Landrum’s Stone Soup began as a Dean & Deluca type of shop with specialty food products for entertaining at home. (Think good cheeses, patés, salamis and other prepared foods.) But after expanding to include sandwiches, salads, soups and baked goods, customers demanded a full-service restaurant. Today, the thriving café offers some of the area’s finest cuisine using local, fresh ingredients (even local wines!) The restaurant, famous for its Sunday brunch, also offers “Paws on the Patio” every Thursday, where diners and their pooches can stop by for an outdoor meal with proceeds benefitting the Foothills Humane Society. We spoke with owner Suzanne Strickland for this issue’s Last Bite.
What’s the first thing you cooked that made you want to be a chef?
I remember one dish that DID N’T make me want to be a chef! I was helping my mother cook for a fancy dinner party and the recipe called for peeling the grapes for the stuffing for Cornish hens. I swore I’d never do it again and have lived up to that promise! I do remember the joy and delight that people experienced when they ate my food and that’s what made me want to be a chef; cooking is a nourishing act on so many levels.
What’s the best kitchen trick your mother taught you?
Learning to roll up basil to chiffonade was so much easier than trying to just cut the leaves. Also, learning the proper way to cut an onion made life a whole lot easier! Learning good basics of cooking really helped me.
I understand Stone Soup has a new chef. Were you the original chef?
I was the original chef for the first five years. While I enjoyed being the chef, cooking for 100 people a night was exhausting! I’m still active in the kitchen and work with my chef on new menus as well as catering jobs. Chef Justin Human has been with me a little over six months and has tons of energy and passion. He’s originally from this area, but got his culinary training in Charleston at 39 Rue du Jean where he learned the basics of French cooking and also how to make sushi. He’s brought both those skills to my restaurant.
What’s the most impossible, nuttiest, most creative food idea you’ve had lately?
Duck confit on top of wild rice waffles with local honey, crushed pink peppercorns, lime zest and juice, and a poached egg on top. Maybe you’ll see it on our brunch menu!
What’s the one problem in your kitchen you wish you could solve?
Finding people that are as passionate about food and doing a good job as I am. As Dr. Phil says, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Paying attention to quality at every level is important.
What’s the one ingredient or tool in your kitchen you could never live without, and why?
SALT ! It makes everything better!
If you could share your kitchen with two other cooks, living or dead, who would they be, and why?
Julia Child and Thomas Keller, two of the best and most inspirational chefs. Julia was such an amazing woman and chef —love her story and what a character! Thomas Keller I admire so much; he’s self-taught and has a passion for excellence.
If you could be anything else in this life other than a chef/restaurant owner, what would you be, and why?
I’ve been working since I was 11 and have the social security to show for it! It was only after a full career that I went to culinary school and started the restaurant. So what would I do now instead? I’m interested in public relations and focusing on how we can promote tourism in our area. Perhaps that’ll be my next career: giving back to the community I love so much. And, I’d like to travel a little more, ride my horse competitively again, and just have fun!
Could you tell me about the story behind the restaurant’s name, Stone Soup, and what led you to pick this name?
Stone Soup is a medieval children’s fairy tale — there was a famine and people were hoarding food. After knocking on doors and coming up empty, an old lady had an idea: she put a cauldron atop a fire in the town square and waited. Eventually people were curious. She said she was making stone soup, and everyone could have some if they contributed to the pot. Everyone gave what they had: a carrot, cabbage, garlic, onion, a piece of meat, etc. The moral of the story? If you come together as a community, everyone benefits. That philosophy is at the core of my being. There’s enough abundance for everyone.
1522 East Rutherford Street, Landrum
Wednesday-Saturday 11:30am–2:30pm, 5pm-9pm
Sunday 11am–3pm, 5pm–8pm