COTTLEVILLE, Mo. — Stone Soup Cottage, known for their award-winning 7-course tasting menus for the last 13 years, is ready for a shift that will impact not only St Charles County but the entire region.
Stone Soup opened in 2009 when Carl and Nancy McConnell leased a 900-square-foot home built in the 1800s. That location is now home to an ice cream shop. Several years later, they decided to move a mile down the road when an opportunity presented itself to own 6 acres and collaborate with the Wiese Farms family. This was fitting as they were then able to be on the property where their produce was grown.
Stone Soup grew so popular that you had to call at least 3 months in advance to secure a table for the experience unlike any being offered at the time.
The Cottage received many accolades over the years including several best restaurant nods: best new restaurant, a 2010 top 5 Regional Restaurants in the U.S. award and even a James Beard Award nomination for best service in 2016. These awards came for the restaurant that only had one seating over three nights, originally serving up to 20 guests and eventually a seating for just over 40.
Their roots have always been in hospitality, tourism and providing an elegant experience. The pandemic forced a shift as they closed their doors on March 19, 2020 and transitioned to bringing the experience to your home with their Cottage to Carriage program. They were able to reopen their doors in the fall of 2021 after making an announcement it would be their final 9 months. That came with a bevy of emotions; many sad they would end the tasting menu dinners but intrigued as to what the next steps would be.
The McConnells found themselves humbled by a 10,000-person waiting list from people all over the world wanting to get in before they served their last European fare in June 2022.
They wanted to open in Cottleville in 2009 because that is where they are from, to invest in its growth and also to give back. The latter is a major focus now. Their new vision could affect the economy, Missouri farming, education and more.
Carl and Nancy McConnell sat down with our Monica Adams in a 5 On Your Side exclusive.
"This is my happy place, this is where I come to take it all in and take in a deep breath of gratitude," Nancy McConnell said. Stone Soup left a lasting legacy in the tastebuds of thousands and many salivating over their next steps.
"I will always have a love for the culinary arts, it's in my blood, but there are other things we'd like to do like overnight experiences, hotel and hospitality and then farming," Carl McConnell said.
The experience was straight out of a fairytale and fitting as that's where the name originated. "I remember the tale from seeing it on Captain Kangaroo and it's about community and about everyone contributing to the soup pot and making one beautiful thing out of nothing," Nancy said.
A new concept has blossomed. "It's going to be Le Champ De Fleur which means Field of Flowers and it's about coming out of the pandemic in to a renaissance," the McConnells added.
Their vision is to turn the restaurant in to a space for special occasions and growing agri-tourism by teaching about local farming and the culinary arts. "We want this to be an education farming cortex where we're going to start with the elementary schools in the area all the way to the Ag students at the Universities in Missouri." Carl has been connected to the Ag program at Francis Howell School District for a decade and now with St. Charles Community College.
When asked if Carl was trading in his chef's jacket for overalls, he laughed and said, "Well maybe not overalls, but definitely hopping on my John Deere." He impressed himself with the flowers already in bloom, applauding the growth of his Cosmos and Sunflowers and Lavender and Freesia. "I'm impressed I got them to grow."
Carl and Nancy have long been known for their passion and attention to detail. That will transcend to their new vision and be utilized through mentoring and education. The new agriculture programs will allow for the produce to be distributed to area food banks and shelters.
This transition starts immediately with the farmhouse where the Cottage restaurant has existed since 2013. It will now be the site for special events like weddings, rehearsals, corporate events and holiday get togethers. They will be offering a three-tiered system with one tier allowing for those in the industry to be mentored like chefs, caterers and the like. A second tier allows for the farmhouse to be rented with a caterer and chef to be brought in and showcased and a VIP top tier where Carl will still cook for you and Nancy will serve as your sommelier.
"There are a lot of brides out there that were not able to find a venue to get married or rehearsal dinners or corporate dinners. Those holiday parties are coming up so right now Phase 1 is happening," said Nancy. Phase 2 will be renovations, "This beautiful barn is going to be taken down and we're going to be repurposing that and moving it up here and that's going to be a mercantile." This will be their first retail where they will showcase Carl's sorbets, ice creams and produce.
A home adjacent to the cottage has been the residence of the Wiese Family matriarch. It overlooks a beautiful lake and now a field of sunflowers. That house is going to be renovated to be a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a wraparound porch and a view of the glistening water where brides can stay in their suite and look out "With a glass of Rosé and maybe something special made by Chef Carl," Nancy said. It will also serve as an Airbnb for the whole family and a future home for yoga and meditation.
"We really want to focus more on travel and tourism being a destination for people to come to that's accessible and close, that's important for us," added Carl.
Nancy said, "To be able to create a 33-acre serene, quiet farm with overnight stays with health and wellness and culinary cortex we feel like this is going to be huge for St Charles County and all over."
The expansion and reconstruction is bringing job opportunities to the area from construction to agriculture to retail to a true farmer's market. They want to eventually offer not only overnight stays but events in the fields like painting, showcasing local musicians and teaching that success comes but just as they told their sons "it's important to give back to the community that came out to support us all these years".
To find out more on their future plans, job opportunities and to book your events, visit Stone Soup Cottage's website.