Oyster House Teams With Attic Youth Center to Offer Cooking Lessons to LGBT Youth

Attic Youth enjoying a family-style meal at Oyster House.

Attic Youth enjoying a family-style meal at Oyster House.

OK, so Oyster House didn’t make the cut in this year’s Philadelphia Business Journal Top LGBT Companies list. But here’s the thing: Maybe it should have?

Danielle Amabile, pastry chef at Oyster House, had been itching to marry her education background (she meant to be an English teacher) with her passion for cooking. (But really, this gal can gab about pie-primping and pureeing for hours.) That itch grew in intensity when owner Sam Mink’s 10-year-old cousin began popping by the restaurant, routinely flocking to Amabile so she could show him the ropes in the kitchen (peeling apples, fetching ingredients, etc.).

Attic Youth Center Programming Coordinator Ingrid Abrams (left) and Danielle

Attic Youth Center Programming Coordinator Ingrid Abrams (left) and Danielle Amabile.

So, when Mink (who is openly gay) approached her over the summer with the idea of partnering with The Attic Youth Center, the suggestion practically fell from her lips: Let’s do classes.

“But we didn’t want it just to be, ‘How to make sweet treats, or junk food,'” says Mink. “We wanted to introduce them to whole foods and teach how to cook them, as well as teach some life skills along the way.”

That notion, of course, fits snugly with The Attic’s ambitions, which aim to arm LGBT youth age 17 to 22 with the life skills to create future leaders and combat homophobia. The product of the partnership, then, is a hybrid of Cooking 101 and Hospitality 101.

Thus far, Oyster House has hosted three classes—once per month, in three-hour sessions. The youth—a group of about 10—tend to work under a theme (Thanksgiving, seafood, Italiano, etc.), going from station to station alongside veteran Oyster House cooks and servers to prepare dishes like devein shrimp, fish tacos and, just last week, the usual Thanksgiving turkey-and-casserole fixings. The group then comes together just before Oyster House’s dinner rush for a “family style” sit-down meal. For some of the students, Mink emphasizes, this is their only hot meal of the day.

“We’re just having a lot of fun with it,” says Amabile. “And that’s the basis. I want them to have fun with all of this. I want them to go back to the Attic and tell their friends. I want there to be a wait list for this class.”

Mink says he plans to continue the cooking series into the new year, with at least three more on the books. Youth who are interested in participating can sign up through The Attic Youth Center.