“If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?” That question was at the center of a star-studded affair in New York City held to connect great people over a meal and help fund safe access to one of the world’s most precious resources— water.
Actor and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Matt Damon teamed up with Zoe Saldaña, Ludacris, Martha Stewart, and other stars at the Hall des Lumières in Manhattan on September 21 for Stella Artois’ The World’s Most Fascinating Dinner in support of Water.org. Damon co-founded the global non-profit organization, which “helps people access safe water and sanitation through affordable financing, such as small loans.”
The event was hosted in collaboration with Stella Artois’ Let’s Do Dinner campaign, which encourages people to “get together to eat, drink and connect over a delicious meal and great conversation.”
“I do feel that a dinner table is the safest place to have uncomfortable conversations, where people are able to listen to each other, and though we may not agree, we at least learn to see each other for who we truly are, and we get to learn a lot more about something that we didn’t know,” Saldaña tells ESSENCE.
The evening started with Damon sharing personal anecdotes about the work Water.org and Stella Artois have done together to bring clean water supplies to 4.5 million people worldwide since their partnership began in 2015.
Later in the evening, Jeremy Allen White, Stewart, and Saldaña took to the stage for a conversation about their shared connections as New Yorkers and how taking time to have dinner and connect with other people has greatly impacted them.
“The moment you eat is the moment you unlock that door. That is the time in our lives where our home is the most open… we can’t f**k with that time,”
Over bites of food and sips of beer, the experience got to its core of how people can connect over a good meal. Attendees got to know the other people seated at their table by reading questions prompts at their tables posed by celebrity guests, such as “What’s a dish or cuisine you would never turn down”, “If you could be in any city in the world tomorrow, where would you be and why?” and “If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?”
Other notable figures shared their stories, such as Leland Melvin, a former Black NFL player who went from the football field to becoming a NASA Astronaut, and Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, who safely landed a plane on the Hudson River 14 years ago when it was in distress.
The “Hot Ones” host Sean Evans continued the evening by asking Ludacris, chefs Gaby Dalkin, JJ Johnson, Tway, and actress Tika Sumpter “Hot Questions Live” while taking part in the infamous spicy chicken wing eating challenge.
The event concluded with a memorable toast led by Damon and Saldaña. The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the outstanding performance by musician Ryan Tedder, known for his songwriting contributions to major hits like Beyonce’s “Halo” and Adele’s “Rumor Has It.” During his performance, Tedder shared intriguing stories about how he collaborated with some of today’s top artists as a songwriter. He also played some of the most iconic songs from the past decade.
Overall, this evening and its carefully curated elements emphasized a valuable lesson: No matter who is present in the room; it’s often that the most exciting and meaningful lessons that can be gained happen simply by having conversations over the dinner table and learning something new.