Scott Patrick Bell is immersed in the Grand Rapids theater community. He is on the teaching staff at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre Art School and has been involved in countless theater productions throughout his career.
Bell’s creativity in the kitchen stems from some healthy competition with his brother. “My brother and I have this kind of mad scientist vibe … taking joy in creating something complex and basking in your own glory,” he said. “The image comes to mind of finishing a recipe and standing over it with the pride of a Dr. Frankenstein, ‘Mua ha ha ha!’”
Bell and his brother both learned to cook out of necessity. “Both of my parents worked when my brother and I were kids. If you were hungry, you needed some rudimentary skills in the kitchen.”
Later, Bell began playing music at local fine-dining establishments like Pearl Street Bar, Sayfee’s, Point West, San Chez, Bistro Bella Vita, The Sierra Room, Opus and Bar Divani.
“I loved the creativity and skill that chefs like Chris Perkey, George Sanchez, Eric VanKley and many more were bringing to the table. I started going to James Beard and Michelin Star restaurants, and thought ‘Oh yeah, this is good! How did they do that?’”
He also has a love for diverse cultures and many of the meals he makes stem from wanting to experience these cultures through their foods. “I love celebrating diverse cultures through the story of their Indigenous dishes. As a musician, I often have a playlist going. If I am rolling pasta … Italian restaurant music, croquetas … Celia Cruz, Knoblauchcremesuppe … Octoberfest,” he explained. “I consider one of the highest honors to be invited into a friend’s home and share their culture, stories and heritage over the dinner table.
“I first had this soup at Cedar Springs Brewing Company and enjoyed it so much I had to make it at home. This soup is perfect for the shorter days of autumn, when leaves are falling, and the air becomes crisp. While we made this dinner to celebrate Oktoberfest, the Polish have a version called zupa czosnkowa, which includes sour cream and bacon … not a bad way to celebrate Pulaski Days.”
Bell suggests adding a good crusty bread to this dish “for sopping up every last drop of this delicious garlic celebration.”
Yield: 4 servings
1 medium potato, thinly sliced
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil (I use light)
4 tablespoons butter
17 ounces beef broth
8 ounces heavy cream
1 teaspoon chives
Salt and pepper to taste
Vermouth to taste
Thick cut bread (I use half of leftover French bread)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste
Cut the bread into 3/4 inch equal cubes. You can use whatever you have left over. This is a great way to get rid of stale bread!
Melt butter. (I just zap this in the microwave.)
Add olive oil to butter and stir.
In a large bowl toss bread, butter and olive oil.
On parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, arrange cubed bread and sprinkle with seasonings. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until crisp and golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. (Keep an eye on these, we are looking for croutons … not baby briquettes)
Heat olive oil in a pot over low heat and place onion, potato and garlic cloves within. Sauté until onions are clear.
Pour in the broth and simmer for about 20 minutes at low heat.
Add cream and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Season with the salt and pepper. (Always be careful seasoning! Some store-bought stock/broth can be extremely salty. You can always add more salt as you go, but once you overdo it … well, your dish is going to be fit for a sea hag.)
Purée with an immersion blender/or the one on your counter, and strain through a sieve. (I never do this, it’s a mess and unnecessary. However, if you want the texture molecularly smooth, go for it!).
Again, put on the stove and add 3 tablespoons butter (diced), mix.
Add Vermouth to taste (use the same restraint as the salt. A little splash should do it. We are finishing the soup, not smuggling a brown paper bag of Boones Farm into the sweetheart swirl), sprinkle with the toasted croutons and chives.
Serve with a good crusty bread and your favorite crisp riesling, firm/dryish gewurztraminer or handcrafted, crisp Pilsner. You can pick up a growler from your favorite Grand Rapids brewer.