Keith Kelly (aka Teddy Bear) turns out over 1,000 servings of soup each week for the many bingo players at the Elks Lodge on Hawkins Street.
Although he was retired, Kelly couldn’t pass up the opportunity of running the lodge’s kitchen.
“I got bored sitting around doing nothing and thought it would be something fun to do,” he says.
Bingo night is a weekly event at the lodge, and Kelly has been keeping the crowd happy with his food for the past four years. In addition to homemade soup, he also makes sandwiches and burgers, and prepares cheese plates. But it’s his soups that have everyone talking.
“Each soup I make is from scratch and can take anywhere from two to four hours to make,” he says.
“I try to be creative and like to take chances with my soup creations. Sometimes they go over well, and sometimes not.”
Some of the crowd favorites include hamburger soup, cream of cauliflower and minestrone.
“I once tried a Philly pepper pot soup, but they didn’t seem to like that one as much,” he laughs.
Most of the soup recipes he uses are his own creation.
“Making good home style food is what I am all about. I don’t care too much for doing the fancy stuff. I just want to keep things good and simple.”
Kelly has gained kitchen experience from all across Canada. Having worked in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and different parts of the Yukon, the dedicated chef has learned many tricks of the trade.
“At one point they used to refer to me as the trouble-shooter. I would go into a struggling kitchen for a few months and help them come up with better food,” he says.
“I like the idea of working in different places, but now that I am retired, I think I’ll be sticking around in Whitehorse for a while.”
A side from soups and snack-type items, Kelly also makes hot dinner meals for the lodge.
“Last month when the native hockey tournament was taking place, I was making dozens of 6-oz cheeseburgers,” he says.
Food value is important to Kelly, who is a proponent of keeping prices as low as possible.
“Eating out is expensive, so I try my best to keep things affordable. Sometimes it can be a challenge with food and fuel prices rising, but I try my best.”
With the summer season approaching, the “retired” chef will be working seven days a week.
“It gets a bit tough at times, but I have a staff of seven who help me out,” he says.
Some of his staff members are teens who are looking to gain experience in the food industry.
“I’d like to think that working with me helps these kids to become more self sufficient in the industry.”
Kelly takes take his staff seriously, and refuses to pay minimum wage.
“Minimum wage just isn’t right,” he says. “You gotta give them something a bit more than that, I think.”
Food for thought, to be sure.