Much as we’ve tried, one cannot live on cocoa alone. Hence the “ + Co.” part of our name. First it was La Colombe coffee and Kilogram teas complementing our global chocolate collection. Now we’re offering Karl’s Craft Soups--organic seasonal selections that change daily.
Like everything we carry, we’ve sampled the best and have chosen a winner in Karl Bader’s artisan-made soups. Karl’s signature is thick, creative, vegetable-based combinations with complex flavors that don’t rely on thickeners so they’re gluten-free. They’re always organic and we’ll have at least one vegetarian or vegan option on hand. Fall selections might include: Roasted Tomato & Cheddar, Black Bean Chorizo, Minty Split Pea & Tarragon, Pumpkin Bisque, Moroccan Chick Pea, and more.
We talked to Karl about his craft recently. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What’s so special about soup?
A: It’s the ultimate comfort food. All cultures have some variety of soup: hot, cold, dessert. Everybody likes soup and it’s something I believe is perfect for any occasion, can be casual or fine dining. It’s super versatile and healthy as long as you’re using a lot of vegetables. Everybody can talk about some memory of soup that’s a family tradition.
Q: Where do you get the inspiration for your soups?
A: I don’t make the same soup week in and week out. The best thing about soup is the seasonality of the produce. I build soup flavors around whatever I can get my hands on. I’m creating soups based on what’s available, so I’m working with asparagus early in the summer, then it gets warmer and I’m using different tomatoes, peppers and corn. Later in the season I might get apples and sweet potatoes, so I’d make an apple-bacon potato soup; an apple-sweet potato with cheddar; or sweet potato-tomatillo with chorizo. My signature soups are vegetarian and vegan, I do very few meat-based soups.
Q: How did your career get started?
A: When I was growing up, I was at a classic French restaurant in Chicago the first time I had bouillabaisse. It was most awesome flavor experience I’d ever tasted.
My parents owned a French restaurant in Rockford, Ill. I started working there, beginning with learning to make vichyssoise. I’ve had a passion for cooking since my middle school days. During my 20s I worked in the record business, as a promotion and marketing manager for a bunch of different record labels. That grew old, so I started a little restaurant in Oak Park, offering craft salads, soups, and sandwiches. The soup part just stuck with me.
Q: What’s up at Cocoa + Co. and where else can people find your soup?
A: I look forward to trying to do some custom flavors that can potentially be available exclusively at Cocoa + Co. We might do a custom small batch exclusively for you. May through October, I do three weekly farmer’s markets: Logan Square, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Andersonville. I also do online sales through Artizone, an online grocery store, and I do corporate catering where I pair soups with vegetarian and vegan salads.
Q: Why did you choose to open your business in Chicago?
A: People are very engaged with their food today. They like to know I’m making the food and how I’m doing it. They’ll ask a lot of questions about ingredients and nutrition. I think Chicago is the best place to live and take part in a local food community. Restaurants, retail, coffee shops—any sort of food business, they’re lining up on the same page with people like myself who are working with farmers and it all kind of lines up with the producers, the farmers themselves. It’s made a complete circle and I feel like everybody’s on the same page. It’s a basic concept that everyone should work together, but it’s really taken hold in Chicago and I feel fortunate to be a part of it.