Dining With Denise Neil

Eat the soup, keep the bowl at Saturday slurping event in Wichita

Saturday’s Empty Bowls Chili Cookoff allows attendees to sample chili and soup and keep the bowl.
Saturday’s Empty Bowls Chili Cookoff allows attendees to sample chili and soup and keep the bowl. Courtesy photo

Eat the soup. Keep the bowl – a pretty, one-of-a-kind ceramic bowl, made by a well-known pot thrower or a budding grade-school ceramicist.

That’s the idea behind Saturday’s Empty Bowls Chili Cookoff at Wichita State University. Organized by the school’s ceramics department, it invites people to sample chili cooked by at least 50 competitors as well as soups from a long list of local restaurants, including Doo-Dah Diner, Twelve Restaurant & Bar, Beautiful Day Cafe, Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, Gianni Bacci’s and YaYa’s Eurobistro.

Money raised will benefit the Kansas Food Bank, and organizer Brenda Lichman, a ceramicist and lecturer at WSU, hopes to raise $30,000.

“The whole idea is that people make bowls, and you bring an empty bowl home to remind you of all the empty bowls in your community,” she said.

Those who buy a ticket get to keep their bowls, and each one is a work of art. They’ve been made during the past three months by children from 15 local grade schools, by community members who attended bowl-making workshops, by WSU ceramics students and even by well-known artists. Ted Adler, who teaches in WSU’s ceramics program, has made 80 bowls, and his work often sells for anywhere from $80 to $100.

Empty Bowls is a national project, and events are put on in cities across the country. Wichita State had been participating on a smaller scale for years, but in 2014, the ceramics department partnered with the Ulrich Museum to make the event bigger and to raise money for the Kansas Food Bank. That year, they drew 400 people. In 2015, it was up to 700. This year, Lichman says, she expects more than 1,000 people to attend.

Lichman advises that people arrive right at 11 a.m. to ensure they have their choice of bowls. More than 1,000 will be set out on tables, and they’ll range from little, whimsical children’s bowls to bigger artistic pieces.

People will get ramekins to use for chili and soup samples, and they’re entitled to one larger bowl of soup or chili, too. Dillons and Great Harvest have donated bread.

Chili makers will be competing for trophies crafted by the WSU ceramicists, and the panel of judges will include Wichita State University President John Bardo.

The event also will include a silent auction featuring bowls made by well-known ceramicists. Those bowls have been on display at Reuben Saunders Gallery.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Lichman said. “Being a ceramicist myself, you’re in your studio all the time. And this is a way to help the community through your art.”

Empty Bowls Chili Cook-off

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22

Where: Henrion Hall, just southeast of the Ulrich Museum, Wichita State University, 1845 Fairmount.

Tickets: $20, $10 for students. Available at the door.

Information: www.facebook.com/emptybowlswichita/