For Elizabeth “Lizzie” Meyer and her son Dillon, soup is much more than a comforting meal — it’s an opportunity to make a difference. When the two opened the doors to their vegan restaurant Soup Goddess in the Burbank Media District last fall, they did so with two goals in mind: to provide the community with healthy, affordable plant-based food and to feed the world. While the latter is a lofty undertaking, the Meyers are determined. “Ending world hunger starts right here,” Lizzie says.
Soup Goddess has become a neighborhood favorite since its debut, and it’s not just because of the Meyers’ do-good attitude. Their soups have been met with rave reviews, with many diners calling them the best they’ve ever had. That’s because each batch is lovingly prepared by Lizzie, who stirs up cheekily named concoctions, such as “Skinny Butt Squash” and “Twisted Tortilla,” that are equal parts healthy and flavorful.
Surprisingly, Soup Goddess was born out of failure. Before bountiful broths came into the picture, the Meyers were franchisees of I Love Juice Bar, which did well until the market for juice became oversaturated.
“We realized L.A. didn’t need another juice bar,” Lizzie says. “We couldn’t sustain on juice alone; we needed to reinvent our business plan.”
This failure emboldened the mother–son team to launch a line of vegan soups that Lizzie had been offering at the juice bar as part of a special menu. She prepared batches to sell at local farmers markets, where they quickly gained popularity. Before she knew it, the batches became larger and she was selling her soup at nine farmers markets. She had to enlist her two other sons, Cole and Peyton, and hire ambassadors to help keep up with demand.
This success encouraged the Meyers to transform the juice bar into a soup bar that would also offer vegan paninis, burritos and more. “It turns out that providing a healthy fast food option with a plant-based menu was in popular demand, and that I wanted to create vegan soups that tasted fantastic,” Lizzie says. She had found her calling, and the Meyers were able to start their mission to help others.
A Soup Goddess Is Born
Lizzie didn’t always eat or cook this way. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, she remembers shadowing her mother and grandmother in the kitchen and learning to make meat and dairy-centric dishes that were anything but vegan. It wasn’t until health problems in her family arose in her adult years that she was compelled to make the switch.
Lizzie had lost her brother to cancer at the age of 25. He was treated at a clinic in Germany that used plant extracts to fight cancerous tumors, which helped him go into remission for two years before ultimately succumbing to his disease. “He was my inspiration to feed my three children healthily,” she says. “When he passed, I started creating recipes that incorporated a lot of plant-based ingredients.”
Dillon also struggled with health issues, having been born with “faulty wiring” in his heart. His issues came to a head last year during a racing-heart episode where he flatlined in the emergency room for “the longest 12 seconds of my life,” Lizzie recalls. He has since undergone a life-saving procedure that has kept him healthy.
She channels these life-altering experiences and her Midwestern upbringing into her cooking, and the result is healthy fare that doesn’t skimp on flavor.
When it comes to developing recipes, Lizzie uses her discriminating palate along with dashes of imagination and creativity. She experiments with herbs and spices from around the world to create a “blast of flavor” in every bowl, like in her most popular soup, “Mushroom Heaven,” which features a savory broth composed of her own plant-based nut milk, ginger and spices. She also veganizes comfort favorites; her “‘Jack’ Noodle Soup” has gluten-free hearts of palm noodles and jackfruit “unchicken.”
Lizzie’s ability to craft hearty and nutrient-rich soups is why Dillon nicknamed her “the soup goddess” and how the business got its name.
Feeding the World
The family’s health issues made the Meyers realize something important: You only have one shot on this earth to make a difference. They were determined to do just that with Soup Goddess, embarking on an ambitious mission to end world hunger.
They began this endeavor in their own backyard, feeding the less fortunate around the neighborhood and Los Angeles. Soup Goddess regularly donates to the Midnight Mission downtown, which serves 3,000 meals per week to the area’s homeless, and to the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Burbank. In December, the Soup Goddess team serves soup during Westminster Presbyterian’s Christmas dinner, which buses in 350 homeless individuals for a warm meal.
To help fund this initiative, the Meyers devised a “bowl for a bowl” campaign where, for every bowl of soup purchased, a bowl of soup would be distributed to someone in need. Customers would not only be feeding themselves, but also helping to feed others.
“Many people need help and deserve a chance to eat healthy, and soups are a warm, healthy option and fairly affordable to provide,” Lizzie says. “We know we could be more profitable without this mission, but we felt a responsibility to do our part. Together, with our customers, we are able to provide to places like the Midnight Mission and make a real difference.”
A Supportive Base
A big reason why Soup Goddess is thriving is the support it receives from the community. Lizzie says that has made it possible for her soups to now be carried in three local supermarkets and for the company to hire a co-packer, secure investors and, most recently, purchase the “Feed the World” food truck, which will be unveiled in December and be used for catering and making donations to even more low-income communities.
“The community has encouraged us and embraced our upward climb, and as a result, we’ve had nothing but awesome people surround us in this venture,” she says. “Their support makes us want to take on what seems to be a very tough job: making a difference!”
See “Winter Is Coming” to get a Soup Goddess recipe created especially for Toluca Lake Magazine!