CINCINNATI, Ohio — When you enter the kitchen at La Soupe, it looks like any other restaurant. Chefs are hard at work perfecting their menus, while their staff are filleting fish, chopping vegetables, or prepping whatever they can for a successful service.
What you won't find, however, is any waitstaff or customers.
La Soupe started as a nonprofit in 2014. Suzy DeYoung, a nationally renowned chef and restauranteur, left behind the for-profit side of her career to see how she could address two industry-wide issues at once: food waste and food insecurity.
"The food is there," DeYoung said. "It just needs to be used in a mindful way."
La Soupe was the answer. The nonprofit accepts leftover food from restaurants, grocery stores, or anyone willing to donate, and its chefs make those ingredients into restaurant-quality meals for families in need.
"Somebody cares," DeYoung said. "Somebody takes the time to prepare these meals."
Greg Genetti is one of those somebodies. He joined the team in March as the chef de cuisine, after serving for more than ten years as a chef at the Camargo Country Club.
“It was time for a change," he said. "It was just time to start doing some good.”
Like DeYoung, Genetti has decades of kitchen experience under his belt, and he said transitioning into the zero-waste environment at La Soupe was easier than many might expect.
"Good chefs are all about zero waste,” he said.
Genetti is one of the leaders helping his staff figure out how every scrap will go to use either in the meal, into soup stock, or into animal feed.
Up until spring, La Soupe worked out of a 900 square foot facility on Round-Bottom Rd. The kitchen had its sights set on expansion for a while, but DeYoung said the pandemic made the matter more urgent.
La Soupe was set to move into its new space in Walnut Hills in April, but when as food insecurity began to skyrocket in late March, the Fireside Grill gave La Soupe temporary space in its kitchen to meet the need.
Genetti said La Soupe settled into their own space in May, but the kitchen is still serving more clients than ever.
"It's fifteen, sixteen different places," he said. "Because the need is that high to feed people."
With 10,000 square feet, the new space on McMillan St. gives La Soupe far more room to cook, pack, and store food, but Genetti said they've quickly adapted to use every inch.
La Soupe expects to remain busy for the foreseeable future, but when the pandemic calms down, the staff hopes to increase their education efforts.
The new space has a demonstration kitchen the team hopes to use for cooking classes, focused on using leftover or common household ingredients and preventing food waste.