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Jon Bon Jovi opens pay-what-you-can charity restaurant

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi sits in the Soul Kitchen restaurant in Red Bank, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011. Diners pay whatever they're able to.

Mel Evans/Mel Evans/AP

It was time the Jersey Shore made it into the news for more than Snooki tans and cheesy nightclubs. Rocker Jon Bon Jovi has opened a charity restaurant in his home state that allows patrons to pay what they can or work to cover their meals.

At Soul Kitchen, there are no prices next to menu items – comfort food such as Garden State Gumbo and BBQ grilled salmon – reports the Wall Street Journal. Diners who can afford to pay market prices are, of course, also welcome to the renovated 1,100- square-foot former auto-body shop.

No doubt it will enjoy some celebrity tourist traffic, but at the opening Wednesday, Mr. Bon Jovi told the Journal's Marshall Heyman that he hasn't been itching to join the ranks of celeb restaurateurs such as Justin Timberlake.

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"No, no, that's not me. I'm not someone who's interested in food or good at preparing meals," Mr. Bon Jovi explained. "I'm more of a dishwasher. I love to wash dishes."

"And the amazing thing about this kitchen is I've found that the dishes don't come back so dirty," he added. "The plates are licked pretty clean, which says something about our food."

Mr. Bon Jovi's personal chef, Zeet Peabody, is at the helm in the kitchen. For now, food has been donated by Whole Foods, reports the Journal.

The musician was reportedly inspired by other pay-what-you can eateries. Denver, in particular, is a hot spot.

But the granddaddy of them all is a café in Salt Lake City: Denise Cerreta's One World Cafe, which has blossomed from a single café into a national non-profit foundation (the One World Everybody Eats Foundation). Ms. Cerreta now helps others, including Mr. Bon Jovi's JBJ Soul Foundation, to open similar ventures.

The idea is as ambitious as it is heartwarming: These restaurants can help curb hunger, cut food waste by using donated food, and help train people in the restaurant business.

Would you eat at a charity restaurant? How much would you pay for dinner?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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