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Soupsköl unites Aspen community over a love of free soup

The crew from Pepperjack’s Cafe serves up samples of its winning creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese at Soupsköl on Jan. 14.
Kaya Williams
/
Aspen Public Radio
The crew from Pepperjack’s Cafe serves up samples of its winning creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese at Soupsköl in downtown Aspen on Jan. 14. The beloved soup competition returned after a two-year hiatus.

It’s pretty hard to argue with the appeal of Soupsköl. Two hours of all-you can eat soup samples from local restaurants vying for the coveted first-place “copper kettle” means full stomachs, packed streets, and a steady flow of free chowder, gumbo, pozole, bisque and stew.

Local chef Reggie Barbour from Boogie’s Diner founded this event in 2004.

He died in 2008, but the festival continued to bring thousands of soup-loving locals and visitors to the streets of downtown Aspen until 2016.

After a few soup-less years, the event returned in a new form at the Aspen Art Museum in 2020, then got put on the back burner when the pandemic hit.

Patricia Overton has lived in the area for 55 years and estimates she’s attended nearly every Soupsköl since the event began.

“It's about community, and you know, Aspen's community is really, we've been hurting,” Overton added. “We need our community and this was a very smart good thing to do.”

Big Hoss Grill co-owner Steve Sklar, who donned a collection of Wintersköl pins and a spiky wig while he served up clam chowder, shared the sentiment.

“We need more local quirky events,” Sklar said. “I love to see all these people back. We've got the people from all over the world back in town, and that just feels good.”

Based on the chatter on the Cooper Ave. Mall, a few different samples seemed like contenders for the big prize.

Thai coconut soup from Meat and Cheese was getting a lot of love, the Big Hoss chowder had some fans, and a corned beef reuben soup from Grateful Deli got points for originality.

But when all the community votes were counted and the Wintersköl royalty weighed in too, a good old fashioned classic prevailed.

Pepperjack’s Cafe, which is located at The Gant, emerged as the winner with a creamy tomato soup and mini grilled cheese bite. Hominy, a restaurant in El Jebel, came in second with a “bayou gumbo” and Big Hoss, based in Snowmass Village, got third place for their chowder.

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Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.