By Jeff Gallatin
Adding a zero-waste concept to an already tasty array of vendors at the sixth annual soup cook-off at Dwyer Memorial Senior Center Friday created a recipe for success.
Bay Village community services Director Debbie Bock said the event at the senior center was the largest yet for the cook-off.
“(It) went really well,” she said. “People had a great time. The soup and other food was excellent, as always, and getting the Green Team to help us make it a zero-waste event worked out really well.”
Bock said 230 tickets were sold in advance, with additional walk-in traffic after the event got underway.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” she said. “It’s gotten extremely popular since we started it several years ago. We get people and vendors from around the area.”
She said when staff members were talking about this year’s event, the concept of reducing waste and trash came up.
“We thought about the fact that we’ll have a couple hundred people in here, and most of them will have 10 soup cups, plus other items,” Bock said. “That’s a lot of cups and potential trash to deal with. So, we’d seen the Green Team hold zero-waste events, so I gave them a call and they said they absolutely could do the event with us.”
Bock said it was a learning experience for the senior center staff and volunteers.
“Everybody pitched in, and the Green Team and the guests all pitched in and helped us get it done,” she said. “We’ll do this not only for next year’s event, but other things at the center throughout the year.”
Brenda O’Reilly from the Green Team said taking part in the event was a natural for the group.
“We’ve done other events with food where we get the chance to show people how to make it a zero-waste event,” she said. “It’s good to get to come to a good community event like this.”
O’Reilly and other Green Team volunteers stayed by recycling and other containers to handle the different items.
“It went well; most of the materials, like the cups, we were able to compost, so we put them into those containers,” she said.
O’Reilly said the amount of actual trash was small, holding up one coffee creamer container about the size of a thumbnail and a hand wipes packet to show the actual trash.
The 13 soup and food vendors also got into the spirit of the event.
Kathi Greco, director of sales at Brighton Gardens of Westlake, said the zero-waste idea was a nice fit for the event.
“It’s a good way to educate people about it at an event like this,” she said.
And as ever, the wide array of soups, breads and desserts was enjoyed by the guests.
Ed and Kathy Hanbury of Bay Village lauded the soups.
“It’s a good time of year for it,” said Ed Hanbury, who came to Bay Village years ago from Traverse City, Mich., to care for a relative with cancer. “It will make you feel better in the weather we’ve had.”
Hanbury, who still will go out and do some snowplowing, said he was looking forward to trying a lobster bisque.
Other attendees also apparently liked a lobster bisque and gumbo, with one done by the Towne Center Community Campus team of chef Jim Smith and Brian Gonzalas taking third place among the balloting of the people eating the different soups.
Second place this year went to the Northridge Apartments of North Ridgeville duo of chef Lanny Gullion and Verona Evans for a Southern grilled chicken chili soup.
“I got in about 6:45 this morning and started work on it,” Gullion said, noting it took about two hours to put it together.
First place this year went to Westlake Village dining service Director Jason Ramsey for his roasted butternut squash soup in a smooth cream sauce with a dash of nutmeg. It was the first year Westlake Village had won at the Bay event, but sales counselor Sarah Pechaitis wasn’t surprised.
“It’s very popular with the residents,” she said of the soup.
Ramsey said he arrived at his special soup mix by experimenting, and is glad it’s popular with different people.