Soupfest cel­e­brates 15 de­li­cious years

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - EMMA REILLY ereilly@thes­pec.com 905-526-2452 | @Em­maatTheSpec

Hamil­ton’s favourite soup fes­ti­val is turn­ing 15 – and or­ga­niz­ers are cook­ing up a spe­cial cel­e­bra­tion to mark the anniversary.

Soupfest, the an­nual fundraiser for Liv­ing Rock Ministries, will see 22 restau­rants face off on Tues­day, Feb. 28 for the ti­tles of best soup, most cre­ative soup and best dis­play.

The fes­ti­val of­fers Hamil­to­ni­ans a chance to come to­gether dur­ing a tra­di­tion­ally chilly time of year – de­spite this month’s of­ten balmy weather, said Julie Con­way, op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor at Liv­ing Rock.

“Ev­ery year, we just re­ally hope to draw the com­mu­nity to­gether to ex­pe­ri­ence some fun and fel­low­ship in the mid­dle of win­ter,” Con­way says. “It re­ally does of­fer some­thing for peo­ple to look for­ward to.”

This year’s com­pe­ti­tion in­cludes a spe­cial twist – a Top Chef-style event that will see three Hamil­to­ni­ans cre­ate an on-the fly con­coc­tion as they com­pete for the ti­tle of “Souper Chef.” The par­tic­i­pants – Pete Mitropou­los from the Thirsty Cactus, Dar­ryl Beach from the Har­bour Diner and James Kayser from Butcher & Ve­gan – will each cre­ate a soup based on a ve­gan stock pro­vided by chef Jay Gib­bons from the Royal Hamil­ton Yacht Club.

Each will use 15 in­gre­di­ents (a nod to the fes­ti­val’s 15th anniversary) to cre­ate a soup in 45 min­utes.

“It’s a fun com­pe­ti­tion that will re­ally high­light the ex­per­tise of our chefs,” Con­way says.

An­other new ad­di­tion is a shut­tle bus that or­ga­niz­ers hope will help al­le­vi­ate park­ing con­cerns raised in past years. Buses will run be­tween Bayfront Park (which has room for 225 cars) and the Con­ven­tion Cen­tre be­tween 11:15 a.m. and 8:15 p.m. There’s no set sched­ule, but the buses will wait for five min­utes at each lo­ca­tion be­fore driv­ing back.

Last year, the fes­ti­val raised $80,000, Con­way says, and af­ter re­coup­ing $30,000 in ex­penses, Liv­ing Rock took home $50,000 to help run its pro­grams for at-risk youth. Each week, the agency pre­pares 900 meals, pro­vides emer­gency food to 200 youths ev­ery week, and of­fers pre­na­tal and par­ent­ing, cri­sis and hous­ing sup­port. Plus, more than 200 young peo­ple par­tic­i­pate in Liv­ing Rock’s life skills and em­ploy­ment train­ing work­shops each year.

“We hope that peo­ple also feel a sense of pride by com­ing to the event and sup­port­ing youth,” says Con­way.

Soupfest runs from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hamil­ton Con­ven­tion Cen­tre by Car­men’s. Tick­ets are $12 in ad­vance (avail­able at Liv­ing Rock Youth Re­source Cen­tre, 30 Wil­son

St.) or at the door for $15. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit liv­in­grock.ca/ events/soupfest.

SCOTT GARD­NER, SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Soupfest, shown here last year, is turn­ing 15 and has added a cou­ple of new fea­tures to cel­e­brate.

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