From left are Albany Techinical College Culinary Arts Program representatives Wesley Higdon, Kathy Stubbs and Todd White. (Staff photo: Laura Williams)
Empty Bowls 2014
The 2014 edition of Empty Bowls was conducted Monday at the SOWEGA Council on Aging's new Senior Life Enrichment Center. Artists donate the bowls, which are purchased with the proceeds benefiting the Council and its partner in the event, the Albany Area Arts Council. The event is designed to call attention to hunger in the community.
ALBANY — Long before the doors opened Monday at the SOWEGA Council on Aging’s Senior Life Enrichment Center, a crowd of hungry guests was lined up outside, eager to enjoy an hour or two of arts and delicious food.
More than 400 Albany residents attended Empty Bowls, a collaborative effort between the SOWEGA Council on Aging and the Albany Area Arts Council to raise awareness of hunger. It’s also a fundraiser for the two organizations, who split the proceeds to support their programs in the community.
Now in its third year, Empty Bowls has enjoyed great success in the community, bringing people from all walks of life together for an afternoon of food, fun and fellowship, while raising funds for a worthy cause.
Guests also were treated to an inside look at the SOWEGA Council of Aging’s brand-new center at 335 W. Society Ave.
With ticket admission, attendees received lunch and their choice of a one-of-kind bowl made by a local artist.
But to get first pickings, it’s best to be early.
“The event started at 11:30 a.m., but I got here shortly after 11,” said Kiki Hall, who was attending her first Empty Bowls event. “The line was already well-established when I got here.”
That line was established by regular attendees Paula Long and Judy Rainey, the first two people in line at 10:45 a.m.
“This is a wonderful event – I just love it,” said Long. “And it is for such a good cause.”
As guests contemplated which particular bowls might best match the décor of their homes, a “Soup du Jour” menu displayed a preview of soup options available in the main reception area.
After choosing their bowls, guests had their items wrapped and bagged before continuing inside for a fresh, hot lunch. Surrounding the room were a variety of options from local caterers, schools and restaurants, all giving service with a smile.
“The soups are always so delicious,” Long noted. “The only problem is that you fill up faster than you can eat – I wish I could try them all.”
For those who had trouble deciding, samples were available for taste-testing before making a final decision.
Along with supporting a good cause, participation in Empty Bowls provides an opportunity for restaurants and chefs in the community to advertise their wares and promote menu items.
For Albany Technical College’s Culinary Arts Program, the event also presents a great platform for teaching.
“We teach and demonstrate every step of making the soup for the students,” said Todd White, ATC department chair of culinary arts.
“From the prep work, to slicing vegetables, to making a roux – with every stage of cooking, we are able to help our students get valuable experience with practicing their skills.”
ATC’s potato leek soup with fresh toppings was suitable to a variety of taste buds.
“We’ve arranged it so whether you prefer meat in your soup or not, you can fix it to your preference,” said senior Wesley Higdon. “We have the base of the soup prepared, and then people can add whatever toppings they like.”
For Higdon, Empty Bowls provided educational experience as well as an excellent opportunity for networking and speaking with future potential employers.
“It’s really been nice to be able to speak with representatives from other venues here today,” Higdon said. “Hopefully something great will work out as a result.”
“He’s our star student,” said ATC Culinary Lab Tech Kathy Stubbs. “They’d be lucky to have him.”
Among all of the vendors, there was a delicious something for everyone available, with a definite option for seconds.
By noon, the lines were gone, but stomachs were full, and smiles evident on every face.
“This is definitely an event that we will continue in the future,” said Albany Area Arts Council Executive Director Carol Hetzler. “It’s just such a great way to bring the community together.”