Think holistically. Make every ingredient matter. Embrace local diversity and seasonal variety.
These directions, along with a few others, are listed under the words “Our Kitchen Philosophy” on a chalkboard by the entrance of Herndon’s newest gastronomic offering: 100 Bowls of Soup.
Visitors mill around a table covered with square white boxes labeled “cinnamon bread”, “bliss bars” and assorted other treat names. On opening day, voices bubble through the open-plan room, as someone pours a drop of Malay curry dip onto a turkey kebob sample.
“Mmm, this is so good, you’ve got to try it,” a female patron sipping from a small, plastic cup filled with turkey broth flavored with ginger and lemongrass, tells her friend.
On the other side of the table, proprietor Katharine Mardirosian, her thick, curly gray hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, chats with Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel.
Mardirosian owns 100 Bowls of Soup, which celebrated the official opening of its Herndon kitchen on Sept. 12.
“It’s been a journey from cooking out of my own kitchen to moving to a church kitchen and then working out of a small, commercial kitchen,” Mardirosian said. “Moving here was a big step, because it allowed us to expand our soup-making production and offer a small retail store.”
Located in Herndon’s Sunset Park strip mall, 100 Bowls of Soup is an artisanal soup company that specializes in seasonal soup and stock made from scratch with locally-produced, organic ingredients.
In addition to containing a retail store where customers can purchase soup, the Herndon kitchen will also be used to host a series of cooking classes starting Sept. 19 and continuing throughout the fall. Mardirosian shares the space with Deepa Patke, who founded Aromatic Spice Blends, and Deborah Joy, who makes gluten-free baked goods.
Citing her Romanian mother-in-law as an inspiration on the 100 Bowls of Soup website, Mardirosian says that she has always been passionate about making soup and eating healthy food.
“I really like the idea of creating things that were very flavorful and nutritious at the same time,” Mardirosian, a former marketing and business planning consultant, said. “I wanted to work with local farms and use as many local suppliers as I could.”
Initially cooking the soup in her own home and selling it at local farmers’ markets, Mardirosian started 100 Bowls of Soup six years ago and eventually opened up a smaller, commercial kitchen at Maple Avenue Market in Vienna. There, she met both Patke and Joy, two other food entrepreneurs.
Patke started making spices commercially in 2010 at the urging of her husband. Though she used to be a scientist with a PhD in microbiology and a post-doctoral degree in immunology, she left work after the birth of her son and became passionate about cooking instead.
Patke was introduced to Mardirosian when she stopped by a cooking class that Patke had started teaching, and the two women soon became good friends.
“She had this lovely space, and she was wondering if I could share it with her, so I decided to do it,” Patke said.
A resident of Herndon and a former artist, Joy began baking after returning to school and getting a degree in nutrition.
“I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day. That’s not my personality,” Joy said, “so I decided to fill a needed niche of baking really good-tasting gluten-free products.”
She originally made her food in a home kitchen in Leesburg and sold it at farmers’ markets, gradually developing a base of loyal customers. She especially found a following among people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye products, damages a person’s small intestine.
Joy says that the new 100 Bowls of Soup kitchen is designed to provide meals for people who don’t have time to cook their own food but want something healthier than what they might get from a fast food drive-thru.
“Even though you can’t feel it, the difference between eating healthy food and unhealthy food will show up over time,” she said. “If people just switched and ate healthy foods every day, they would feel better.”
Along with sharing the same retail and cooking space, the three women frequently taste-test each other’s creations and collaborate when experimenting with new recipes. For instance, Joy developed a caraway cauliflower soup that 100 Bowls of Soup will start selling this fall, and Mardirosian often uses Patke’s harissa spice in her soups.
“We just really enjoy being together,” Joy said. “It feels very good working with people who have the same passion and philosophies that you do.”
Mardirosian, whose products are also available at retail stores like MOM’s Organic Market and McLean’s The Organic Butcher and online via the Washington Green Grocer and Hometown Harvest, decided to move from Vienna to the Herndon location because she needed more space.
She likes the transparency of her new location that offers an open floor plan, giving incoming customers a full view of the kitchen from the room’s retail section.
This emphasis on transparency and health makes 100 Bowls of Soup an ideal addition to the Herndon community, according to Merkel, who met Mardirosian, Patke and Joy at a local farmers’ market over the summer, and cut the ribbon at their opening ceremony Sept. 12.
“I love that it’s three women that have come together as entrepreneurs, but also, we’re really excited about locally-owned businesses, especially health-minded businesses,” Merkel said, citing fellow eco/green businesses Green Lizard Cycling and The Hot Spot spa, both located in downtown Herndon. “People are into exercise and fitness, and our farmer’s market attracts people who want to buy healthy foods. I think it’s just that growing families and a diverse community are attracting diverse businesses like this one.”
Mardirosian says that, ultimately, what makes 100 Bowls of Soup special is the cooking staff, who all trained at home rather than professionally.
One of the cooks, Elizabeth Sheridan, started working for Mardirosian two years ago after her youngest child entered middle school, freeing her up to return to the workforce. The job appealed to her because she always enjoyed cooking, and the flexibility means she doesn’t have to sacrifice too much time with her family.
The cooks meet each Thursday to plan the soups they’re going to make for the next week, and they spend the middle days of the week fulfilling retail orders, which are then shipped off on Thursday. Now that the new academic year has started, they also cook for Eastern Ridge School, a small, private school in Great Falls.
“We are what we eat and what we put into ourselves is important,” Sheridan said, adding that she dislikes the additives found in commercially-produced food and prefers eating food cooked from scratch like what she had growing up in England. “That was the way I saw my mom cooking, and I just always intuitively felt that was right for my family.”
Though she is not currently looking to expand to any other locations, Mardirosian says she hopes 100 Bowls of Soup encourages people to pay closer attention to what they eat.
“We’re really motivated to bring healthy food and to help people just be healthier and eat healthier,” Mardirosian said. “It’s a great group of women, who enjoy cooking together, and we just want to spread that.”
For more information, go to: www.100bowlsofsoup.com