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Sue Ontiveros: Chef helps immigrants and refugees — with soup

Chef-Owner Bruce Sherman of North Pond. | Provided photo

It’s comforting to have food to turn to in times of crisis, upheaval.

That’s one of the many reasons I like Bruce Sherman’s effort.

Sherman is chef/partner at the highly acclaimed North Pond in Lincoln Park. He’s the winner of multiple awards, including the James Beard, known as the Oscars of the food world. Life is busy but very good for Sherman and he knows it.

However, the current unwelcoming rhetoric and actions concerning immigrants and refugees has left him troubled. Immigrants and refugees are not some monolithic “them” to be feared but rather people he’s worked alongside.


The hospitality industry is “an entry point for a lot of immigrants and refugees to start realizing their American dream,” says Sherman.

Right now life is upside down for a lot of those same people. “People are scared; they’re concerned about their future and security,” he says.

Watching all this from the sidelines, Sherman felt like he had to do something – “I couldn’t sit around and not do anything.”

6-25-02 North Pond, 2610 N. Cannon, Chicago, IL. restaurant. Sun-Times photo Robert A. Davis

Sun-Times photo Robert A. Davis

That’s when Solidarity Soup was born. For $50, buyers will get two pints of soups prepared by two different chefs that’ll be available for pickup at three locations (downtown, Lincoln Park and Wicker Park) on March 7.

Sherman reached out to some of the Chicago area’s most prominent chefs and asked them to participate; as we spoke there were 20 involved. Award-winning chefs, including Rick Bayless, Carrie Nahabedian and Paul Kahan. Chefs the public knows from “Top Chef,” such as Beverly Kim and Stephanie Izard. Chefs who run some of the city’s most well-known restaurants, including Everest, Lula Cafe and Honey Butter Fried Chicken.

“This is a way to raise the profile, to get people’s attention,” says Sherman.

Not one chef hesitated to come on board, according to Sherman. All are donating the ingredients, their time and creativity for the effort. (No, buyers cannot select the soup of a particular chef. But yes, chefs will note whether their soups have any of the main allergens – nuts, dairy, gluten – and which are vegetarian.)

While Sherman lauds the work of national organizations trying to help immigrants and refugees, he decided to keep the money local and where he thought it would make “a difference in their operational budget, would have a more significant impact on the work they do.”

With that in mind, he decided funds will go to three non-profits: Centro Romero, Immigrant Workers’ Project and the Southwest Organizing Project.

Why soup? Well, there are a lot of practical reasons, according to Sherman. He wanted something savory, and soup is something all chefs make. He also wanted something people could refrigerate or freeze if they didn’t want to eat it that night.

Personally, I think soup lends itself to sharing and sipping. You generally don’t rush through soup; it’s a good food for lingering. A great “talk” food. What a conversation one could have with the kids, explaining what’s happening now and how it’s crucial to support people, to let them know they’re important and that there are individuals willing to stand with them.

Where Solidarity Soup will go after March 7, Sherman isn’t sure, but believes it has the potential for more.

What he’s has put together isn’t because these restaurants are harboring a bunch of undocumented workers. It’s not about political parties, either, Sherman says.

“This transcends politics,” says Sherman. “This is a human rights issue.

“It’s about humanity.”

For more information, visit http://solidaritysoup.org/

Email: sueontiveros.cst@gmail.com

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