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Meet the Chef: Kathy Walls from Vermont Soup Co.

ADDISON COUNTY — Some think of Kathleen (or Kathy) Walls as Souper-Woman. (Common that pun is too good to pass up!) Walls is the owner and soup-maker for The Vermont Soup Company — a company she founded not quite two years ago — but that is only half her identity. When her 10-gallon pot, veggie peeler, chopping block and cape — er, rather, apron — are stuffed neatly into her kitchen cupboards, Walls works as a bankruptcy lawyer. 
Walls earned her degree from Vermont Law School in South Royalton in 1993 and has been practicing since. She has her own practice in Middlebury, The Law Office of Kathleen Walls PC. 
“I do very much appreciate helping people through the process of bankruptcy,” Walls said. “They’re often on the verge of losing their home or something like that because of a loss of income… I see people in this transition, and there’s a lot of anxiety, anger and fear. I have to help them through that process. It’s a good thing.” 
But the gratification of Walls’ work isn’t usually immediate. “It’s a good thing in the long run,” she clarified.
So she goes home to her 1784 Middlebury house, puts down her pen and briefcase and trades her suit jacket for the apron. Then she grabs the 10-gallon pot and gets to work chopping, peeling, boiling, stirring and blending — Souper-Woman is cooking up some instant gratification. Sometimes she’s making soup for her soup company; other times she’s making prepared meals for another side business she started about 3 years ago — Flavors of Home. 
“One of the reasons I do this,” Walls said about cooking, “is to give myself something that makes people happy… and food makes people happy.”
Though Walls has no official culinary training, the New York City native has a long history working in restaurants. 
“People took chances on me,” Walls said of her time in professional kitchens. “I learned a lot.”
After that, it was her two sons (now 15 and 16 years old) who helped her develop her culinary training. Walls recalled how they used to cook food from a different country every week — just to keep it interesting — and they’d learn about different flavors and ingredients.
“Now,” Walls said of her two Middlebury Union High students, “they’re my test-tasters and biggest critics.”
When Walls decided to make a go of her soup business about a year and a half ago, she first approached the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-Op as a vendor. At the time they carried some pre-made  soups and made some in house; but none were as local as Walls’. She uses as many local products as possible, including vegetables from Gildrien, Elmer and Golden Russet Farms, and subsidizing with other products from Black River Produce. 
Short story: the Co-Op agreed to sell her soup. 
“I’m appreciative of the Co-Op for being an incubator and being patient as I learn how to grow my business,” said Walls. “I’ve been very surprised how well Vermont Soup Company has done… It was pleasantly unexpected.”
Walls creates all her own recipes and is always coming up with new flavors for the changing seasons. The latest variety is a roasted pumpkin soup — that hit the shelves last Friday. Oh, and BTW, 5 percent of Vermont Soup Company profits benefit HOPE in Middlebury.
Whether delivering prepared meals to people who need that little bit of extra help, making as big a batch of homemade soup for the Co-Op as her kitchen will allow, or selling soup at her Farmers’ Market booth, Wells thinks of it all as a “CSF” — that’s “Community Supported Food.”
“It’s about putting big smiles on people’s faces,” she said. “I really love it.”
This isn’t just talk; Walls is headed to Italy this month for a WWOOF program (it’s a volunteer opportunity to travel and work world-wide on organic farms); she’ll be helping on a farm near Sienna just in time for olive harvesting. 
 
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