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Soup's On

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You certainly know Soup Sunday, the popular annual fund-raiser for Youth Villages, which returns to FedExForum this weekend. What you may not know is that this event, now in its 21st year, is staffed entirely by volunteers — 300 of them.

There are a few things those volunteers need to know before Soup Sundaying, which they learn during a training session held by Youth Villages. They are taught how to greet people and be polite. They're instructed on how to push carts and how to handle the food safely. The volunteers also are given tips on how to avoid burning themselves with hot soup. "It's everything to keep the gravy train moving," says Aaron Keegan, development manager of Youth Villages.

And movement is the key at this event, which drew 2,000 last year.

Among the 40 restaurants that have signed on for this year's Soup Sunday are Paulette's (cheddar cheese soup), John Daly's Restaurant & Bar (shrimp bisque), Just for Lunch (tomato dill), Royal Panda (hot & sour), Dixie Café (chicken noodle), and Celtic Crossing (beef stew).

This year there also are she-crab soups from Folk's Folly and Bayou Bar & Grill, potato soups from Houston's, Rafferty's and Food with Class, and tortilla soups from Houston's, US Food, and Huey's. Keegan says they don't sweat it when there are repeats and three-peats of soup offerings because each dish will be unique. But, when it came to having eight gumbos (B.B. King's/Itta Bena, Qdoba, Grove Grill, Red Lobster, Ruth's Chris, Flying Fish, Tug's, Silky's), action was called for. The solution? A new category created for gumbo for the People's Choice Awards, which also includes "Best Soup," "Best Dessert," "Best Bread," and "Best Specialty Item."

When asked to name his favorite, Keegan demurs. "I don't know if I can do that," he says. "I'm looking forward to sampling them all."

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