At this year’s Super Bowl parties, one of the hottest food items is going to be a “souper bowl.”

“What’s really hot this year is multiple soups, with people bringing different soups, one person brings a lobster bisque, another brings a chicken noodle, and so on, and the host provides the bowls and the extras,” said Chef Bradley Scott, Director of the Culinary Arts and Hospitality program at Scott Community College. “That’s one of the most popular trends I’m seeing this year.”

chef bradley scott (2)At any Super Bowl party, regardless of which team on TV hoists the championship trophy, the real winners are the hungry patrons of the bash. Super Bowl shindigs have long had a reputation as epic gastronomic events, with the big screens providing a feast for the eyes as the lavish spreads of food provide a hearty repast for the stomach.

But if you’re hosting a Super Bowl party, how do you prep for that side of the big game? What kind of culinary plays do you run to keep your guests doing a touchdown dance?

Local chefs and cooks at area restaurants are always expert coaches on the subject, so we surveyed an all-star roster of culinary greats from around the Quad-Cities on their top strategies for a winning Super Bowl party menu.

In addition to the soup party, Scott suggests going the traditional route, with a couple of cool, new twists.

“First of all, wings have always been a staple, but now, chicken legs are actually half the price and give you twice the meat, so I’m going to be serving up legs prepared the same way as I would wings,” Chef Scott said. “Also, what’s really trendy right now is hummus, regular and with different flavors, and of course with that you’ll want a lot of chips and vegetables. I also always do a big pot of Applewood smoked chili, lots of finger foods and of course you have to have desserts. I’ll have a black velvet cake and little mini cheesecakes.”

Chef Scott also suggested having a pizza bar which provides the basics of crust, sauce and cheese, where people can make their own pizzas and pop them in the oven or on the grill.

“The pizza bar trend started to really get big last year and it’s just gotten more and more popular, people love it,” Scott said. “You provide some pre-made crusts, a bowl of white sauce, marinara and some barbeque sauce and the toppings and people get to do it themselves, they love it. The barbeque sauce is especially becoming really popular. A lot of people are using that in place of the traditional red sauce, and putting chicken and peppers and other toppings with it.”

There’s one other item Scott recommends serving up as a staple.

“And, of course, lots of beer,” Chef Scott added.

Chef Jason Stewart of the hot Caribbean spot Zeke’s, 1509 N. Harrison St., is cooking up an island spin on a party staple.

“You can’t have a football party without wings, but we’re doing them in a pacific island style, with a Caribbean spice rub and sweet chili sauce to give it some sweet heat,” Stewart said. “And of course we’re going to have some other favorites like dirty island shrimp and loaded potato nachos with bacon and sour cream, but we’ll be taking it in a different direction with an island theme.”

While his namesake restaurant, Me & Billy, 200 W. 3rd St., Davenport, won’t be open on Super Bowl Sunday, owner Billy Collins will be holding a party at his house and offered a peek at his game plan.

“My biggest thing is to start preparing early and to shop a few days ahead of time to get the best quality stuff,” Collins said. “You don’t want to be cooking and working during the party, you just want to enjoy yourself, so it’s best to do as much preparation beforehand as possible.”

As for his menu? “You want to go with foods that are simple and easy to enjoy, like Swedish meatballs, chips and dips, and while everyone does chicken wings, I like to do chicken thighs because they’re really versatile and they’ve got a great flavor,” Collins said. “I also like to do shrimp tacos, which are really simple, quick and satisfying, and baked sandwiches. You can bake up some sandwiches and let people garnish them with tomatoes, lettuce, onions, mayo, a little horseradish and of course, a local favorite, your Boetje’s mustard.”

crepe guyIn perhaps the most surprising yet still delicious piece of advice given, Chad Cushman, a.k.a. The Crepe Guy, suggested, no, not crepes, but pork mole tacos, with a unique twist.

“I’m making braised pork tacos with Nutella mole,” Cushman said about the main item on his party menu. “I’m going to serve them up with some corn tortillas, sour cream and some pickled red onions and let people kind of make their own tacos. People like to create their own things. And of course I’ll also have a lot of appetizers and chips and dips, like a roasted shallot and bacon dip.

“It all comes down to simplicity though,” Cushman said. “You don’t want to have to do a ton of prep, and you want to be able to enjoy the party with your guests.”

The other chefs were united in that opinion as well.

“It’s a special day, and you want to kick back and have fun,” Chef Scott said. “Ultimately, that’s the most important thing on the menu.”

Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written almost 30 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.