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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.

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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

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