Ted Allen-cookbook author, "Chopped" host and Columbus native-serves as the honorary chair of the 2015 AIDS Walk Ohio's walk/run/ride on April 18.


Courtesy Ted Allen

Ted Allen-cookbook author, Esquire contributor, "Chopped" host, James Beard Award winner-grew up right here in Arch City. And this Saturday, April 18, he'll be back in town as the honorary chair of 2015 AIDS Walk Ohio's walk/run/ride, expected to be the state's largest HIV awareness event this year.

What neighborhood did you grow up in?

I guess you would say the East or Northeast Side. The mall we used to go to was Eastland. We moved when my dad transferred jobs to Indianapolis 1972.

When you come back to Columbus, what strikes you most about how the city has changed?

My husband's parents still live [in Columbus], so we're back regularly. I love what has happened in the Short North and German Village. I always give a big shout out to Katzinger's. (They retweeted a couple of my AIDS Walk tweets, which I appreciate.) I love the way people have moved into beautiful, older cottages in old neighborhoods. And the Ohio State zone is really fun. My husband has a designer furniture business, so we always prowl modern antique stores [in Columbus] and sometimes do fairly well. We bought a couple things when we were last in eight months ago.

You mentioned Katzinger's. What do you love about that place?

It pays tribute to a style of Jewish deli you don't find much of in the Midwest, South or anywhere outside of New York City, really. There's a little bit of that in Cleveland, in Chicago, but you don't get much outside of New York, and, in fact, [those delis] are struggling. For [Katzinger's] to have that kind of kind of ridiculously fat sandwich-it's No. 37 on the menu, I believe-it's a slice of real cool. A nod to German and Jewish heritage. And I'm crazy about their charcuterie and, oh, the lovely cheeses.

When you're next here, it'll be to raise AIDS awareness. As a country, what do we need to do better in the battle against HIV?

Finally a decade or so ago, protocols were put in place that no longer made HIV and AIDS definite death symptoms. The problem is the perception that can create among younger gay men and communities of color, where HIV has become a bigger problem, that the AIDS crisis is over. It is, in fact, not over. And while some kids may think they can just pop a pill and go on behaving unsafely, that's not the case. The mountain climbers you see in [treatment] ads who look buff and happy-it's not that simple. AIDS is insurance problems, it's awful, awful health problems-a fistful of pills, basically. Fortunately, the AIDS Walk will get hundreds out thinking and talking about this very problem.

People know you best from your Food Network shows, but you're always traveling, writing, working. What's your secret to staying motivated?

We just finished shooting "Chopped," the 320th episode or something. We've changed the show in little incremental ways as we've moved on. There's always passionate arguments about what should and should not happen. Every shoot day is a 12-hour day, minimum. It just amazes me how the judges, contestants, producers-how everybody stays so engaged. That same tension comes across on screen-the excitement and phenomenon of cooking. It's not hard. I get to work with these awesome nationally renowned chefs. When you see [New York restaurateur] Marcus Samuelsson standing up and rooting people on, that passion is absolutely genuine. The only thing that makes it hard is we start really F-ing early.

Right now, are there any national dining trends you're excited about?

A trend that has accelerated in the last five or seven years is we're seeing really vibrant hometown restaurant communities in cities that didn't see that kind of thing before. There's definitely that in Columbus, and there's a huge scene in Philly and Nashville. Real talented chefs are taking their brands of yumminess to smaller places, real cultural hubs. Portland and Seattle we've known about for a while, but the food movement is becoming more universal. The ubiquity of interest in good food is super exciting. Even fast-casual places like Chipotle-it's honest-to-goodness food, and they don't pay me anything to say that.