Good soups can warm a diner on a cold winter’s day, but, according to chefs nationwide, that is only the beginning.
“Soups are a great indicator of what is coming. It says so much about the quality of the food at any restaurant,” says Michael Anthony, executive chef at New York’s Gramercy Tavern.
Mark Alan Mollentine, who is a restaurateur, chef, and small-business owner in Kansas City, Kansas, concurs.
“I judge a restaurant by its soup. If you can’t make a good soup, then what does that say about the restaurant? In my mind a restaurant’s soup has to be spot-on.”
As many can attest, soup is the ultimate comfort food, but it can be equally comforting to a restaurant’s bottom line.
“Soups have a fantastic profit margin,” says Ris Lacoste, chef, owner of RIS in Washington, D.C. She ought to know because she serves plenty of them and even touts a “soup calendar.”
“When it is cold out, you know that you are going to sell a ton of soup,” she says.
Lacoste not only menus several varieties of soups, she also revels in making them: “I absolutely love making soups. As a cook it is my favorite thing in the world to make. You have the vision of the end product, and you have to layer the flavors.
“With a soup you really have to craft it. All of your spirit, love, and feeling are in it. Your whole being is in it,” Lacoste says.
At her establishment, soup goes for $5 a cup and $8 a bowl. On busy days, the restaurant may serve close to 100 bowls of such delicious offerings as Minnesota Wild Rice & Duck Soup, Moroccan Lamb & Lentil Soup, Pork & Green Chile Posole, Shrimp & Pork Wonton Soup, Potage Parmentier, Roasted Eggplant Soup, Roasted Red Pepper & Corn, and the ever-popular New England Clam Chowder.