Patrick Bostwick used to give out free soup to the homeless. Now, he's worried about paying his own rent after the Health Department sent an inspector to shut him down Tuesday.
Bostwick had been operating Soup to Nuts since February on the corner of Valencia and 21st streets, trading bowls of his homemade soup to passersby for a $5 donation, and feeding local homeless people for free.
But Tuesday night's organic potato-leek soup was his last. "Soup to Nuts will not be coming back to 21st and Valencia," he said. "It cannot come back. Now if someone calls the police, the health department can say I've been warned."
In fact, Bostwick, who gave up a six-figure corporate headhunter job in San Diego to go to culinary school, believes somebody called the law on him already. He says people warned him that a nearby business owner would do so.
That suspicion brings an unhappy ending to what has been a good relationship between Bostwick and the neighborhood. While we chatted Tuesday, he received constant unsolicited friendly waves and greetings from neighbors who walked by and had no idea that it was his last night on the corner. "The soup is delicious," one woman said; SFoodie agrees. But deliciousness isn't the issue.
"I'm really bummed that my neighbors would do this to me -- well, one neighbor," said Bostwick, who was wearing a "Let Timmy Smoke" T-shirt instead of his usual chef's whites. "You don't do that to your neighbors."
Of course, the health department's action was hardly surprising in a year in which it shut down the Underground Market. Bostwick had no licenses and prepared his food at home, not in a commercial kitchen.
And the law also went easy on him. While Bostwick said he received "a document with notes on it and suggestions," he was not cited or fined, nor was any of his equipment confiscated, as sometimes happens to unlicensed street vendors on nearby Mission Street.
We suggested that Bostwick read Jonathan Kauffman's series, "Going Legit," on how he could make Soup to Nuts legal. Bostwick said he found the costs and legal hurdles difficult, and also needed to generate income during the months it might take to pass them all.
Bostwick is unsure of his future. He says he is considering a return to the corporate world; the abrupt ending of Soup to Nuts gives him closure. With his training under Gordon Ramsay and the extra experience of running his own soup kitchen for six months, he could also pursue a restaurant career. But when we suggested he take a couple weeks off to think over his options, he said, "What do I do for rent for two weeks?"
His final soup was healthy and flavorful. "I wanted to end this on my own terms," he said. At least in the bowl, he did.