Seattle Información




The Seattle Index

domingo, 30 de noviembre de 2008

Cafe Amore to host hundreds for free turkey dinner

Cafe Amore to host hundreds for free turkey dinner


Once homeless himself, the owner and chef of Cafe Amore in Seattle's Belltown area will host a free turkey dinner today for anyone in need. Sean Langan figures it will cost him about $4,000 to serve 500 to 700 Thanksgiving meals.

Seattle Times staff reporter


Once homeless himself, Sean Langan, chef and owner of Cafe Amore in Belltown, plans to serve up to 700 free Thanksgiving dinners today to those in need.

Enlarge this photo


Once homeless himself, Sean Langan, chef and owner of Cafe Amore in Belltown, plans to serve up to 700 free Thanksgiving dinners today to those in need.

Free Thanksgiving dinners for those in need

A number of places will serve meals today. Here are a few:

Cafe Amore: At Fifth Avenue and Bell Street in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. Serving from 1 to 4 p.m. today. Families welcome.

Millionair Club Charity: 2515 Western Ave., between Wall and Vine streets in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. Serving dinner with support from Pacific Seafood Processors Association from noon to 1:30 p.m. Families welcome.

Seattle Union Gospel Mission: 318 2nd Ave. Extension S., between Washington and Main streets, in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood. Three seatings: 4:15 p.m., 5:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Families welcome.

When the burden is very great, it takes friends to carry it, and that's something Sean Langan knows from experience.

Once homeless himself, Langan, now owner and chef of Cafe Amore in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood, knows what it's like to be on the streets. So on a day that's supposed to be all about gratitude, Langan — and a community of friends and volunteers — will cook and serve a free Thanksgiving dinner for 500 to 700 people at his restaurant. Anyone in need is welcome.

Cafe Amore is a small restaurant, powered by Langan's big heart. "That's why it's called Amore, it's about love," Langan said.

He expects a line out the door, and then some, but he intends that no one will go away hungry. Usually, he serves up organic, locally sourced dinners — butternut-squash ravioli with pumpkin cream sauce and roasted pumpkin seeds, that sort of thing. But tomorrow, from 1 to 4 p.m., Langan will throw open his doors for turkey dinner cooked from scratch.

He figures he could make $7,000 to $8,000 if he opened his doors for business on Thanksgiving. Or heck, he could even take a day off, not a bad idea for a guy who works about 100 hours a week, he figures. But instead he wanted to put on this dinner. His reason is simple: When he looks at the homeless and the broken, he sees not someone to rush past, but someone he used to be.

The child of a biker and a partyer, as he puts it, Langan said he was raised on Southern Comfort and speed. "I was doing cocaine by the time I was 11," says Langan, 42, and sober for 17 straight years. At his worse, he found himself passing a beer to his daughter, "exactly how I got started," Langan recalled.

When he hit bottom, there were people to pick him up: The man who encouraged him to go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Someone who paid his rent to get him into an apartment and back on his feet.

He doesn't blame his parents — now both deceased — or anyone else who is still battling the bottle or worse. He just encourages them to know if they want to, they can do what he did. "It's a tough road; just stick it out," Langan said. And know someone, somewhere, cares.

"I'll sit them down and we'll wait on them like paying customers," Langan said of his Thanksgiving guests. His restaurant, for some, is the prettiest place any of them have been in a while, and table service, well, it's not what they've been getting lately. For those who can't make it to the restaurant, Langan is even dispatching dinners to city parks.

He figures the meal will cost him about $4,000, but he wouldn't consider not doing it, even though he's only been in business two years and is struggling himself.

This is his second year putting on the dinner, which he started planning as soon as last year's was over. This year's is a little leaner; there was no money to buy hams, and he had to cut back the hours, because he didn't get enough food donated to go the whole distance from noon to six.

Even last year was a stretch: He served everything he had in the kitchen, and even cooked up linguine for the last arrivals, so they wouldn't go hungry. He gave away the last four pumpkin pies on the street as he made his way home — stopping at a Subway for a chicken sandwich on the way.

The dinner is a miracle of logistics, put on with the help of about 50 volunteers. From rustling up available ovens in the neighborhood to help cook 38 turkeys, to dialing shelters and social-service centers to get out the word, there was a job for everyone Wednesday.

"Volunteering is how you make small changes in everyday life," said Nargiza Yuzupova, 20, as she tied on an apron to dive in and help out in the kitchen.

Paul Turner, a retired chemistry professor, was snapping 20 pounds of green beans, one bean at a time.

"I've got a lot, and I'd like to give back, " Turner said.

Asked what he's grateful for at Thanksgiving, he knew his answer: "This day."

