Alumna Kristin Weldon Peri Appears on Food Network’s “Sweet Genius”
“The experience was really surreal. I’ve been watching Food Network for many years,
so just the thought of being associated with anything Food Network was amazing,” said
Kristin Weldon Peri of competing on the January 17th episode of Food Network’s “Sweet
A 1998 graduate of the School of Business Administration and a 2001 graduate of the School of Law, Peri runs Divine Cakes in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, combining her artistic passion with her love of baking and her legal education allowed her to pursue a non-traditional career path that ultimately landed her on the third season of the Food Network's Ron Ben-Israel hosted show that pits four of America's premier pastry chefs against each other in a three-round competition.
Pursuing the Law
"Law is a very big part of my life, and I love law. I'm so grateful that I was able to go to law school," Peri said.
She praised her professors, and mentioned specifically fond memories of Professor
Leonard Sosnov, Ruby R. Vale Professor of Corporate and Business Law Lawrence Hamermesh,
and former professor Nathaniel Nichols.
"I participated in the Criminal Law Clinic, which was excellent, and the law review, which was a lot of work, but a lot of fun," Peri said of her extracurricular activities while at Widener Law.
She also met her husband, Jonathan Peri '99, while in law school. She recalled how they met in the computer lab where he worked and she would go to study. "All of my memories of Widener Law School are fond. I had a fantastic time," Peri said.
From Courtroom to Bakery
"I practiced law as a public defender in Philadelphia for several years," Peri relates
of her career after leaving law school. "I really enjoyed being in the courtroom. I'm
also very creative. I'm an artist, so I would be painting and drawing at night to
Practicing consumed her life, however, and the birth of her daughter Reagan changed the equation for her. "I knew when I had my daughter that I wanted to be involved in her life," she said. "I said to myself, I've always wanted to try cake decoration. I know I can bake."
While on maternity leave, Peri took a course on cake decoration that would ultimately play a role in altering her career path. "I loved the idea of a business, so I talked it over with my husband, and he said go for it," she relates of the inspiration for opening Divine Cakes.
"I do occasionally get back into the courtroom, which is great," said Peri, who is still a practicing attorney and does pro bono legal work occasionally.
Practical Skills for a Sweet New Profession
"I feel I'm at an extreme advantage business-wise with having a legal background,"
Divine Cakes specializes in exquisitely decorated custom cakes for special events, including weddings. Focused on quality rather than quantity, Peri keeps the operation small, essentially running all of the aspects of the business herself.
Calling her legal, artistic, and baking skills "a very good compliment to each other," Peri emphasizes that she still makes everyday use of the skills she developed in law school. Noting that law school instills excellent communication skills, a strong work ethic, and the ability to think logically, she adds that her legal education "prepared me for all the hard work I do every day still."
She finds skills developed in law school, such as contract writing, are of particular value with regard to taking on projects like weddings, and she spends time consulting with her clients in depth to make sure that she has a clear picture of what a project will entail.
"It's all about being effective and efficient," Peri says of her legal education, concluding, "and I feel I use it every day in my business in some way or another."
"I heard about the start of season three of the competition from a friend of mine.
She said Kristin, you need to apply for this," Peri says of the initial step in the
process that led to her "Sweet Genius" appearance.
Peri applied for the show, did some interviews, and showed them a great deal of her work. She also had to make some cakes specifically for the audition process.
"I was so fortunate to get picked. It was a lot of hard work," Peri said, noting that being able to show her long body of previous work was very helpful.
"Preparing to be on that show was so difficult for me because most of the people who appear on the show are traditional pastry chefs in every sense of the word. They trained at the top culinary or pastry schools . . . I didn't do any of that. I'm self-taught," said Peri, who described the experience as being more stressful and harder than preparing for the bar exam before concluding, "And there was no prep course I could take!"
"I put a lot of pressure on myself, so it was extremely stressful," she continues, citing in particular the time constraints and being in an unfamiliar kitchen. Still, she calls doing the show, an "all around amazing experience," and said, "I got to meet other pastry chefs that I would never have gotten to meet under any other circumstances."
Following a Different Path
"I know there are so many people out there that are in one career and maybe have an
interest in something else, but they are so afraid to do it," Peri said. "You can
do it. If it is in the back of your mind and you are thinking of trying, go for it.
Don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it because you can."
To check out some of her wonderful cake or pastry creations, visit her website at www.divine-cakes.com.