition-deprived victims of poor families. His mission is to education them to make healthy choices.
“The response we are getting from the parents is kids are coming home saying ‘protein makes my muscles strong’ and ‘eat my colors,’” he said. “They tell mom to eat broccoli, she gets interested and comes to the next class.”
Mr. Notar—a driving force behind the acclaimed restaurant Nobu, and now at his own restaurant, Harlow—is cooking at the event because Mr. Manocchia changed his life when they met almost 20 years ago.
“Here is a guy who said to me when I was running 2 miles and was proud of it that I could run a marathon,” Mr. Notar said of Mr. Manocchia. “He encouraged me from a physical activity standpoint, he’s not just a trainer.”
Mr. Notar has completed two marathons since.
It’s Mr. Manocchia’s intelligent and unique approach to getting and staying healthy that Mr. Manocchia praises most.
“He would couple an excursion, for example a trip to Kenya to climb Mount Kenya, then train you based on that,” he said. “He knows it gets redundant and he bases the regimen on that.”
Aside from being good friends and workout buddies, Mr. Notar and Mr. Manocchia have the same ideas about educating children on nutrition. Making food creative, fun and interactive, while using fresh healthy ingredients is key to changing their views about food, according to Mr. Notar.
The power of celebrity networking helped bring Mr. Burke to the event, he said.
“One of the guys from Adam Duritz’s organization called me and I got involved,” the cooking icon said during a phone interview from his Manhattan office.
Known for his charity work, Mr. Burke said that La Palestra Kids is a good organization for improving the health of future generations.
“People are going to have to start eating smarter. We have to see more veggie eating, it has to go that way,” he said.
Mr. Burke said he shares Mr. Notar’s sentiments when it comes to active participation and creativity to get children to eat healthier. He recommends, for instance, putting something creative in a salad, such as using Cheerios in place of croutons.
For the La Palestra Kids fundraiser, Mr. Burke will be serving dry-aged beef over a salad of watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, asparagus and burrata cheese with a warm vinaigrette. But he’s really looking forward to the entertainment, and to helping out the charity.
“I’m looking forward to going out there listening to some good music, he said. I’m a big fan and love the fact that we are helping out the right cause.”
La Palestra Kids Benefit will be held on Saturday, August 3, at East Hampton Studio from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tickets, $1,000 per person, can be purchased at lapalestrakids.com/new-events.