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    Chef Goran Streng of Tango Contemporary Cafe is among chefs contributing soup for sale in the Empty Bowl project to benefit River of Life and Meals on Wheels. Streng’s chosen soup is a bouillabaisse.


They say a bowl of soup feeds both body and soul. But on Friday, that same bowl of soup will do even more.

Empty Bowl 2011, a benefit for Hawaii Meals on Wheels and River of Life Mission, comprises more than 4,000 handmade ceramic bowls, 200 gallons of soup and 140 volunteers — all convening in Chinatown along Pauahi Street outside The ARTS at Marks Garage during the district’s Slow Art Friday event. Patrons may choose from 20 soups made by top Honolulu restaurants in a bowl they’ve selected themselves.

"I’ll be down there serving," says chef Kevin Hanney of 12th Avenue Grill, which is contributing a smoked bacon, cheddar and broccoli soup. Hanney worked with the Hawaii Potters Guild, which spearheads the benefit, on another fundraiser. "I like the way they do things. They’re a real grassroots organization.

"Hanney says the restaurant will use its own bacon for the soup, combined with a mix of aromatic veggies with broccoli, "a touch of cream" and shredded cheddar added at the end.

Tango’s Goran Streng will send over bouillabaisse, a mainstay of his restaurant’s menu.

"It’s more hearty than a soup; it’s more of a meal, really," he says. "Plus, bouillabaisse offers a very attractive presentation, with the orange broth and seafood.

"Another selection will be broccoli chowder, the personal recipe of chef Russell Siu of 3660 on the Rise.

"This is something different than corn or clam chowder; it’s more like a broccoli au gratin," he says. "It’s not heart-healthy — I use bacon and good ham, too — but it’s a hearty soup.

"Beryl Ono, one of the event planners, helped recruit chefs to each donate 10 gallons of soup. She says the generosity she encountered was inspiring.

"Every one said yes right off the bat. They didn’t even pause," she recalls. "I don’t think you have to beg anyone to help do some good.

"Donations extend far beyond soup. There’s bread, plus spoons and napkins, tables, warming dishes, gas burners and even tents to shelter the whole operation.

All that generosity has left Claire Shimabukuro, executive director of Hawaii Meals on Wheels, moved and humbled.

"This is phenomenal," she says. "It’s amazing that those trying to make a living as artists are donating bowls so other people can eat. The kindness in their hearts is touching.

"Since 1979, Meals on Wheels has serviced homebound seniors and disabled people by delivering hot meals daily. The nonprofit group’s more than 400 volunteers not only deliver food, they provide personal interaction with clients each day.

"We’re dedicated to helping people preserve their independence at home through hot meals," Shimabukuro says. "These are folks who can’t even operate a microwave or don’t have the cognizance to know when to eat.

Volunteers are required not to leave until they’ve made contact. They are required to check up on clients to make sure they’re safe, so clients have peace of mind.

"The organization purchases its meals from the kitchens of 10 hospitals and care homes, so meals are "therapeutic," meaning they can accommodate special diets and specific health needs. Food can be puréed, or low sodium or low cholesterol.

"This is where the funds raised are going to be going," Shimabukuro says.

River of Life Mission, opened in 1984, also provides hot meals — 15,000 a month, three times daily. But the meal program is just one of a number of services the mission offers.

With an average of 30 volunteers daily, the mission runs a food box program for needy families, shower facilities for the homeless, a program to clothe the needy and two transitional houses for parolees and people formerly on the street.

The mission has stayed financially viable despite receiving no government funding. But with the opening of the second transitional house, there is financial need.

"Empty Bowl is a real blessing," says Davi Teves, the mission’s events coordinator.

At the heart of the event is the nonprofit Hawaii Potters Guild, which held Hawaii’s first Empty Bowl fundraiser in 2009, modeled after one in Michigan that originated in 1990. The 2009 event was a wild success, selling some 700 bowls and 30 gallons of soup within 90 minutes.

This time around, it took two years for a larger committee to plan the event and for the guild to make some 1,500 bowls. The guild also solicited the help of other ceramics groups and even schools, such as Sacred Hearts Academy, La Pietra, Mid-Pacific Institute and Kamehameha Schools, to boost the inventory.

"It was so well received the first time we did this, we decided to make it bigger and take it outside to accommodate the large crowd," says Sydney Lynch, guild president.

Lynch says the guild’s other community outreach project is with the Boys and Girls Club, in McCully and at Palama Settlement. "We have one mission: To promote ceramics in the community. And since we’re a nonprofit, we like to help out other nonprofits," she says.

Empty Bowl 2011
»» Where: Pauahi Street fronting The ARTS at Marks Garage
»» When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday
»» Info:


The soups to be served at Empty Bowl 2011:

New England Clam Chowder (Alan Wong’s Restaurant)
Portuguese Bean (Big City Diner)
Kahuku Corn and Crab (Brasserie Du Vin)
Minestrone (Cafe Laufer)
Farm to Table Bean and Veggie (Great Life Cuisine)
Cream of Sweet Corn (JJ’s Bistro and Pastry)
Tomato (Indigo Restaurant)
Onion (Le Bistro)
Kahuku Corn Chowder (Mariposa)
Split Pea with Ham (Murphy’s Bar and Grill)
Spicy Lemon Grass (Phuket Thai Restaurant)
Yaki Chicken in Miso Broth with Udon Noodle, Aloun Farms Kabocha and Shiitake Mushroom (Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar)
Sausage and Vegetable (Side Street Inn)
Hearty Vegetable (Stage)
Bouillabaisse (Tango)
Broccoli Chowder (3660 on the Rise)
Three Mushroom Bisque with Portabello Dust (Tikis Grill & Bar)
Pohaku (Town)
Smoked Bacon, Cheddar and Broccoli (12th Avenue Grill)
Chipotle Tomato (Whole Foods)


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