GT Pulse: Give Back to the Community with Soup and Bread

As I continue to live, work and personally grow in Traverse City, I see more and more acts of community and collaboration. Back in the summer, I was nervous about what the colder months would bring and feared that this sweet little town would turn into a ghost town after the tourist season. I’ve been happy to discover that there are still activities and fun to be had in the offseason and that those acts of community that I’ve been charmed by still happen often. Soup and Bread is a perfect example of community members helping each other and bringing people together while doing so.

Soup and Bread is a monthly winter event held at The Little Fleet the second Monday of each month. The event was dreamed up by Andrea Deibler, co-owner of Raduno. Andrea moved to Traverse City from Chicago six years ago and wanted a way to connect with community members and other local chefs while also providing a way to give back to local nonprofits.

“I participated in something very similar when I lived in Chicago, and when I moved up here I asked Gary Jonas if he would want to do something like that here.”

The event held in Chicago was weekly. Andrea knew that taking on a weekly event would be difficult, so she stuck to monthly. Each Soup and Bread features soups made by local chefs and bread made by a local bakery. Patrons are asked to donate what they can and are able to have as much soup and bread as they would like. A different nonprofit receives the donations collected from the event each month.

“It rotates and each one is different. Next year the selection process will have an application on the website. We focus on local nonprofits or charities. The biggest priority is that it’s local.”

When Andrea first started Soup and Bread it was a challenge to get chefs to come to make soup. Initially, the idea was that locals could participate by contributing soup of their own, but for health code reasons that could not be done. 

“Jen from The Cooks’ House has done it every year from the beginning so that helped a lot, she brings a lot of credibility to it. It was not very well attended. It was a struggle to get people here.”

That’s not the case now. Despite cold and wet weather yesterday,  tables were slowly filling up with enthusiastic, soup trying guests. As people stood in line they were able to pick soups from more established local restaurants, as well as newer places that are just cutting their teeth. Andrea is happy to provide a space for new chefs to get some exposure, and soup is a perfect way to do it.

“A lot of people who do it are new to the restaurant scene or have a new food truck. They may not have a restaurant kitchen, but they can always use Raduno’s.”

The chefs are able to bring something to the table, but I was able to eat at that table and I couldn’t help but notice that the sense of community spills over from the chefs to the guests. I sat sandwiched in between two strangers who both warmly greeted me and encouraged me to sit. What I anticipated to be a quiet dinner of soup and bread alone turned out to be a communal dining experience with neighbors turned friends. Who knew soup was such a great conversation starter?

The soup is different at each event and left completely up to the chef on what kind they would like to bring. Andrea said that she doesn’t have rules on what kind of soup can or can’t be brought, but it always works out where there are options for any diet. I tried soups that were both vegan and gluten-free (and yes, they were delicious). It was also a nice way for me to get out of my soup comfort zone. Growing up in Wayne County, I spent a lot of time eating at the coney islands. I’ll stubbornly cling to chicken lemon rice soup at any given opportunity, so it was nice to try new flavors like carrot ginger or potato rutabaga.

Each event draws a varying number of people. Some come to support the nonprofit of the month, and some come every time. Wherever you fall in those categories, do-gooder or soup-eater, you’ll check both boxes by donating and attending Soup and Bread.

Categories: GTPulse