Burchiel said roughly 90 percent of her regular customers bring their own jars, but she also provides jars for sale.

Burchiel said roughly 90 percent of her regular customers bring their own jars, but she also provides jars for sale.

Stephanie Burchiel isn’t into measuring cups.

Measuring is for perfection. Precision. And that, she feels, inhibits creativity.

“I work well with messy chaos,” she wrote in her 2012 recipe book.

That messy chaos — and the freedom to experiment — has become a key ingredient of her popular farmers’ market soups.

“We run out of soup at most of the markets,” Burchiel said during a recent farmers’ market in Morro Bay.

Growing up, Burchiel was a vegetarian on a Los Osos beef ranch. After her parents purchased Birch Hill Organics in Atascadero, according to this story, she became a regular at farmers’ markets in Cambria, where she was known as “Kiwi Girl.”

Burchiel, with her recipe book

Burchiel, with her recipe book

She eventually studied psychology at Cal Poly, but a week before graduation, she purchased the Shine Cafe in Morro Bay. When that became successful, she sold the cafe and eventually began making soup.  Central Coast Farmers’ Market Soups is now a favorite at farmers’ markets, where most customers are regulars who — in an environmentally-friendly, old timey gesture — bring their own Mason jars for Burchiel to fill. (Burchiel also sells 32-ounce jars for $1.50.)

Burchiel has recipes for close to 30 different soups — vegan only — using produce from local farmers.  The soups she brings to farmers’ markets depends on what crops are in season. (This time of year is good for springtime minestrone, cream of asparagus and golden beet carrot soups.)

While all of her soups sell well, she said split pea soup is especially popular.

“We call it ‘Cambria cat nip,'” she said. “It’s super popular up there.”

Feeding off the popularity of her soups, in 2012, she teamed up with photographer Sam Peck to produce a gorgeous cookbook, “Central Coast Farmers Market Soups,” a collection of 28 soup recipes, paired with color photos of local farmers’ markets, people and places. Her book begins: “Once, on the same day, I spotted a large herd of elk in the mountains of Big Sur and watched a great white take an elephant seal about 50 yards offshore.”

Now that’s an attention grabber!

The book also includes helpful soup-making tips. (One example: If you used too much salt, toss in a few “sponges,” such as chopped raw zucchini, white rice or dried potato flakes.)

While soup is often considered a cold weather food, Burchiel said her business doesn’t decline, even during the warm summer months.

And why should it? That’s the best time for her Moroccan lentil.


Find Burchiel’s soups at the Morro Bay farmers’ market (in the Spencer’s parking lot), Thursdays, from 2:30-5 p.m.