Ligonier Valley chefs vie for best soup title

Timea Szep (left) and Judy Holden make soup at the Bethlen Communities Heritage Center. The two will be competing in the Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce Soup’s On event on March 23.
Timea Szep (left) and Judy Holden make soup at the Bethlen Communities Heritage Center. The two will be competing in the Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce Soup’s On event on March 23.
Photo by Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
| Thursday, March 14, 2013, 4:27 p.m.

The Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce will conduct the fourth “Soup's On” event 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 23.

This year's competition will feature soups from 17 area restaurants who will vie for the 2013 golden ladle award and title of “Best Soup in the Ligonier Valley,” according to the event's chairwoman Janet Riordan.

Four churches and five organizations will also participate in the event, to be recognized as the best organization soup.

“This is the second year the chamber reached out to the churches and other nonprofit organizations for soups,” said Riordan. “We decided this year to include a special recognition for the best organization soup, too.”

Riordan said many of the area's church groups and organizations in the community offer dinners as fundraising throughout the year.

“This way we can help promote and bring attention to their fundraising efforts too,” she said.

Chamber Director Holly Mowrey said the committee decided open the event up to more churches and organizations this year because it is an event that can benefit the whole community.

“Also, because these groups have some awesome cooks,” Mowry said.

Timea Szep of Bethlen Communities Heritage Center will be preparing a cheesy potato soup with bacon made in the tradition of her Hungarian heritage.

“We are participating to keep our Hungarian traditions alive and to let people know about our culture,” said Szep.

Szep's own recipe features bacon and potatoes, two food prominent ingredients in Hungarian cooking.

“Bacon reminds me of my home country,” she said. “And, most Hungarian meals always include potatoes.”

Szep said her special ingredient is a blend of vegetable seasonings called Vegimix that she adds to the soup.

“A home-cooked Hungarian meal provides a lot of healthy nutrition,” she said. “Even soup has all the ingredients you need for a good nutritious meal.”

Szep's soup will be going up against eight other organization competitors.

Judy Holden, director of Valley Center for Active Adults will be preparing an Italian wedding soup for the competition. Holden and Szep work in the same building at Bethlen Communities and say they are looking forward to some neighborly competition at the event.

“We are participating because we want to let people know we are here. It gives us some exposure,” Holden said about activity center for people age 50 and older.

“May the best soup win,” said Holden. “We are both nonprofits and we're just in it for the fun of it.”

Jessie Fitchwell will be preparing the soup for Heritage United Methodist Church this year. She plans to make a creamy broccoli cheese soup for the contest.

“A nice hearty soup better appeals to a general pallet,” she said. “People like to sink their teeth into something hearty.”

Fitchwell said she has always enjoyed cooking. The home economics major earned a degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and earned a master's degree in food service management. She previously taught home economics at Forbes Road East. She moved to the Ligonier area five years ago.

“It's a tried and true recipe, one that would appeal to people,” she said about her “Soup's On” entry.

Mowrey said the variety of soups in the competition should be a big attraction since everyone has different tastes.

“It's a fun event that appeals to individuals, couples, friends and families,” she said.

In 2010 and 2012 Colonial Inn's famous mushroom soup won the competition. In 2011, the ladle was awarded to Ligonier Beach for its tomato mushroom bisque entry.

Participating restaurants and organizations include: Abigail's Coffeehouse, Antiochian Village, Bethlen Communities, Calvary Methodist Church, Carol and Dave's Roadhouse, Connections Cafe, Cool Springs Express, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Darlington Inn, Diamond Cafe, Du Soleil, Flavors, Heritage United Methodist Church, Kitchen on Main, Ligonier Beach, Ligonier Camp & Conference Center, Ligonier Country Club, Ligonier Country Inn, Ligonier Giant Eagle, Ligonier Lanes/Wicked Googly, Ligonier Tavern, Ligonier Vol Hose Co. No. 1, Road Toad, Rosary Acres, St James Lutheran Church and Valley Center for Active Adults.

The soups will be served in 26 local businesses in Ligonier.

Participating merchants who will be serving the soups include: Amica, Betsy's of Ligonier, Bo-Peep, Celtic Culture, Country Cupboard, Dovecote, Equine Chic, G Squared, Jackie's House, Ligonier Creamery, Ligonier Sweet Shop, Ligonier Valley YMCA, Main Exhibit, Martin's Specialty Shop, Merjo on Main Street, Mommy Gear, My Bella Pets, Post & Rail Men's Shop, Royal Welsh Winery, Rustic Country Treasures, Scamps Toffee, Second Chapter Books, Swansdowne, The Finishing Touch, The Stationery Shop & Zazzie, The Toy Box.

Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 on the day of the event. Tickets are available at the chamber office, Second Chapter Books and Abigail's Coffeehouse.

Registration is 10:30 a.m. March 23 at Citizens Bank. Registered participates will receive a wristband, a map and a ballot to vote for a favorite soup.

For more information, call 724-238-4200 or go to

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or

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