With Bon Jovi’s summer tour canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic, rock superstar Jon Bon Jovi continues to ensure that his community doesn’t go hungry.
The JBJ Soul Kitchen in New Jersey is unlike your standard eatery. The non-profit community restaurant, created by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, was built to ensure that everyone has access to a nutritious hot meal.
They don’t have any prices listed on their menu; instead, as “payment” for their food, diners can either make a cash donation or volunteer. One hour of work washing the dishes, cooking, bussing tables, or waitressing will earn anyone a three-course meal.
Back when JBJ Soul Kitchen first opened in 2011, the singer told The Daily Beast what inspired him to open such a unique establishment.
“One in six people in America are suffering at night and going to bed hungry, and one in five families live at or below the poverty line,” he shared.
That heartbreaking reality motivated him to build the diner. Aside from serving fresh, local, and mostly organic ingredients, the restaurant’s purpose is to build community relationships. As written on its website, “Friendship is our daily special.” That means a customer may not know the person seated next to them, but they’re encouraged to strike up a conversation with other diners and make a new friend.
At the Red Bank and Toms River locations, guests are asked to make a minimum donation of $20. They’re also free to give more if they want to help cover those who can’t pay. The third branch in Rutgers-Newark University asks for a minimum donation of $12.
The JBJ Soul Kitchen only accepted orders for takeout amid the recent COVID-19 restrictions. The restaurant also didn’t have its regular in-house volunteers during this time, so Jon Bon Jovi helped keep operations afloat by assuming the dishwasher role.
“There’s an in-need population here in New Jersey who depend on us,” the rock superstar told CNN in April. “Hence, the All-Star Hall of Fame dishwasher is back in business.”
Bon Jovi washed plates, utensils, pots, and pans five days a week until the restaurant began seating customers according to the new guidelines. During its 13-week takeout only phase, the eatery provided over 7,800 to-go meals to its customers. While on duty, the singer’s wife, Dorothea, took a photo of him washing dishes and shared it on the restaurant’s Instagram page. She captioned it with, “Do what you can.”
Those four words inspired Bon Jovi to compose a song and asked his fans to contribute their own lyrics.
“The songwriter in me came out, and I wrote the song ‘If You Can’t Do What You Do, You Do What You Can,'” he said. “I knew that people from all walks of life would have their stories to tell, so I invited them to write me a verse.”
And they did a splendid job. Superstar Bon Jovi’s fans wrote about their own fears, togetherness and health, missed graduations, and more. With this invitation, the singer heard about other musicians’ pandemic experiences and shared them with the rest of the world. In this day of strict social distancing, this musical project made him feel more connected with individuals worldwide.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to stay in touch with people around the world and just let them know that I’m thinking of them,” he said. “It’s a reminder that, even if you can’t do what you do, you do what you can.”
As the state of New Jersey enters the second stage of its reopening plan, the JBJ Soul Kitchen has resumed its pay-it-forward model with the same goal: serving healthy meals to customers in need with dignity.
“Our desire is to make sure that anyone who needs a meal knows that they can come and see us and we’ll provide them with that nutritious meal,” Bon Jovi promised.
Now that’s what you call a real superstar!
Watch the video below to hear Jon Bon Jovi talk about the JBJ Soul Kitchen and the inspiration behind his song, ‘If You Can’t Do What You Do, You Do What You Can.’
Click here to help JBJ Soul Kitchen continue its mission of providing food to individuals in need.