It’s been snowing so much lately and much as I love my students at the CIA, all I wanted to do today was stay at home and read by the fire after making a pot of mushroom barley soup. This reminded me of a unique food job: soup peddler extraordinaire David Ansel and cookbook author. I asked David to write about himself for my Food Jobs book. Here he describes how he created his unique recipe for success.
“An idea occurred to me whilst sitting on a porch swing at a magical house in South Austin, Texas: What if I could make a living cooking food and taking it to people’s homes? At the time I was at my wits end, trying to figure out anything I could do for a living instead of being a mediocre computer programmer, I figured making soup was worth a try. Soup was the only thing I knew how to make halfway decently.
Though I had no culinary training, I had dabbled with cooking dinners for large groups and had been spending time at the restaurant supply store. There I found little white buckets that would be perfect for taking food to folks’ houses.
Once I decided which soups to make, I had to think about how to get it where I wanted it to go. I don’t like driving and much prefer to ride my bike. I decided to deliver soup by bicycle around my neighborhood.
I needed a name for the business. I went back to the porch swing. Soup Subscription Service for Savory Soul Sustenance? Probably not. The Soup Man. Eh. Need something cute. How about Soup Peddler? Soup Peddeler? Which spelling to use? I’ll use Peddler, just in case this thing gets too big for bikes.
I sent an e-mail to my friends and neighbors describing the service. Sunday afternoon, I’ll bring you a bucket of soup on my bike. Seventeen brave customers took me up on the offer. I went out and bought an eighty-dollar pot and made gumbo in my own kitchen (not entirely legal but I had to start somewhere).
Three short years later, my staff of soup makers, peddlers, and I cook and distribute 10,000 gallons of dozens of different varieties of soup to the porches of Austinites over the course of an eight-month soup season. We now work out of a commercial kitchen. I also realized that it was not about soup, it was about lovingly-made food.
I became the Ferris Bueller of Austin, liked and respected by hipsters, soccer moms, and tattooed punks equally. I have been referred to as an “American folk hero.” My cookbook, The Soup Peddler’s Slow and Difficult Soups: Recipes and Reveries, followed.
How did this happen? The task of describing the breadth and depth of the entrepreneurial effort is nearly impossible. Boot camp for the Army? Nothing. Swimming the English Channel? Yawn. Raising a child? Yeah, sorta. Spending an eternity pushing a boulder up a hill? You’re starting to get there. Of course, most of those comparison cases have their rewards, and entrepreneurship does too.
Starting your own business means you never look at the world or the people around you the same way again. It takes every ounce of your soul, and the risk is that you’ll be left with nothing to show for your efforts. The potential reward is huge, though, not the least of which is having your destiny under your own control as much as is humanly possible.”