by Linda Sechrist
Whipping up a recipe for dairy-free black bean fudge may not be at the top of a traditional chef’s “to do” list. However, for a flexitarian and food adventurer such as Sondra Weidman, chef and owner of The Cooking Club, it’s a good excuse to try out a new recipe and post a photo of the outcome on her website, TheCookingClubPa.com, or her Facebook Page, The-Cooking-Club.
For Weidman, who explains her flexitarian status as eating what her body is asking for, some days are full of vegan meals, while others include meat protein. “I almost never eat grains, potatoes or pasta,” she says. Fluent in how to make nutritionally dense and healthy meals, Weidman sprinkles her extensive knowledge of nutrition on the wide variety of innovative cooking classes that she teaches for novices and experienced cooks. From various styles of cooking, such as raw, gourmet, vegetarian, and vegan to seasonally focused food, her classes capture the interest of men and women who keep returning to learn more. “I have three clients who have come to every one of my classes for two years,” she quips.
A lifetime of healthy eating began in Weidman’s childhood home. “My mom was a Home Economics major, who prepared delicious homemade meals. My dad had his own specialties that he enjoyed making on Saturdays—fresh Brioche bread and ‘Daddy’ eggs,” recalls Weidman. Continuing the family tradition in her adult years, Weidman pursued food-oriented jobs. “Nearly every job I’ve had since I was 15 years old involved food in some way,” she notes. Drawing on her experience in a variety of restaurants — from grass roots organic to gourmet fine dining — Weidman also uses what she has learned from working off and on for 30 years in the field of health food stores.
In her previous business, Service with a Smile, Weidman spent more than 20 years serving clients in their homes for many special occasions and celebrations. Today, in her classes and public speaking engagements, she enthusiastically empowers others in their decisions to try new foods, experiment on their own, be more confident with their preparation skills and develop cooking abilities. “In my classes, participants particularly appreciate that their appetite for great conversation and delicious healthy gourmet foods is satisfied in one joyful experience,” she says.
Weidman has a unique gift for reading a recipe and literally tasting it. She jokes about the fact that some women go into a fabric store, look at material, and see a dress. “I read a recipe and taste the food with the ingredients that I would use to make it taste even better,” quips Weidman, who never tires of her family’s inside joke. “My husband and kids remind each other to enjoy the meal on their plate because they may never have it again. If I do repeat a recipe, I never make it the same way twice,” she notes.
Relaxing, productive, nurturing, and a creative outlet is how Weidman describes cooking. “Because cooking is my hobby and it feels so personally satisfying, I feel as though there aren’t enough hours in a day to cook,” muses Weidman, whose family can’t possibly eat everything she prepares. “I freeze food and take it along with me when I go to visit friends and neighbors. It’s a lot of fun to see the expression on someone’s face as I approach with a baggie in my hand. I know what they are thinking: what’s she bringing me this time? I like that it’s always the surprise that satisfies,” quips Weidman.
The Cooking Club, 3000 Clymer Ave., Telford, 215-378-9150. Visit TheCookingClubPa.com, March 2013