I was in my early 20s and living in West Palm Beach, Fla. I had just been hired in my very first sous chef position for Omni Hotels. I was scared and excited all at the same time and had no idea that my position was going to create a chicken tortilla soup the one and only King of Rock and Roll’s daughter would inspire me to make.

West Palm Beach is on the east coast of Florida just 60 miles north of Miami. Being a third-generation Floridian, all from West Palm Beach, you could say my feet were firmly planted in the ground. Most of you have heard about West Palm Beach. It’s a small island where only the wealthy play in the winter and the island is practically deserted in the summer with the hurricane shutters put up for the just-in-case hurricane season.

Getting hired on as a sous chef anywhere in south Florida is a task in itself because tourism is big business and each hotel competes to be the best. The Omni was located directly across from the airport and we constantly had famous people staying within the hotel. From Coretta Scott King to Steven Spielberg to Lisa Marie Presley, these were just a few of the guests. It was here that I learned customer service. If it isn’t illegal, indecent or improper, no task was too large.

I received a call one day from Lisa Marie Presley. She was going to be having a small reception and requested a Mexican buffet extravaganza. The only request she made was chicken tortilla soup that had all of the spice but without any of the heat. I set of to create a soup that would be just right.

Using fresh chicken, lots of veggies and the perfect blend of spices, the soup was not only a success, but it became a staple in the hotel. Through the years I have made this recipe for many people and until now have kept this recipe a closely guarded secret. I always say a chef has to have some secrets.   

For the first time in print anywhere….

Chef Dave’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

“All of the flavor, none of the heat.”

Serves: 8

Serving size: 1 1/2 cup


1 stick butter

1 1/2 cups sliced carrots

1 1/2 cups sliced celery

3 cup julienned onion

4 cloves garlic peeled and chopped

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 small can diced tomatoes

1/2 small bag of frozen corn

2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/2 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoon onion powder

32 ounce chicken stock/broth

1 medium jar jalapeno (use the juice/brine only) use jalapenos on side for this wanting soup Spicer

Cheese for toppings

Sour cream for toppings

Tortilla chips for toppings

Lime slices for toppings

Fresh cilantro chopped for toppings


In a medium stock pot over medium high heat add butter.

Once butter is melted add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes.

Add flour and sauté for 3 minutes to allow flour to cook out.

Add spices, tomatoes including juice from tomatoes, corn, chicken stock, and jalapeno brine/juice.

Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove from Heat and serve.

Top with desired amounts of cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, cilantro, lime wedge, and jalapeno.

Cook smart ...

CHEF DAVE FOUTS is an Edmond resident and a nationally known speaker in the bariatric weight-loss industry. He also is the author of four cookbooks.

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