BELLAIRE — John Hanson and his staff at Toonies Fish & Steakhouse have spent the last week playing around with soup recipes.
Chad Rowell, owner of Lunch Box, is testing bases and thinking about what ingredients he’ll need to order. It’s the same for kitchen staff at Short’s Brewing Company’s Bellaire pub, said Rob Lewis, assistant general manager.
But none have settled on a final choice.
“When you’re coming up with something new, you never really know what you’re going to come up with or how it’s going to turn out,” Hanson said. “I put it together and out comes something good and warm and fuzzy.”
Toonies, Lunch Box and Short’s are entrants in this year’s soup cook-off in Bellaire — others are the Commission on Aging Corner Bistro, Bellaire Bar, Terrain Restaurant and Lakeview Restaurant from Shanty Creek Resorts.
The cook-off is part of the annual Light Up the Night and Soup Cook-Off celebration. Now in its 10th year, the community celebration is set for Dec. 7 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and features a variety of activities on or near Bridge Street.
Soup tasting requires a ticket — there were 700 available this year and they sold out in a week, according to a press release from the Bellaire Chamber of Commerce. Tasters then get to cast votes for their favorite soups.
Toonies won the soup cook-off in 2010-12, 2015, 2018 and tied with The Pelican’s Nest in 2013 — The Pelican’s Nest won in the other three years.
“We kind of just have jokes with each other about handing the trophy back and forth,” Hanson said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
All of it’s in good fun, so losing doesn’t bother them, Lewis said. The whole day is a community fundraiser, and that’s the main point, he said.
“It’s always fun to try to make a soup you hope can win,” Lewis said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s up to the people out there tasting soup. It’s not a cutthroat type of food event.”
Still, entries are kept “hush-hush” until the day-of, Lewis said. No one wants to make the same thing, he said.
Making the soup can start the day before, depending on how much prep work the ingredients require, Hanson said. It can take anywhere from two- to five hours to prepare the amount of food necessary to feed 700 tasters, he said.
Each taster gets about 2 ounces of soup, which means the restaurants need to make at least 11 gallons of soup, Rowell said.
Hanson and Lewis said they’ll probably make more than that — closer to 13- to 15 gallons — to ensure they have enough.
If there’s soup leftover, it’ll be served at the pub the next day, Lewis said.
“We don’t run out of soup,” he said. “That definitely doesn’t happen.”