Rochester's Chez Bojji giving away soup, winter clothes through Christmas

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Dec. 7—"Free soup."

It's a warm sign as people stepped into a cold day in downtown Rochester.

The occasion?

"What's not the occasion?" said Chez Bojji chef and co-owner Younness Bojji. "You don't need an occasion to do something good."

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The restaurant doesn't have regular dining hours on Mondays. However, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday now through Christmas, Bojji will offer free tomato basil soup to anyone who needs or wants it.

"If you have money, if you don't have money, who cares, you're welcome to have soup," he said.

"It's tasty, warm and full of vitamins," said Amber Bojji, Chez Bojji co-owner.

Chez Bojji's location in the historic Avalon Building, 301 N. Broadway Ave., has high visibility in a walkable neighborhood near a homeless shelter and Salvation Army. That means more people who want or need it are taking him up on his offer, he said.

"That's what we want," he said, adding that more than 80 people accepted soup today. The count usually ranges from 60 to 180 people, he added.

Bojji also offers winter coats, hats and gloves to anyone who needs them.

The items are new and donated, he said.

"Nobody's taking any leftovers," he said.

He called the offerings a "tradition" he started at his previous restaurants including Casablanca in the Barlow Plaza. It was something he knew he would do if he ever achieved his dream of opening a restaurant.

"I've been hungry, I've been cold, I've eaten from garbage," he said.

Bojji said he isn't concerned about the cost and isn't taking credit for helping provide for those in need.

"The credit is to Rochester and the people have been supportive of me," he said. "I couldn't do this without them."

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