January is National Soup Month and the cooler temperatures make it the perfect time to celebrate the quintessential comfort food. The Daniel Island News asked some local chefs about their favorite soups and found, as many of us already know, that soup can warm both the body and the soul.
“I had no idea it was National Soup Month, but I’ve been cranking out soups nonstop for the past seven, eight months,” said Curtis Parsley, executive chef at Laura Alberts Tasteful Options, where soup is always popular. “I can’t keep a soup for more than a day and we’re out; it doesn’t matter how much I make.”
Parsley said his favorite soup to prepare and one of his bestsellers is olive oil and heirloom tomato.
“The velvety-ness of the olive oil, tomatoes and the basil I throw in afterwards, it’s just fantastic,” he said. “And when I do any type of clam chowder, she-crab soup, crab bisque, even gumbos, they sell insanely well. The second I mention crab bisque, people start mouth-watering.”
Parsley’s personal favorite soup is loaded potato.
“My parents used to bring me to Panera Bread and I was just amazed that you could put soup in a bread bowl and I thought it was cool,” he said. “So potato soup is near and dear to me.”
Italian wedding and French onion are popular soups at Dog & Duck’s Clements Ferry location. But kitchen manager Shyheen Freeman says broccoli and cheese is his favorite because it reminds him of his grandmother who lived in Mount Pleasant.
“I’m from the Bronx and I always came down to visit her during the summers and that was one of the things she knew I was going to ask for, so she had it ready for me,” said Freeman. His grandmother has since passed, but the smell and taste of broccoli and
cheese soup brings back fond memories.
Andy Clay, co-owner and head chef at Mpishi Restaurant, says his favorite soup, a Greek version of America’s chicken noodle soup, can fix anything.
“My favorite soup and my kids favorite, which has been passed down from my grandmother, is called avgolemono,” he said. “And I swear it can cure a broken arm.”
Clay says his children ask for the soup — made with chicken, egg and lemon — whenever they feel sick or have an injury. “My mom makes it for my kids now so they call it ‘yiayia soup,’ which means grandmother in Greek.”
Clay has cooked for hotels and restaurants around the world and met his wife while working at a safari lodge in Tanzania. Mpishi means “chef” in Swahili.
“In all my travels there will be times when I’m by myself somewhere – in India or Africa – and I’ll make a pot of this soup and all the sudden the loneliness goes away,” he said.
Ristorante LIDI head chef Doug Deguzman’s favorite soup to serve is caramelized onion, which he says is like French onion without the cheesy crust.
“It’s a nice hearty flavorful soup and pretty easy to make. The hardest part is chopping the onions,” he said. “It’s cooked in beef broth with thyme and rosemary. It’s very popular at the restaurant.”
Deguzman has worked at LIDI for nearly five years and describes it as a family-run place that makes people feel at home. “It’s a mom and pop shop. We are their family and they treat us as such.”
And the soup that has family memories for him is called sinigang, a Filipino soup his father used to make when Deguzman was a child. “My dad was in the Navy and there were times he was gone three to six months at a time so (sinigang soup) evokes for me memories of my dad being home.”
Helen Longo, manager and head chef at Vespa Pizzeria, likes to get creative with her soups. While the restaurant’s tomato basil soup is a regular menu item, Longo also whips up a soup of the day and likes to experiment with ingredients.
“Every week I make a new soup and try to change it up a little bit. I like to include vegetables and beans and try any soups I think are healthy and different Italian soups,” said Longo, who has worked at Vespa for 11 years and has full creative freedom in the kitchen.
“I have a couple customers come in and always ask for my soup. They say it’s very good and ask for the recipe.”
But like many chefs, Longo cooks from memory and adds her own personal touches that can’t be replicated.