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

Lic. Nut. Miguel Leopoldo Alvarado

Sean Langan, chef and owner of Cafe Amore in Belltown

Sean Langan, chef and owner of Cafe Amore in Belltown



Paul Joseph Brown / P-I
Sean Langan, chef and owner at Amore, an Italian restaurant in Belltown, adds yet another turkey to the oven the day before his annual free dinner.

He helps -- because he has been there, too


A WINNING recipe for helping others, Sean Langan will tell you, takes 80 pounds of corn, 275 pounds of potatoes, 120 gallons of gravy, 125 pounds of stuffing and, yes, fowl, lots of it -- more than 600 pounds of turkey.

Langan, the owner and chef of Amore, a Belltown restaurant, is giving back to the Seattle community on Thanksgiving in an unusually big way. He is cooking and serving a holiday meal for low-income people or homeless families -- all for free.

He's not doing it for a tax write-off. He's not knocking down doors for publicity either -- though good news can't hurt.

The reason he's opening his restaurant at Fifth and Bell to more than 500 needy folks is that near the very same street corner, he used to booze, get high and deal drugs.

He knows all too well what it feels like to be down and out, to feel hunger twined with desperation and think that no one cares.

"It all comes full circle," Langan, 42, told me. "I turned myself around because people gave me a hand up and helped me. This is how I can help give back."

He learned an inglorious lifestyle at a young age. His father, a contractor, operated a smoke-filled tavern on Aurora Avenue, and would pour his son Southern Comfort like tap water. His mother owned a greasy spoon in Ballard. Both parents, he says, abused drugs and alcohol. The two-headed demon caused his mom to lose her business and gave him easy exposure to drugs.

"I was 11," Langan said, "the first time I did cocaine."

By the sixth grade he was selling joints. By high school he was a full-on addict. He started at Ballard High School but finished up -- barely -- at Shorewood. He enrolled in a local college and studied computer science before heading to Alaska where he worked in a kitchen.

He fell in love and had two daughters. But his partner, also a drug addict, eventually left him and the girls.

Somehow, Langan juggled single parenthood with drinking and drugging that continued after he moved back to Seattle. His poor choices and addictions landed him in jail after jail. Whenever he got in trouble, family members took care of the girls.

Eventually, he cratered.

The nadir happened two decades ago at a cockroach-infested motel on Aurora Avenue. He was using drugs and drinking as his daughters, both 5 at the time, frolicked on the floor. He gave them sips of beer.

"They were just babies," he said. "Everything hit me right at that point. I was doing to them what my parents had done to me. I had to break the cycle."

Langan went to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, where he met people who refused to let him give up on himself. He embraced sobriety before relapsing five years later. After that two-week stumble, he worked hard to get his act together, again.

Out of his haze, he gained clarity. As a kid he used to stand atop crates and cook burgers at his mother's restaurant. Cooking -- a passion he flirted with -- became his calling.

In the mid-90s, he enrolled and got a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. He ran Chanterelles, a restaurant near the Space Needle. Then, he was a chef at the Showbox. Later, he worked as an executive chef for the Hilton chain.

In 2003, he opened Cafe Amore in a small space that was once a glassblowing studio. During his first year of business he fed the poor, but only about 25 people could fit in the space.

Three years later, he moved his restaurant 50 yards down the street to its current home and dropped "Cafe." Last year, an army of Amore staff and volunteers quietly fed 500 needy people turkey and ham for Thanksgiving.

This year, business has been rough. The economy has kept diners at home and hit restaurant owners hard. But Langan vowed to continue his Thanksgiving tradition, even though it will mean forking out more than $4,000 from his pocket and dropping the ham.

"It's not always about money," he said. "I really can't afford to do this. Then again, I couldn't afford not to. The need out there is even greater. If you can't do something for somebody else, your life is meaningless."

Tuesday, his restaurant bustled as cooks prepped 18 turkeys. On Wednesday, he raced the clock to ready nearly two-dozen more birds. Residents in Belltown volunteered their condo ovens to help him pull off the big fowl feeding. A Seattle tour company donated vans to ferry people to Langan's tables. He also has assembled crews to take meals to people in city parks and on the streets.

The joy, he said, comes from seeing smiles of gratitude as people who may be cocooned in woe get to see that others care.

Yes, a helping hand -- with extra servings of inspiration -- may just change a life. "Just look," says Langan, who will celebrate 17 years sober March 12, "at what happened to me."

P-I columnist Robert L. Jamieson Jr. can be reached at 206-448-8125 or robertjamieson@seattlepi.com.
Soundoff (28 comments)
What do you think?
Go to Webtowns, your guide to Seattle neighborhoods, for more headlines and info from Belltown.

Lic. Nut. Miguel Leopoldo Alvarado