Jon Bon Jovi opens charity restaurant in New Jersey

Musician and community activist Jon Bon Jovi at the grand opening celebration of The Soul Kitchen on Oct. 19, 2011 in Red Bank, New Jersey.
John W. Ferguson/Getty Images
Musician and community activist Jon Bon Jovi at the grand opening celebration of The Soul Kitchen on Oct. 19, 2011 in Red Bank, New Jersey.

(CBS/AP) Jon Bon Jovi is trying to get rid of the negative stigma of getting a charitable free meal with his experimental new restaurant, The Soul Kitchen.

The rocker makes it clear that his wife and his new establishment is not a soup kitchen, but a place for people who need a meal to volunteer in lieu of payment. Customers who can afford to donate a few dollars can leave a donation for their meal.

Pictures: Jon Bon Jovi

"With the economic downturn, one of the things I noticed was that disposable income was one of the first things that went," Bon Jovi told AP during an interview. "Dining out, the family going out to a restaurant, mom not having to cook, dad not having to clean up - a lot of memories were made around restaurant tables."

"When I learned that one in six people in this country goes to bed hungry, I thought this was the next phase of the (Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation's) work," he added. The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation was started by Bon Jovi and Craig A. Spencer, who were co-owners of the Philadelphia Soul Arena Football League. The organization was initially called the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation, but the name was later changed as their work spread to different communities.

The Red Bank, N.J.-based restaurant served crusted catfish with red beans and rice, grilled chicken breast with homemade basil mayo and rice pilaf, and grilled salmon with soul seasonings, sweet potato mash and sauteed greens during the Oct. 19 opening. "This is not a soup kitchen," he said. "You can come here with the dignity of linens and silver, and you're served a healthy, nutritious meal. This is not burgers and fries."

For those who can't afford to pay for a meal, The Soul Kitchen asks that you volunteer at the restaurant washing dishes, busing tables or working in the kitchen. You can also spend some time with the Lunch Break organization or the local food bank. After working, you are given a voucher for a free meal at The Soul Kitchen.

You might even catch Bon Jovi himself helping out behind the scenes. "Last Friday, I was at the White House, serving on the Council for Community Solutions, got on a train, changed in the bathroom and got here in time to wash dishes Friday night," he told AP. "I'm the dishwasher, for real. I can't cook a lick."

Envelopes are placed on the table for those who can afford to pay. Patrons are encouraged to leave what they can afford and feel is appropriate for the meal.

"There's no prices on our menu, so if you want to come and you want to make a difference, leave a $20 in the envelope on the table," Bon Jovi explained.