Chef Adds Special Ingredient To D.C. Soup Kitchen

Get the recipe for Miriam's Kitchen's strawberry shortcake breakfast biscuits.

Steve Badt quit his job at a trendy restaurant and to run a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C. i i

Steve Badt calls this menu typical of what he serves for breakfast at Miriam's Kitchen. Laura Krantz/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Laura Krantz/NPR
Steve Badt quit his job at a trendy restaurant and to run a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C.

Steve Badt calls this menu typical of what he serves for breakfast at Miriam's Kitchen.

Laura Krantz/NPR

Read more about what NPR's Daniel Zwerdling says makes Steve Badt of Miriam's Kitchen an unusual chef.

We live in an era when chefs have become TV personalities, corporate moguls and brand names. Emeril Lagasse, for example, recently sold his brand name and other parts of his food empire for $50 million.

Acclaimed chef Steve Badt has followed a different path. Badt used to cook in trendy restaurants in Washington and New York City, the kind of places that got great reviews in The New York Times and The Washington Post, NPR's Daniel Zwerdling tells host Liane Hansen.

"In fact, Badt dreamed that he would run his own restaurant someday," Zwerdling says.

Instead, he walked out of the restaurant world. He quit.

Badt's future wife had given him an ultimatum: the restaurant business or her. It was difficult to imagine having a family while working restaurant hours, so he tried to come up with a way to merge his culinary experience with his desire to help people. He decided his new mission was to run a soup kitchen. And in July 2001, he began doing just that.

He oversees the menu at Miriam's Kitchen in Washington, D.C., which is located in the basement of a church a mile away from the White House. Zwerdling joined Badt and a group of volunteers one recent morning as they were making a six-course breakfast for more than 200 homeless people.

On the menu were omlettes with sauteed mushrooms, ham, onions and cheese; stone-ground grits; homemade home fries; green salad; and strawberry shortcake. Badt called the breakfast typical and says he treats his guests as paying customers.

He says he realized one day that once you're on the street, it's hard to get back on your feet.

"So my energy comes from the fact that — wow, if I can start these guys off with a beautiful meal and a great meal and a nutritious meal, will that increase the odds that maybe they'll get housing, that maybe they'll get off drugs, that maybe they'll have a good day?" Badt says.

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake i i

Steve Bradt's strawberry shortcake. Laura Krantz/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Laura Krantz/NPR
Strawberry shortcake

Steve Bradt's strawberry shortcake.

Laura Krantz/NPR

Steve Badt and his volunteers often serve their homeless clients these biscuits at breakfast. The recipe is inspired by one in Gourmet magazine. On the day we visited, he turned them into strawberry shortcakes.

Makes 10 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup corn flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 3/4 cups heavy cream

Sliced strawberries

Powdered sugar to taste

Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Stir together flours, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl.

Build a well in the middle of the dry mix and add all the cream into it. Using a large spoon, stir ingredients together, working from the center. Note: You can use your hands (more fun), but you don't want to over-mix this batter. Just get it to the point where all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Another note: Do not knead the dough!

Scoop up the dough with an ice cream scoop (or roughly a 1/4 cup measure) and release each blob onto a cookie sheet. Place the balls at least an inch apart.

Bake in the oven until tops are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Because some ovens have hot and cold spots, rotate the trays halfway during the baking time to ensure the most even baking.

When the biscuits have cooled, cut them in half and pile the bottom half with sliced strawberries tossed with powdered sugar.

Cover with an indulgent dollop of whipped cream, and then place the other half of the biscuit on top.

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