Prep all of the vegetables before cooking. Chop the leeks and swish them in a large bowl of cold water so to remove any sand. Wring them dry in paper towels and set aside. Peel and cube the potatoes and place in a large bowl of cold water till needed.
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven pot over medium heat. Sauté the celery, leeks and onions with a pinch of salt until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and heat for 1 more minute then remove the pot from the heat.
Stir the potatoes, chicken broth and bay leaf into the pot; cook over med-hi heat until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Pour half-and-half into the pot, lower the heat to med-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes more. Never allow the soup to come to a boil.
Remove the pot from the heat, remove the bay leaf and stir the Cheddar cheese, salt, and black pepper into soup until cheese is melted.
Serve immediately in individual sized shepherd bread loaves that have been made into bowls. Serve crisp cooked bacon bits, fresh snipped chives and homemade Garlic-Parmesan croutons as options for each diner to top their soup with.