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Faces behind the food: Catching up with Marjorie Druker, New England Soup Factory

NESF's logo and slogan, the philosophy behind the food..
NESF's logo and slogan, the philosophy behind the food..

“If you hear a timer go off, it’s time for me to turn off the lemon and orange cake I have in the oven. I stopped by the market, and they had Mey-er le-mons, so I just had to buy some!” That’s how Marjorie Druker, chef and co-owner of New England Soup Factory, answered the phone on my follow-up call – I am not making this up!!

Like most successful entrepreneurs, her passion doesn’t stop when she leaves her place of business. Even though she cooks all day in one of her two restaurants, Marjorie can’t resist cooking when she gets home, especially if she discovers a great ingredient. And Meyer lemons are one of her favorite, as you can tell by the way she lovingly dwells on the pronunciation.

She’s taken her talent – taking what people like to eat and turning it into soup – and turned it into a profitable business, known for its inventive menu and quality ingredients, often locally sourced. “I love to take ideas, deconstruct the dish, and make a soup out of it.” She describes a road trip she took to Florida when she was young. Her family stopped at a restaurant, and she had the shrimp newburg, “a delicious creamy tomato dish over white rice.” The memory remained with her and later inspired her lobster newburg soup.

Marjorie, who graduated from Johnson & Wales, also develops the recipes for the sandwiches, salads, and desserts, drawing inspiration from a wide range of sources, including her customers, reading cookbooks and food magazines, and watching cooking shows on television. Her talents have been widely recognized by the media, including Newsweek and Boston Magazine, and she has often appeared on television, including Food Network.

Marjorie opened her first restaurant, in Brookline, in 1995 with husband Paul Brophy, and opened the Newton location three years later. She published her first cookbook in 2007 and is currently shopping her second manuscript. The first cookbook contains 100 recipes and 50 striking photographs as well as vignettes and anecdotes about Marjorie’s creative process. What will the second book contain?

“Some of the soups I couldn’t include in the first – we couldn’t include everything! – and baked dishes, like mac n’ cheese with crushed Cheez-its,” said Marjorie. It will also incorporate sauces (think turkey gravy and Bolognese), because these are closely linked to soup and easy meal-makers. “I’ve been in business development for more than 15 years, so I’ve developed recipes to get dinner on the table quickly at night. For example, I cook up a three-gallon batch of veal Bolognese and freeze it in quarts. You can have a different pasta every night with this approach!”

The new book will also include more chowders, “because we’re in New England,” as well as desserts, which are always made from scratch. And a chapter on chicken salads, “at least eight to 10 recipes, because they are perfect for every occasion.”

Another project includes shopping for a third outlet. I lobbied hard for an outlet near Somerville, dear readers, but Marjorie wants to remain close to her first two shops.


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