Waco Chat

Having a Drink with Loren Lee

By Kevin Tankersley

Chef & H-E-B Competition Finalist

“I’ve been working on this since 2003, taking little baby steps.”

We’re working on a fourth one, the quadruplet. It’s a white Christmas soup. It’s something that I did at the restaurant. It was really popular, and it’s kind of fun to have a soup just for Christmas. It’s parsnips with herbs.

All of these [soups] are pureed. They’re not cream-based. I’m flattered that a lot of people think they are, because they have a rich taste, but they’re not as fattening. They have a really great depth of flavor, I think.

The pumpkin [is the oldest]. I made it one Halloween night and passed it out to some people who were coming by with their kids. They really loved it.

My favorite is the tomato. The pumpkin was the big seller at Mirth. The carrot is really great too. It’s not necessarily a fall or winter soup. It could be a soup for spring. Soup definitely has a season.

One of the things I emphasized during the contest was that this is different and it’s a simple luxury, just to be able to have a restaurant-quality soup. Open it up, heat it up and there you go.

I talked a lot about how food is transformative. My experience at the restaurant was how food can just change someone. They can have a moment of happiness or comfort. That was really neat to see, day after day after day, to create a small transformation in people’s day.

Lee chose to meet at the legendary Health Camp. Instead of indulging in one of the dozen or so flavors of malts and shakes the restaurant is famous for, Lee kept it simple with a large Diet Coke with lots of ice. “I drink water and Diet Coke most of the time,” she said. “I’m not very adventurous that way.”

Before [culinary school], I actually went to film school. I have a degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. I love storytelling. I was born loving stories and storytelling.

My favorite film? I have lots of them. ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ On the opposite end of the spectrum, ‘A River Runs Through It.’ ‘Billy Elliot.’ Oh gosh, there are so many.

Before culinary school, I literally said to myself, ‘It would probably be easier to make dinner than a movie.’ That sounds so corny, but I said that.

Having been sitting at a desk trying to write, facing a blank page, I really yearned to do something with my hands and have an immediate result. Had I not been accepted to film school, culinary school was on the back burner.

I think it’s OK to say they plan on putting all the 25 [finalists] in the stores. It’s already been a huge victory for me. Hopefully it should be pretty soon. During soup season, I hope. I’ve been working on this since 2003, taking little baby steps.

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