Life Skills, Knife Skills.
As a trained Chef and food educator, Soni Strandell believes firmly in the power of proper tools.
At a workshop she led for Allergic to Salad in partnership with Garden Kitchen Lab, Soni taught her students how to cut safely and efficiently with a chef’s knife.
“It was very clear that these students were super competent…working with the right tools means they’re probably more likely to include garlic in their cooking because it’s easier. ”
While not all Allergic to Salad students are given sharp knives (one needs to “earn” the privilege and demonstrate safe techniques on a kids’ knife first), we do strongly believe in imparting lifelong skills that will empower students to use tools safely and effectively in their cooking.
How did Soni learn to cook?
“I had to make my own lunches. The first time I just packed a banana and I was hungry all day.” She started experimenting and upping her game. “Like everything you do in life you have to make it fun and challenging for you.”
A family trip to France transformed her entire family’s relationship with food; they began cooking pizzas from scratch every weekend and Soni was actively involved.
As an adult she began working in farmer’s markets and eventually found her way into the kitchen of a fine dining establishment in Seattle. The thing she loved the most about working in a restaurant was the sense of camaraderie centered around food— something she continues to seek out.
“Most of why I got involved with ATS was community engagement of some kind.” She expresses admiration for her fellow educators and gratitude at having found this vibrant community. “We’re all like-minded and our powers combined are insane. I looked for the last ten years for a group of people doing things like this.”
Soni believes strongly in the power of passing on food knowledge. In her day job at Culinary Collective, a specialty foods importer, she brings artisan foods from Spain to New York tables. These specialty foods and the recipes surrounding them run generations deep.
Understanding where food comes from and the story behind it is something she endeavors to incorporate into her classes as well. “Recipes are like stories,” she says. “A way of teaching the future about the past.” Recipes are also tools that allow us to pass on knowledge of food preparation, to harness accumulated wisdom.
“Everything has a story. It deserves to be told in some way.”