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The Weekly Dish: Youth Villages to host 30th Soup Sunday at FedExForum

Youth Villages will host its annual Soup Sunday tasting event Feb. 17 at FedExForum. 

This year marks the 30th anniversary for this beloved fundraiser. Pulling out all the stops for the celebration, organizers expect close to 3,000 guests and have about 60 restaurants and caterers lined up to prepare soup and much more.

Celtic Crossing is among the restaurants participating this year. It is Celtic Crossing's fourth year to take part.

“We usually try to bring a different soup each year,” said Garrett Miller, Celtic Crossing head chef. “This year we will be bringing an Irish vegetable soup plus our pimento cheese, which is made with our owner’s grandmother’s recipe.”

Each restaurant is asked to bring 30 gallons of soup. Miller estimates it will take him three to four days to make such a large quantity.

Some of the most popular restaurants and caterers in Memphis participate in the event, which has raised nearly $1 million since it started in February 1990. Each participant brings a soup, and most bring another specialty such as an appetizer, side or dessert.

“Restaurants like The Half ShellHuey’sHog Wild BBQ CateringMosa Asian BistroStone Soup Cafe and Rizzo’s participate year after year,” said Amanda Mullen, development coordinator with Youth Villages.

New in 2019 will be Strano by Chef JoshThe Capital Grille and Forest Hill Grill.

The logistics of feeding warm soup and other fare from 60 businesses to a crowd of thousands are pretty staggering.

Tom Cassidy III has been leading the charge for almost the entire history of the event.

“My family owned American Seafood, and my father was on the board of Youth Villages,” he said. “We would use our trucks and cold storage to transport the soups from the restaurants to the venue. I drove the very first truck.”

Today, Cassidy manages the central kitchen that stores and reheats the soups and other dishes for the event. “We want to make it as easy as possible for the restaurants,” he said. “I organize all the food and reheat it. … I’ve even cut cakes.”

Like most who volunteer for Youth Villages, Cassidy said it is a labor of love. “I’ve done several tours of Youth Villages," he said. "You just can’t wrap your head around what these kids go through. Any small thing I can do to help, I do.”

Soup Sunday was started by Danny Sumrall of The Half Shell and Mike Warr, a Youth Villages board member. The friends had seen a similar event in Little Rock, Arkansas, and thought it would be a great way for the Memphis community to visit several restaurants at once. With just a handful of restaurants, the first event was held at the old Captain Bilbo’s in Downtown Memphis. Little did they know how the event would grow to what it is today.

“We decided to try a day family event with the first event taking place at Captain Bilbo’s,” Sumrall said. “After our second year, we knew our space wasn’t large enough to accommodate the crowds so Soup Sunday has had several homes — including Woodland Hills Country Club and the Pyramid — and presently takes place at FedExForum.

“The work that Pat Lawler, CEO of Youth Villages, and his staff do for neglected youth made our involvement an easy choice. I’m a cheerleader for the event, encouraging my fellow restaurateurs to participate.”

The main event occurs in the concourse area of FedExForum, wrapping around the entire venue. A VIP area is upstairs in the Draft Room.

The event is designed to be a family affair, with a kids zone offering activities such as Oreo stacking contests, magic shows by Magic Mr. Nick, face painting and balloon animals.     

Funds for the event support the Chris Crye Mentoring Program at Youth Villages. “A lot of youth in our program don’t have a strong local support system,” Mullen said. “This program provides a mentor to allow them to get off campus and experience the city like other children do.”

General admission for adults is $20; children ages 6-12 are $10; and ages 5 and under are free. VIP Souper Party tickets are $75 for adults and $30 for children. VIP Souper Party tickets for couples are available exclusively at for $110. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit                

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Posted by Mosa Asian Bistro at 11:16 AM