Local food businesses help raise money for tennis scholarships

Five emerging culinary masterminds collaborated this weekend to showcase their unique styles while raising money for charity.

When co-owner of Pitruco Pizza, Jonah Fliegelman, was tossing around ideas for his gourmet food truck’s grand opening, Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education (AAYTE) immediately came to mind.

“I thought it would be awesome if we could invite all of our family, friends and also the rest of the city for a good cause,” Fliegelman said. “I believe in Philadelphia. I believe in the inner city and I believe in tennis.”

The idea was to bring in some local food businesses for a tennis and food-filled social event.

Fliegelman has long rallied behind the tennis group, which not only teaches kids the game but also puts emphasis on the classroom and community.

When Fliegelman was growing up in Germantown, he played in a neighborhood National Junior Tennis League for AAYTE. Eventually, he nabbed a tennis scholarship at American University in Washington, D.C.

After returning to Philadelphia, Fliegelman dabbled in teaching, then real estate and eventually approached instructing tennis in neighborhood-based programs at AAYTE.

But six month ago, he left the organization to pursue a pizza food truck business with friend Nathan Winkler.

When Fliegelman and Winkler had their pizza truck ready to go, they put the idea for the grand opening in AAYTE president Kenny Holdsman’s court.

“Jonah’s soul is in our organization and in this center,” Holdsman said. “We thought it was a nice idea.”

When he was given the green light, Fliegelman rounded up four other up-and-coming culinary businesses to create the “Taste of Tennis” fundraiser for AAYTE.

“I’m developing a community of small entrepreneurial culinary-minded Philadelphians,” he said. “And I asked them if they wanted to give back to Arthur Ashe [Youth Tennis and Education] and help us kick-off our truck.”

These groups — A Cupcake Wonderland, Latin Farmer Gourmet Food Truck, Strada Pasta and Mellody Brewing Co. — are all local small businesses that have just started out or are looking to grow.

All of the new businesses have something in common — a passion for food and a community-oriented mindset.

“Anything that gives to Philadelphia youth, I want to be a part of,” said Lily Fischer, owner of A Cupcake Wonderland. “If I can bake some cupcakes for something like this, the pleasure is all mine.”

Joanne Klein’s 10-year-old son takes lessons at AAYTE and said the organization has the same mindset.

“Here, it’s a big family,” she said. “All the money that’s ever raised [for scholarships], it’s for people who deserve and need it.”

Gregg Alleyne, whose 9-year-old daughter Olivia plays tennis at the organization, said he came for two reasons: sampling from new businesses on the Philadelphia food scene and standing by AAYTE.

“We’re big supporters of this endeavor,” said Alleyne of he and his wife. “Anything to help the kids and the community.”

Alleyne, who considers himself a “certified home chef” said the food was a grand slam with him.

Holdsman said between 140 and 150 people attended and the AAYTE plans to use the money for 15 or so tennis scholarships.

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