Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew

Soup, Stew, Chili, Brew brings
down-home cooking to Main Street

Ponderosa crew among those
seeking bragging rights

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

(October 2010) – It didn’t take long for the cooks of Ponderosa Steakhouse to get into the competitive spirit of Soup Stew Chili & Brew.
At a managers’ meeting in 2009, staff members were looking for a way to increase the restaurant’s presence in the community. Someone suggested cooking for the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual October street festival. They had not participated in the first six festivals.

Soup, Stew Chili & Brew
Music Lineup
Oct. 9 in Madison, Ind.

11 a.m. - noon: John Walburn & Friends (including Andra Bladen, John Gray, Shelby Gray and Ryder McQueen)
Noon - 1 p.m.: B.G. Johnson’s Big Bad Brass Blowout
1-2 p.m.: Matt & Katie (contemporary folk)
2-3 p.m.: Rockbox (rock)
3-4 p.m.: Bobbi Phoenix (rock & blues)
Stage is located at the intersection of Main and Mulberry streets.

The Ponderosa crew had little experience serving food outside, and their booth was thrown together at the last minute. “We were really disorganized,” said assistant manager Jami Brewer, who was in charge.
But magic happened as they served their soup from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The crowd loved it. The restaurant employees had a blast interacting with familiar restaurant customers as well as friends they met for the first time. Attendance was high, feedback was good, and they served soup all afternoon.
And at the end of the day, Ponderosa’s bean soup won first place in the soup category. Then their clam chowder – a real crowd-pleaser – took third place in the stew competition. That sealed it. They were ready to start thinking about 2010.
Now that it’s almost time for the eighth annual Soup Stew Chili & Brew on Saturday, Oct. 9, the whole staff is pumped.
They’re bringing back the clam chowder because it went over so well last year. For the soup category, they’ve developed a new vegetable beef soup recipe using fresh Ponderosa ingredients. “It’s all homemade – nothing from a can,” promised Brewer.
General Manager Tiffany Easley has also developed a new chili recipe just for the festival. “We’re really excited about it,” said Brewer.
This year they’ve pulled in more volunteers and will decorate their booth in a cowboy theme, fitting for their western-themed restaurant. “It’s really a group effort for everybody. The whole team’s excited about it,” said Brewer. “We enjoy being able to interact with people in a different way.”Their booth will again be located near the Floating Cow at 113 E. Main St. The festival itself stretches along two blocks of Main Street, from Jefferson to West streets.
Folks line up to sample the culinary creations of cooks competing for bragging rights as “the best in Jefferson County” in the categories of soup, stew, chili and “witches brew” – any non-alcoholic beverage.
Admission is free, but members of the public can purchase $1 tickets to exchange for food, beverages or games.
Winners are determined by a panel of judges. Trophies and plaques from previous years are proudly displayed by winners such as Ponderosa Steakhouse. Other first place finishers from last year were Ponderosa Steakhouse for soup, King’s Daughters’ Health & Hospice for stew, Fairplay Fire Company #1 for chili, Hanover United Methodist Church for brew and Prince of Peace Catholic Church Choir for best-decorated booth. Fairplay Fire Company #1 also won the traveling trophy for best firehouse chili.
Usually a couple of dozen community organizations, restaurants and businesses enter the competition. Among the early entrants in this year’s Soup Stew Chili & Brew are: American Red Cross, Disciples of Christ Fellowship, Fairplay Fire Co. No. 1, Hickory Creek Soup Stewers, Madison Clearinghouse-River Valley Resources, Madison Elks Lodge, Madison Young Professionals, Madison Ulster Project, New Life Fellowship, Ponderosa Steakhouse, VFW Women’s Auxiliary, Western Fire Company #3.
At the center of the outdoor festival is a music stage with free, live music all day. This year’s lineup includes singer-songwriters, folk, rock, blues and brass. Folks can take their own lawn chairs if they want to sit at the intersection of Main and Mulberry to enjoy the tunes.
Tony Ratcliff is chairing the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce committee that organizes the festival. He is assisted by interim Chamber staff member Margo Watkins.
Watkins has announced several sponsors for the event. They include Chandler Chevrolet, Cinergy Metronet, Madison Precision Products, River Valley Financial Bank, Thornton Terrace Health Campus, The Waters of Clifty Falls, King’s Daughters’ Hospital and Time-Warner Communications.

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