25 chefs compete for soup honors on South Side

Candy Williams, Freelance Reporter
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The heat is on for 25 South Side chefs in the "Souper Bowl" of local cooking contests.

At stake are three People's Choice awards for serving up the best, most creative vegetarian soups in the 7th annual South Side Soup Contest this weekend.

Last year's Best Soup honors went to Yo Rita for its Roasted Chestnut Bisque. The Best Soup runner-up was Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe and its Magic Mushroom Soup.

Yo Rita owner Jacqueline White teases that she's "putting the pressure" on her executive chef, Adam Manculich, to keep the win streak going.

"This honor is something we're very proud of," she says, adding that the contest goes a long way in promoting local businesses and the South Side neighborhood.

"South Side has a reputation as a place to go out to drink, not out to eat," she says. "We want people to think of food when they think of South Side."

Manculich will prepare his Parsnip Soup for the competition, which will benefit the Brashear Association's food-pantry operations in the South Side and Arlington. White says their soup choice reflects the restaurant's policy of featuring seasonal produce in its gourmet tacos, the eatery's specialty; and parsnips are an under-used root vegetable.

Besides parsnips, Manculich's recipe includes potatoes and a little honey and is topped with cayenne and candied pumpkin seeds for texture.

"We've served it at the restaurant and it went over well," he says. Each chef is asked to make 12 gallons of soup for the contest, but the Yo Rita chef will make 16 gallons "just to be safe."

Scott Kramer and Steve Zumoff, who own four businesses in the South Side, have participated in the soup contest since its beginning. They will have two entries in the competition, at their Double Wide Grill (Jamaican Pepper Pot) and at Beehive (Maple Pumpkin Goat Cheese Bisque).

Double Wide Grill chef Barbara Baur says she will be improvising for some of the hard-to-find ingredients in Jamaican Pepper Pot, typically made with tripe, callaloo greens and hot habanero peppers. She'll be substituting Chorizo sausage, Swiss chard and Scotch bonnet peppers, "one of the most fiery peppers," in the spicy traditional Caribbean soup.

"I've made it a couple times and people like it. I thought it would be something different," Baur says.

Rick Belloli, executive director of South Side Local Development Co., sponsor of the South Side Soup Contest, says this year's entrants will vie for three awards: People's Choice for Best Soup, Most Creative and Best Vegetarian soups. The two new categories reflect increasing interest in vegetarian soups and acknowledge the creative efforts of participants who "have really gone all out for this in the past," he says.

Vegetarian soups will be noted on the map given to participants along with a punch card and ballot at one of three South Side check-in locations: WYEP, 67 Bedford Square; Brashear Association, 2005 Sarah St., and SouthSide Works Cinema, 425 Cinema Drive. After checking in, "soup hoppers" are free to sample soups on their own at participating retailers who are partnering with local restaurants, and then vote for their favorites.