Souped Up

This past Wednesday was sunny and warm – not a day you’d typically consider eating soup. But 400 people lined up at the doors of the Gardiner Museum to take part in Empty Bowls, an annual event featuring local chefs, local pottery artists and of course, great soup.

For $45, attendees not only got to sample soups from 20 different restaurants at the Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner restaurant, they also got a beautiful, hand-made bowl to take home.

This fantastic event is based entirely on donations – from the chefs donating their time and food, to local potters donating bowls, many made especially for this event. With bread donated from Ace Bakery and crackers from Evelyn’s Crackers, plus water from Gaia and cups from Green Shift, all proceeds from the event go towards Anishnawbe Health Toronto, a charitable organization that provides food to homeless people. Volunteers and Gardiner Museum staff also donated their time, and props, kudos and huge piles of thanks and appreciation must go to organizer Siobhan Boyd who pulls this thing together every year with aplomb.

The bowls, laid out on display and awaiting the soup-hungry hordes.

Upstairs, the chefs are ready to go.

The Wine Bar offered up a soup of puy lentils with chorizo and cumin crema. (And didn’t I get the best bowl??)

Water to wash it all down.

Spring vegetable minestrone with Yukon gold potato gnocchi from Paramour.

From Stratford Chef School/ The Old Prune – lake Huron whitefish chowder.

The garnishes for the Ciceri e Tria soup from Terroni.

Black bean soup from Scaramouche.

The gals from Oyster Boy smile for the camera.

“Salad” bowl.

The croutons to top the asparagus soup from A La Carte.

Gilead Cafe‘s rhubarb jelly soup was the only fruit soup this year, and it was very much appreciated as a way to cleanse the palate halfway through the event.

Cowbell had the best display. Yes, that’s real grass!

This venison consomme from the Healthy Butcher makes the garnish of fiddleheads, braised rabbit and mushrooms look like jewels.

Hart House Gallery Grill was serving up chilled poblano puree with fromage frais.

Fruit bowl. The faces on the other side are cranky.

Many of the bowls include cards from the artists, but not all. Some people never know who made their bowl.

The set up for Gilead Cafe’s rhubarb soup.


Executive sous chef Jeff Dueck of FRANK – thinking about chopping something.

I can’t explain how hard it can be to choose a bowl.

The crowd – happy and full of soup.

The elk soup from Cowbell. This might have been my favourite.

It looks like a hot mess, but this “spring kimchi soup with sous vide Berkshire shoulder, 61 degree egg, ramp, Ontario asparagus and grilled shitake mushrooms” was pretty awesome. From C5, by the way.

Bread and crackers – to sop up the dregs at the bottom of the bowl.

Bird bowl.

It’s not a party unless the flying pig from Amuse Bouche makes an appearance.

The tasty stuff in the soup from the Wine Bar.

And last but not least, those folks at Ace Bakery sure do make nice-looking bread.