empty bowls soup night event

No one deserves to go hungry, and spreading awareness against food insecurity is at the heart of what Sierra Community House does. Through partnerships with local grocery stores, farmers, and volunteers, Sierra Community House provided 292,997 meals to community members across North Tahoe.  

To increase awareness about this issue and raise funds for Hunger Relief programs, Sierra Community House will be hosting an Empty Bowls event in collaboration with local renowned chef, Meredith Miller Elliott. The March 18 event is open to the public and ticket sales will help feed those in need; tickets are only $15 and can be purchased here. Meredith will be curating a selection of mouthwatering soups that promise to tantalize your taste buds. This event will feature handmade bowls from local artists, various soups, fresh bread and refreshing beverages. We had the chance to catch up with Chef Meredith and discuss her involvement in this impactful event.  

What about our mission of connecting and empowering our community through family strengthening, crisis intervention, hunger relief, and legal services drew you to Sierra Community House? 

Service to others was very important to my father and has always been a large part of my life. Being part of a community, it’s so important to support those around us, with whatever means and skills that we have available to us. Empowering women to live in a safe and healthy environment, and food insecurity are two issues that are close to my heart, and I am happy to do what I can.

What is your culinary experience and what do you love about cooking? 

My upbringing was very focused on food, travel and connecting with my family heritage.  Following my Undergraduate degree in Food Science and Masters in Anthropology, I attended the Cordon Bleu. Most of my culinary career was working in fine dining in Chicago with incredible chefs and hospitality professionals, although I spent time training and cooking in Italy, Spain, and Morocco over the years. I have also worked many harvests in wineries around the world and hold an advanced level Sommelier certification.  Food and wine are not merely a job, but also my favorite subject for study, or travel.   

Currently, I am a private chef, a traveling chef, a teaching chef, and work with a number of nonprofits around the country.

How do you believe food, like soup, can make a difference in addressing hunger and food insecurity? 

In every culture of the world, there are iconic soups that are comforting, delicious, and healthful.  It’s the perfect example of “Food as Medicine”. With soups using animal bones as a base for stock, the extended cooking time releases vitamins and minerals into the broth, and with the addition of vegetables and grains, soup becomes an incredibly healthy complete meal. Vegetarian soups can be just as compelling; again, with proper cooking techniques, and ingredients. Teaching people how to extract as much flavor and nutrients out of the ingredients at hand is an excellent way to eat inexpensive whole food. 

Can you tell us about the soup you’re preparing for the empty bowls event on March 18th? What ingredients did you choose and why? 

Chicken soup is always a favorite, as it connects many of us to past comforting childhood food memories.  I use a 48-hour bone broth, roasted chicken, vegetables, and Mediterranean flavors. Orzo is my favorite pasta (noodle) for this soup because it retains texture and holds in all the delicious flavors.
For a vegan option, a carrot, coconut milk soup with ginger and Thai herbs is on the menu. There will be four soups in total, but the last two will have to be a surprise!

In your opinion, what role can local communities play in combating hunger and supporting food relief efforts? 

Awareness of the needs of those around us, organizing and utilizing all our collective skills, working with local farmers and markets to reduce product waste, and again… teaching people how to cook tasty food with simple quality ingredients; especially young people so they can carry that knowledge and skill set with them as they move forward

What are some of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had throughout your career as a chef? 

In 2017 I started cooking for the firefighters after the Tubbs fire devastated Santa Rosa.  Using ingredients donated or at hand and cooking 1500-3000 meals a day for weeks during the fire effort was incredibly rewarding, exhausting, yet also powerful once we realize what is possible when we leave our comfort zone.   

I took these skills and experience further when I went to Poland in 2022 and worked for months in a kitchen on the Ukranian border with an organization called World Central Kitchen, where I worked with an amazing team of chefs, cooking for tens of thousands of refugees daily, as they fled the war in Ukraine.  Seeing firsthand how a bowl of soup and homemade bread has the power to connect us with strangers, and can offer comfort, some needed calories, nutrition, will always stay with me.  It’s a profound reminder that food connects us all, and even a seemingly small gesture can change someone in a tremendous way; on both ends.  

Meredith sheds light on the significance of food and how soup has the power to connect communities and alleviate hunger. Join us for an evening that promises to warm your soul and make a positive difference in the lives of those facing hunger. Purchase tickets here to attend our upcoming Soup Night event on March 18th at Truckee High School. 100% of the proceeds will benefit Sierra Community House and the first 50 attendees will be gifted a unique ceramic bowl as a token of our gratitude for your invaluable support. Sierra Community House’s Empty Bowls Event is more than a culinary gathering; it’s a celebration of unity, compassion, and community empowerment.