Aida Mollenkamp

A long-time food fiend, I’ve been cooking, eating, studying, reading, writing, styling, and basically engaging in all things food related for over a decade. Growing up in L.A.’s South Bay, my family always put the emphasis on fun, and good food was always tucked in there somewhere. I learned my love for cooking from my Italian-American mother and French stepmother, both of whom are stellar in the kitchen. Eventually, I caught the bug myself and worked in all sorts of places from a local deli and local gourmet bistro to California Pizza Kitchen and even the Hotel Bel Air.

I soon realized that I could make a legit career out of my passion and attended Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. It was the best of times, as I loved the program, but also the worst of times, as I didn’t fare well with glacial temps of the Finger Lakes. Cornell did indeed fuel my love for the food world, yet it showed me that dorking out with numbers could be amusing too and it inspired a brief stint at Ernst & Young’s Hospitality Advisory Group. That is until I woke up one day and realized that cubical life and scenario analysis was not for me. With the dream of working for a top-notch food publication lodged deep into my psyche, I moved to Paris to pull together my experience and passions and hone my kitchen skills at culinary school.

A year later, I left Paris with a Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu, where I studied both culinary and pastry arts. I book-ended my time in Paris with stints in Florence during which time I learned to speak Italian, cook the food, and to enjoy life – something that has stuck with me ever since. One day while reading the NY Times, I came across an article by David Carr that lauded a start-up food magazine named CHOW. After many friends and family members forwarded me the very article, I took it as a sign and hounded CHOW to let me be a part of it all. I joined the San Francisco-based editorial staff and got my hands in everything from researching and writing to recipe development and food styling.

Some folks at Food Network came across my work at CHOW and asked me to work with them on a show. From that Ask Aida, the interactive cooking show where I solve viewers’ cooking conundrums, was born; it launched in August 2008 and is in its 3rd season. My second show, FoodCrafters, for the Food Network’s new sister network, Cooking Channel is currently in its 1st season; new episodes air Mondays at 10pm eastern. In Foodcrafters, I’ll leave the kitchen to search the nation for the most interesting  artisanal, handmade food finds from goat’s milk ice cream to cultivated mushrooms.

These days, I live in San Francisco and spend a disproportionate amount of money on local food and tabletop wares and just reassure myself it’s all in the name of research. I occupy my free time with trying new restaurants, building out my home bar, shopping for antique kitchen gear, and cooking for parties, potlucks, and just the fun of it. The rare moments when I’m not focusing on food, I focus on giving back to the community. I  believe that good knife skills lead to good life skills so I partner with various nonprofits to help kids to foster a healthy relationship with food.

Passion, Packaged

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