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Best soup in the Lehigh Valley? Winners crowned at Souper Bowl 2024

Ryan Gaylor
Workers from 29 Cooks Catering hand out samples of soup at ArtsQuest's annual Souper Bowl competition in Bethlehem on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Soup fans descended Sunday on SteelStacks for the Souper Bowl — ArtsQuest’s annual competition of Lehigh Valley caterers and chefs fighting it out to be named the year’s best soupmaker.

Lutzi’s Restaurant, of Easton, took home the People’s Choice award — “the Vince Lombardi Trophy of soup,” as ArtsQuest programming director Ryan Hill put it — for its Cream of Cauliflower.

Lutzi’s took home a giant glass soup bowl on a triangular plinth made by Dennis Gardner in the ArtsQuest glass shop. The restaurant at 1250 Butler St. has been operated by the Calvert family for 25 years.

Souper Bowl winners are crowned by attendees, who each get three votes.

A panel of judges also selected their own winner: tomato soup with a shard of grilled cheese from 29 Cooks Catering in Emmaus.

The judges declared winners in each of the event’s four categories, declaring:

  • Birria soup from the ArtsQuest Center's own Palette and Pour the best meat-based soup;
  • Seafood chowder from Bethlehem Area Vo-Tech the best seafood soup;
  • French onion from Roasted Cafe in Bethlehem the best vegan soup; and,
  • Lutzi’s cauliflower soup the best cream-based.

Prepared by executive chef Travis Moyer, Lutzi's Cream of Cauliflower recipe calls for (besides cauliflower and other items) leeks, parsnips, celery, heavy cream and sprigs of fresh thyme.

The judges also named Roasted Cafe’s curried carrot and apple soup the contest’s “most unique.”

Souper Bowl entries
Ryan Gaylor
Attendees at ArtsQuest's Souper Bowl Sunday could sample 18 soups in competition from 12 Lehigh Valley chefs.

The sold-out event included 12 Lehigh Valley restaurants and caterers, representing many unique culinary backgrounds, armed with 18 soups in all.

Entries ranged from the classic — tomato soup and grilled cheese from 29 Cooks, for instance — to the more inventive, like a cream soda based “dessert soup” from The Club at Twin Lakes in North Whitehall Township.

“I like the idea because seeing the different flavors, It kind of gives me a new idea of what restaurants to patronize."
Eileen Connelly, Bethlehem resident

For the first time, this year’s contest also included a demonstration from chef Lee Chizmar, of Lehigh Valley restaurants Bolete and Mr. Lee’s Noodles. Chizmar walked the audience through making his cauliflower soup, as featured on an episode of Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

Connoisseurs, enthusiasts and aficionados traveled to Bethlehem from across the region, eager to sample an otherwise improbable wealth of soup.

Self-described soup fan Chelsea Smarr, of Frackville in Schuylkill County, said the variety is what led her and her mother to make the hour-and-a-half drive to Bethlehem.

“There's just so many special things that we were totally not expecting, like the dessert soup,” she said.

“I like the idea because seeing the different flavors, It kind of gives me a new idea of what restaurants to patronize,” said Bethlehem resident Eileen Connelly.