“My Mom is a breast cancer survivor. This will be 12 years without,” says Michael Bohlsen, of his mother, Linda, as he earnestly knocks on the table at one of the family’s six Long Island restaurants, Monsoon, in Babylon. Five years ago, Michael and his brother, Kurt, owners of the Bohlsen Restaurant Group, began an annual grassroots fund-raising campaign at their restaurants, supporting local breast cancer coalitions: “Eat, Drink and Think Pink.” Since then, BRG has raised over $70,000, as well as much-needed awareness to the plight of women afflicted with breast cancer here in our communities.
“My Mom was upset that the local breast cancer coalitions on the island had done so much for her, yet most women didn’t seem to know of their existence. So Mom asked Kurt and I if we could do something to raise awareness,” explains Bohlsen. “Honestly, we raise more awareness than we do money.” The Bohlsens, and their staff, are doing both and doing it with heart.
Each October, each chef, at each of the six restaurants in the Bohlsen group, pinks up their menus with not only food and drinks that are pink, or have pink elements, but with foods that are rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and beta-carotene. “This really is not work,” says Monsoon chef Michael Wilson of the time spent each year working on the menu. “This is the fun part, researching healthy and new food items, and ones that will be available, as locally as possible, in October.” Monsoon’s October menu will include plenty of fresh salmon, tuna and halibut. “Lots of seafood, lots of fresh vegetables. Sauces with pink peppercorns and even strawberry yogurt. There is always a way to get it pink and healthy,” says Wilson. Thanks to social media, there is also a bit of a friendly competition among the BRG chefs. When one chef posts a photo of their special on Facebook, this apparently inspires the other chefs to come up with even more inventive ways of incorporating tasty and beneficial ingredients, that are also pink, into their menus. To underscore the campaign, the menus are printed in pink, with the items that are particularly high in antioxidants highlighted, each restaurant is lit, inside and out, with pink lights, and the waitstaff wears pink ties.
This is clearly a win-win for not only BRG guests but most importantly for each of the four breast cancer coalitions on Long Island that will receive between $1 to $2 for each “Think Pink” menu item sold during the month of October. The Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition (babylonbreastcancer.org) will benefit from Monsoon’s campaign; Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition (hbcac.org) from Prime; West Islip Breast Cancer Coalition (wibcc.org) from H2O Seafood Grill; and Islip Breast Cancer Coalition (islipbreast.com) from Tellers Chophouse, Verace and Beachtree Café. “We, as a family, try to support local groups whenever we are doing something philanthropic,” says Bohlsen. “Everyone on Long Island knows someone who has been or will be affected by breast cancer. This cause is close to our hearts as both a family and an employer. These coalitions help and support women after their diagnosis, helping them in ways that medicine cannot.”
With the Bohlsen family, thinking pink is so much more than pink cocktails, appetizers, dinners and desserts, it is a way for this, the third generation of a family of restaurateurs, to give back to their community. The Bohlsen brothers are doing their mom, and the women of Long Island, proud. “I’m trying. Every day, I try,” says Michael Bohlsen.