Empty Bowls event a tasty way to benefit Durham's homeless

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DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Hunger and homelessness are serious issues in the city of Durham. On Thursday, hundreds will gather to do something about it.

Local chefs and potters will show off their skills at the 2020 Empty Bowls event benefiting the Urban Ministries of Durham. It's a big cooking competition to find the Best Soup in Durham.

Chef Alex Stewart of Durham's Mez Restaurant is making culinary magic. He's whipping up 20 gallons of corn soup, which is a staple on the menu at Mez.

"The process is a little involved because of the cooking, the straining, the blending. All that stuff. It takes time to do," Stewart said.

The clock is ticking as this year's Empty Bowls event begins at the Durham Convention Center with 14 local restaurants vying for Best Soup in Durham. The Mez corn soup was last year's big winner, so it's back for an encore.

"We had such a great time doing it and just the response from everyone. Folks going back two, or three or four times and just raving about us. Honestly, I felt like a rock star," Mez General Manager Jamie LaForce said.

Empty Bowls is a huge fundraiser for the Urban Ministries of Durham which provides food and shelter for the homeless. Joe Daly is the Director of Development there.

"We are the public shelter for single adults in Durham. We're also the backup shelter for families and this year we expect to serve 750 individuals in our shelter," Daly said.

The shelter's ultimate goal is finding a path to success in the form of income and permanent housing. They also provide clothing and a café that feeds the hungry three meals a day.

"I think it's much more important in bringing together, really bringing together the community. It's an amazing cross section of individuals and companies who really make it all happen. We have wonderful restaurants. We have these amazing artists who make beautiful bowls," Daly said.

Guests get to take home a handmade bowl with the purchase of a $50 ticket. While some events struggle to survive, Daly says Empty Bowls just keeps getting bigger.

Organizers are expecting 1,000 guests this year, and LaForce can't wait to serve them. He's hoping for win No. 2.

"I do think it's important that business give back to the community and this is a small way to do it," LaForce said.

There are still tickets available for Empty Bowls 2020. It's Thursday at the Durham Convention Center and starts at 6 p.m. The tickets start at $25.
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