Female entrepreneur builds local soup brand into a cafe in Kensington

photo by Ryan Scott

photo by Ryan Scott

Lovin' Spoonful

by Emily Teel

At any successful party, guests might remark over their plates, “This is really good. You should sell this!” While many hosts smile and wave off the idea, Kate Hartman followed through. She started her company, Good Spoon Seasonal Foods, cooking grass-fed beef chili that she served friends while watching football games. Now, she makes countless soups from all local, seasonal ingredients.

A Philadelphia native, Hartman waited tables and tended bar, but after college she landed a corporate marketing job in New York City, promoting luxury brands of cosmetics. Eight years in, she felt uninspired by her work, so when her then boyfriend (now husband) began medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, she jumped at the chance to come home and get back into the food world. 

“I was thinking, ‘What do I love to make? What do I love to eat?’ When I worked in an office, I ate soup every day,” Hartman recalls, “[but] it was actually quite difficult to find a good prepared soup that was made from scratch and not from a soup base…[with] preservatives, artificial flavorings, and… sodium.” Fueled by this knowledge, Hartman envisioned Good Spoon to offer prepared soup—a convenience food—that was just as natural and nourishing as something homemade. 

At the time, Hartman was managing one of Farm to City’s farmers markets, and it was Bob Pierson, the organization’s founder, who gave her a push into Philly’s local food world. In the winter of 2010, she started making soup at night in commercial kitchen space borrowed from her father-in-law, Moshe, who has an established local specialty food company, Moshe’s Foods. Through Winter Harvest, Farm to City’s buying club, and then to the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market, she began selling frozen quarts of soup. When she began selling at local farmers markets, Good Spoon really took off. Market shoppers developed favorites and a lineup of six weekly offerings grew. Now, Good Spoon arrives at markets with a dozen different soups each week.

The menu is diverse, offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, all flooded with seasonal flavors from locally sourced ingredients. Summer means cool cucumber and yogurt soup with dill; peach gazpacho; and sweet corn and poblano bisque. Fall ushers in butternut squash with apple and ginger, as well as truffled cauliflower. Winter brings white bean with kale, and a wildly popular Senegalese peanut stew with chicken and coconut. 

Though it started as a nomadic enterprise, Good Spoon planted roots in 2014 when Hartman opened the Good Spoon Soupery, a small café and production space in Kensington. Now, instead of only selling frozen soups, she can ladle up warm bowls topped with interesting garnishes. She also offers sandwiches, salads and baked goods. What’s more, opening the café gave Good Spoon a chance to see its customers every day, not just during the farmers markets. “It feels incredible,” Hartman says. “Even though it’s just a little shop, it’s become hugely important…it makes me and my team feel a real sense of pride to be able to share the Good Spoon experience with a whole new group of people and make them happy with our food. [It] is totally rewarding.”