On January 17, this really cool thing happened. Wednesday Seven owner and founder/executive chef of Straw and Proposition Chicken, Ari Feingold, appeared as a contestant on Food Network’s “Guy's Grocery Games” and WON! What’s more, he donated his prize winnings (all $15K of it) to fire relief efforts in Northern California.

The episode began with chef Ari squaring off against three other contestants in a fried food throw down. To keep it interesting (and because it’s just good television) host Guy Fieri decided to throw a culinary curveball at the chefs by insisting they use baby bananas as an added ingredient to their dishes. For some, this wild card spelled the end, but for Feingold, the fruit turned out to be a delicious boost to his deep-fried Elvis French toast topped with crispy bacon bits, crumbled peanut butter cups, and maple whipped cream.

With two contestants gone and two left, the final challenge to make their best fried dish commenced. For his creation, Ari assembled ingredients and flavors that drew heavily on his childhood. With a creative and playful twist in mind, the elements that define his carnival-themed eatery Straw, Ari put his fried finesse to the final test crafting his winning dish of fried chicken (with vodka in the batter for an extra crunch) on top of Israeli salad with a tahini lemon dressing. Proof that the dish stood out came from the judges, who exclaimed it was “drop dead good” and that “it had an elegant crust, crunchy and crispy and light.” We know the judges were spot-on because this EXACT dish is served at Proposition Chicken, and it’s divine.

After the judges deliberated and bestowed fried glory on Ari, he shocked them by announcing he would donate all $15,000 of his winnings to the victims of the North Bay Fires. The destruction caused by the fires has been enormous; many have been left with nothing and are struggling to rebuild their lives amidst the devastation.

The final jaw dropper of the evening came when Guy Fieri announced that the judges would be competing in their own fried food challenge for an additional $5,000. After Judge Beau McMillan’s deep-fried burger was named the winning dish, he also donated his winnings to the cause bringing the total to $20,000.

Touching as it was, Ari’s act of generosity was not at all uncharacteristic of him. He is known well in the community for having quite the impressive philanthropic track record. Both of Feingold’s restaurants participate in a “Non-Profit Monday” program that donates a percentage of sales to a local non-profit organization. Since its inception, Feingold’s businesses have given away more than $100,000, and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Upon learning that the show would be filmed in Santa Rosa, Guy Fieri's hometown and the epicenter of the North Bay fires, Feingold made a pledge to himself stating, “I knew going in that if I won, there was no other option.”

You can have a positive impact on local community organizations by dining at Straw or Proposition Chicken on Mondays throughout the year. 10% of all dine-in sales will go directly to a pre-selected non-profit that is making a difference in the Bay Area.

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