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The Soup Queen’s creations, and where to find them 

click to enlarge Coconut chicken soup is just one of "Soup Queen" Candace Doell's unique takes on a classic. Her soups, bistro sandwiches, and more are available at Fuego, Katboocha, and Bodega. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Coconut chicken soup is just one of "Soup Queen" Candace Doell's unique takes on a classic. Her soups, bistro sandwiches, and more are available at Fuego, Katboocha, and Bodega.
With its biting wind and lack of sun, January is appropriately national soup month. It is also a time of year for local legend Candace Doell, the “Soup Queen,” to shine.

Doell works from a commissary kitchen cranking out up to 60 quarts a week of fresh alternatives to the overly salted and preservative-laden goop lining supermarket shelves.

“It’s just something I enjoy making,” she says. “It's delicious. It's satisfying. It's comforting.”

Doell, 36, got her nickname while working at The Owl House, when her colleagues bestowed the moniker upon her for churning out so many varieties of soup that customers loved. Today, she is the catering chef for The Owl House restaurant group as well as the proprietor of her eponymous wholesale business, Soup Queen, which she started in 2020.

Her refrigerated creations can be found in grab-and-go containers at Bodega on Park Avenue and Katboocha on Railroad Street, or by the bowl at Fuego Coffee Roasters on Woodbury Boulevard.

click to enlarge A Mediterranean-style chicken sandwich is among the flavorful bistro fare items offered by the Soup Queen. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • A Mediterranean-style chicken sandwich is among the flavorful bistro fare items offered by the Soup Queen.
“I just don't think there's that much good soup out there for people to go and buy off the shelves,” she says.

If you’re after a specific Soup Queen soup on a particular day, you may be out of luck. Her enterprise is mostly dealer’s choice, although she occasionally takes special requests. But Doell does play by some basic rules — including using what’s in season, from local producers when possible, and leaning into fresh herbs and spices.

“So right now for example, you're seeing a lot of cauliflower, squashes, kale, winter greens, and mushrooms, but that will change as we go along,” she says.

Soups, while meant to be hearty, can often be heavy. Doell’s creations are an exception.

Her white cheddar broccoli soup, for example, has a buttery-cheesy and vegetable broth that, while filling, is on the silky side and perfect for dipping a slice of crusty bread. Her vegan and gluten-free tomato coconut ginger soup is as creamy as any non-vegan version.

Also on her menu are a hearty vegan and gluten-free curry mushroom chickpea stew, a vegan cheddar potato and jalapeno chowder, a classic Minestrone, a peanut stew with chicken and sweet potato, and a bright and cozy Greek-style lemon chicken and rice soup that is the answer to a cold day.

“One of the things I love about soup is it's a great way to curb food waste, because you can put so many things into it and make it delicious,” Doell says, adding that making stocks is a lot simpler than people might think. “You can take all of your vegetable scraps, turn them into stocks, and then compost whatever. You can use bones and carcasses for stocks. And you can use small amounts of things that you might not have enough of for a major recipe.”

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
But it is the combination of fresh herbs and spices that are her secret. Her favorites are thyme, parsley, and rosemary.

“Sometimes I'm not sure if it's necessarily me that’s the good cook or if it's just the fresh herbs in there,” she said of her work.

If there’s no greater compliment for a chef than the praise of someone else who cooks for a living, then it’s more than just the herbs and spices that make her soups sing.

Voula Katsetos, owner of the vegetarian/vegan restaurant Voula’s Greek Sweets, is a Soup Queen customer and hired Doell to cater her wedding reception.

The laid-back, barbecue-style menu Doell prepared for the affair included a peach barbecue sauce made from scratch, a tofu dish, corn chowder, and other meat and vegan items.

“Her vegan food — no one notices it’s vegan,” Katsetos says. “And it was really special to see my family react to her food the way that they did. Greek cuisine is super flavorful, and it takes a lot to impress them. They were just going crazy over it.”

click to enlarge The Soup Queen's creations are made in a commissary kitchen and sold via pint at shops around town, but she hopes to get her brand into grocery stores. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • The Soup Queen's creations are made in a commissary kitchen and sold via pint at shops around town, but she hopes to get her brand into grocery stores.
In addition to soup, Doell also supplies Bodega, Katboocha, and Fuego with sandwiches — such as the vegan Cajun Buffalo baguettes with tempeh and pickles or smoked salmon sandwiches — and a variety of grain bowls, plus other treats like banana bread.

Though Doell’s Soup Queen wholesale project is only going on a year old, she’s been holding a ladle for years, and learned her trade in the field.

After years of working in pizza shops and in front-of-house restaurant positions, Doell honed her culinary skills at The Owl House under its former head chef, Brian Van Etten. There she made everything from salads and soups to mains to suit everyone from omnivores to vegans.

“Over the years I made literally thousands of soups,” she says, adding that when diners would ask who made the soup, and the service staff would reply, “Oh, our soup queen made the soup.”

A mother of two young children, Doell says she is striving to expand her Soup Queen kingdom.

“My goals are to be in grocery stores and retail stores across America, baby!” she says with a laugh. “I want to have a good product for people to turn to, well-made food with intention.”


Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's life editor. She can be reached at becca@rochester-citynews.com.
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