By Jason Aigeldinger for Seward City News -
Homemade soups full of healthy ingredients will anchor down the menu at one of Seward’s newest dining establishments.
Zudy’s, the brainchild of Moose Pass residents Judy and Jan Odhner, will be open for business later this month. The establishment is situated in the old railroad depot east of the Alaska Sealife Center. The couple signed a lease February 24 and have been hard at it preparing the space.
Future patrons can expect a bright, smartly furnished dining room located on the west side of the historic structure. A fine setting to enjoy a bowl of soup.
Judy Odhner, or Zudy, as she was called by her sister growing up, is very excited to fill a niche in downtown Seward by offering the most sacred comfort food of them all. “I think there has always been a soup dilemma and a lot of people want soup for lunch and there never really has been that option,” said Odhner. Odhner said that she wants to “fulfill that soup dilemma and just make good homemade soup.”
Odhner said that the soups will run the gambit, from hearty soups consisting of ingredients like leeks, parsnips and other root vegetables to lighter soups like pho, and other noodle soups. Also offered on the menu will be panini as well as cold sandwiches. Odhner said that the panini sandwiches will come with dipping sauces such as a cilantro lime, or mango chutney. She said that she also has had invitations to prepare box lunches for several sport fishing charters.
Odhner will continue to offer her desserts, a brand she started 14 years ago, and one that has firmly planted her in the local culinary circle. She said that it all started with carrot cake. “That was what put me on the map,” said Odhner. She said the carrot cake led to other cakes layered with homemade ice cream, which morphed into mud pie. Odhner also began making custom wedding and birthday cakes at this time as well. The bulk of her advertising was simply work of mouth.
Odhner’s next culinary incarnation began four years ago when she created “You Take the Cake,” which has enabled customers attending local festivals such as the Seward Music and Arts Festival as well as the Seward Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair to purchase and enjoy single slices of a variety of Odhner’s wide array of desserts. “It’s a great thing to be able to offer,” said Odhner.
Odhner’s big accounts with Summit Lake Lodge and Salmon Bake will still be fulfilled and her creation of custom celebration cakes and desserts will continue to be produced in the Zudy’s. She also plans to offer catering services later this season. Odhner said that she believes that there is a “catering hole” in the local area and plans to offer “personal catering,” with a focus on providing dinner in a client’s home for couples or small groups. “So I would bring everything that I have and would not use anything in your kitchen except your stove or oven and I would prepare a dinner for your guests and I would clean up and leave and you would not have to do anything,” said Odhner.
Odhner will also host Chef Jeffory McLean at Zudy’s in early September. McLean , who hails from the Finger Lakes region of New York, will spend a week at Zudy’s teaching cooking classes. “Anybody who shows up for this will be totally blown away,” said Odhner. “And walk away totally full and happy to have learned something.”
Odhner is also a culinary educator and teaches Cooking Two at Seward High School. The class is comprised of 11 ninth through twelfth graders.
Odhner said that along with teaching students cooking techniques and processes, she also emphasizes to the kids that when it comes to feeding themselves, it all boils down to choices. “You have to feed yourself for the rest of your life. And if you are not doing it right, then down the road you are going to be ill and down the road you are going to have serious health problems,” said Odhner. An example she gave of such a choice is how she teaches students to make their own tomato sauce rather than opening a jar.
“It’s better for you and it’s cheaper.” If you put that idea in their head, at least you’ve planted it,” said Odhner. “They could make that choice.”
Odhner said that like her students, she feels that consumers are more aware and really want more choices when it comes to cuisine. “They want something a little different,” said Odhner. “So I think that is a real good thing. They will tell you what they want. And if you are not going to go with that then you are going to be the last guy in the totem pole.”