Soupfest: Good food for a good cause

The annual culinary event helps support Living Rock Ministries: an organization in downtown Hamilton that helps at-risk youth.

There's one surefire way to warm up Tuesday, on what is forecast to be a record-setting cold day in Hamilton: Soupfest. Proceeds from the 12th annual culinary event support Living Rock, an organization in downtown Hamilton that helps at-risk youth.

Like every year, there will be plenty of gourmet soups to warm your belly as dozens of local chefs compete for the titles of Best Soup, Most Creative Soup, Best Display and Best Grow Local — that's a soup with its top thee ingredients sourced from within 100 km — based on votes from the public. This year, they'll also be vying for a new honour: the Chef's Choice award.

"We've got three local celebrity chefs that are going to judge the category," said Living Rock program director, Karen Craig.

Chef Mark Farrugia of La Piazza Allegra, Twisted Lemon's Dan Megna and Pam Foster from Abbey Cooks Entertain will judge the category.

The taste test will be completely blind, with the chef-judges tasting from numbered samples and pooling their picks to award a first, second and third place prize in the category. It's an idea that competitors suggested, Craig said.

"But it doesn't minimize the public vote. It's very, very important as well. The restaurants love getting the public vote."

There will also be live music and dance performances to entertain patrons while they sip and slurp, as well as a few local celebrities and politicians ladling up the goods. 

The fun kicks off at 11:30 a.m. at the Hamilton Convention Centre Tuesday and runs until 9 p.m. A ticket gets you four 4-oz bowls of soup along with bread and butter. Additional bowls can be purchased for $3 a piece. 

Online advance tickets have sold out, but you can still snag some advance tickets for $12 for adults and $10 for children and seniors at First Ontario Credit Union branches in Hamilton and Stoney Creek and at Living Rock at 30 Wilson Street. You can also get tickets at the door Tuesday for $14 for adults and $12 for children and seniors.

Also for sale Tuesday is the Soupfest Collection recipe book, $35, filled with delicious recipes and coupons for over $300 in savings at local restaurants.

Last year, the event drew 6,000 Hamiltonians to help raise $90,000 for Living Rock, which serves more than 900 meals a week to teens and young adults struggling with mental health issues, poverty and addiction.