Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Soup Club.

Chef Brian Annapolen just started a group that is already blowing up.

As president of the Pittsburgh Soup Club, he’s handcrafting hearty bowls of happiness for pickup and delivery in and around the North and South Hills.

Online ordering starts this month and subscription plans will be available throughout the winter. People are already emailing Annapolen about adding their favorite soups to the menu.

In a commissary kitchen on the North Side, Annapolen, who is food and beverage director for the Omni William Penn Hotel, whips up large batches of soup. Selections include everything from chicken noodle, Italian wedding and butternut squash bisque to white chicken chili, roasted red pepper and minestrone.

Quarts, which feed two to three adults, are $12. For $45, you can get a gallon of tomato soup or loaded potato that will fill 15 hungry bellies.

“This is the soupiest town I’ve ever lived in,” Annapolen says with a laugh.

The New Jersey native grew up eating New England clam chowder by the seashore. That creamy staple of coastal cuisine is available through the Pittsburgh Soup Club, along with Manhattan clam chowder and Maryland crab soup.

When he was furloughed from his job in March, the Ross Township resident started making ready-to-eat meals for friends and neighbors who didn’t feel like cooking.

His dishes were so popular, he decided to turn it into a business. North Hills Catering launched last spring offering hot dinners, meal prep kits, private chef services and cooking lessons.

When the cold weather set in, Annapolen started serving Italian wedding soup, a time-honored recipe passed down to him from his late mentor.

“People went bananas over this soup,” he says.

Friends jokingly told him to start a Facebook soup club. Within a few hours of creating the page, more than 100 people had expressed interest.

He’s working to establish pickup sites around town and has hired friends — many of them laid-off service industry professionals — to help with deliveries four days a week.

Customers have been buying North Hills Catering meals for their elderly neighbors and frontline workers.

Annapolen, who started the business to support himself and his three children, enjoys the community aspect of the unexpected venture and hopes the Pittsburgh Soup Club will warm people’s hearts during a cold, dark time.

“I’m so excited about it,” he says. “I love to cook and I love to feed people.”

For more local soup ideas, read Sarah McAlee, brothmonger of the North Side, caters to soup lovers.

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.