Elmwood Memorial Hospital's cold avocado soup.From the early 1900s, when Louis Diat, head chef at New York’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, invented vichyssoise by combining potatoes, leeks and onions with cream, diners have enjoyed a growing repertoire of soups that bring refreshment in hot weather.
Traditional chilled favorites include borscht, the cold beet soup that originated in Russia and Poland, and gazpacho, a tomato-based soup rich in flavors. But many operators are creating new variations.
At Pfizer in Madison, N.J., for example, Chef Eric Schneider likes to offer customers a chilled cucumber soup in warmer weather. Last year, when he was working on summer menus, Schneider introduced a Grand Marnier ginger cantaloupe soup, which was garnished with a cilantro lime cream on top, which he says was very popular.
“I also do a chilled pickled watermelon soup with sugar and vinegar, simmered with the pickled rind and puréed,” Schneider says. “I julienne the watermelon with a mandoline and garnish the soup with it.”
Trying new things: Randy Sparrow, director of food and nutrition services at Indiana University Health in Bloomington, Ind., says he thinks his customers need to become better acquainted with cold soups, but once they have the chance to try them they quickly become fans. The health center serves 1 million meals annually between the café, patients and other facilities.
“When we do special theme days we might sell 25 or 50 servings of a cold soup,” Sparrow says. “We do cold fruit soups in the warmer months and we’ve run gazpacho as a special.”
Sparrow also offered a series of cooking classes, including one on cold soups, which helped make people more familiar with the concept and tried to change their perceptions. “Everyone is pretty open to new options, but sometimes they’ll admit that ‘it’s not as bad as I expected!’”
Sparrow’s customers are not as fond of some of the options such as a chilled squash soup and a pumpkin soup. “They like the fruit soups,” Sparrow says.
The residents of Edgewood, a continuing care retirement community in North Andover, Mass., where meal counts number around 400 a day, tend to favor gazpacho, according to Lou DiAngelo, director of nutrition. “Vichyssoise is also very popular, and we will do cold strawberry or cold melon too.”
Shonna Sherman, executive chef manager at Boylston Place, a high-end senior living facility in Chestnut Hill, Mass., makes gazpacho for the residents, who also like potato leek soup. “As the weather gets warmer, I introduce different soups, made from scratch
with fresh local ingredients. Sometimes, I’ll try a chilled fruit soup like blueberry with a dollop of sour cream.”
Mike Brimer, executive chef at Elmwood Memorial Hospital, Elmwood, Ill., says this summer he plans to offer a cold avocado soup, which customers enjoyed last summer. Brimer says the soup will reappear on the menu because it was perceived as a healthy option with lower fat than some soups.
“We do a tomato with basil that’s very popular and a crab soup with roasted red peppers,” Brimer says.
Chilled soups aren’t served only during summer months, Brimer adds. During the fall his farmers’ markets offer cold soups. “We did a cold pumpkin soup for one with a little coconut, cumin and coriander,” Brimer says.
Building an audience: Joanne McMillian, R.D., director of food and nutrition services at Saint Clare’s Health System in Danville, N.J., says after the success of a cold soup at a catering event she is planning to do more. “Scott Chapman, our executive chef, just did a cold strawberry champagne soup for a catering event,” McMillian says.
“We just changed our retail menus and will be doing a lot more cold soups,” Chapman adds. “We have vichyssoise, watermelon, gazpacho and regular melon soups. Our customers love the strawberry champagne.”
At Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Director of Culinary Operations Martin Breslin also does a strawberry champagne soup along with minted melon, gazpacho, blueberry and orange, and chilled tomato.
“They love cold soups in hot weather,” Breslin says. “Chilled soups are so simple to make. One that I love is fresh tomato and extra virgin olive oil. It’s tomato, bread and olive oil. We also do a gazpacho with golden tomatoes and serve it with Maine lump crab, which makes for a great presentation.”
In suburban Cleveland, Jeff Potocnik, foodservice director at Lincoln Electric, a manufacturer of welding supplies that operates its own foodservice facilities, likes to do cucumber soup or cold melon soup with cantaloupe and fresh strawberries puréed with honey and agave. “We serve it in six-ounce cups with cold sandwiches,” Potocnik says.
At The New York Times cafeteria, in New York, Michael Smith, executive chef for Restaurant Associates, likes to offer a chilled roasted sweet potato soup with curried shrimp and sliced scallions and apple. “We do it with a stock that has a little spice from jalapeño peppers,” Smith says. “We also do heirloom tomato soup and a summer melon soup with thick Greek-style yogurt and mint, and a cucumber and avocado soup too.”
Cold soup challenges: At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., Camp Howard, director of dining, says chilled soups can be “awkward in a quick-service type environment where customers serve themselves.” Howard notes that customers tend to think the soup has turned cold rather than the soup was designed to be served cold. He adds that the department tends to do more with cold soups in catering, where it offers shooters of cold melon, strawberry or oyster gazpacho soups. “The guests pick up a small shot of big flavor,” Howard says.
Cyndi Gloodt, general manager for Sodexo at Chicago’s Northern Trust Bank, agrees that cold soups don’t do well in self-serve situations. “They do better in table service settings where they can be nicely garnished and served with better presentation,” Gloodt says.