An Interview with the Cooking Channel's Aida Mollenkamp!
Read our interview with the Cooking Channel's Roger Mooking!
What or who inspired you to start cooking?
I grew up in a family where food and family meals were a major focal point so cooking has always been a part of me. The start of my personal interest in cooking came when I tore my ACL- just like that, I could no longer do ballet, soccer, and all my other hobbies. I turned to cooking to busy myself and next thing I knew it was my prime passion.
How would you describe your cooking style?
My food is based in Mediterranean flavors but it has a modern California slant. I aim to spotlight the main ingredient, focus on keeping flavors clean, and I season boldly. The flavors I use reflect me and my life experience including where I’ve lived and the communities and cultures I grew up around (French, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Persian, and Indian).
You have spent some time in France and Italy. How did your time overseas influence your cooking style?
The Italians and French seamlessly integrate food into their and I learned to do the same. Here we label specific people as food lovers but there everyone is because food is a sort of social and cultural glue. I learned to have little food moments throughout the day from a great cup of coffee to one impossibly perfect piece of chocolate.
What is the food scene like in San Francisco, your home?
San Francisco is an incredible food town. Other places might have more restaurants or what have you, but in the bay area we have the makings of a whole meal as wine country, amazing farmers, and chefs all live within close proximity to one another. This city cemented my food philosophy and made me the food person I am today.
What is your go-to weeknight meal?
I love to experiment in the kitchen so I don’t have many repeats. However, if I’m exhausted and have had a long day, I usually turn to something like an omelet and green salad or a seared piece of fish slathered in harissa paste with a dollop of plain yogurt and wilted greens.
What advice would you give to women who are intimidated by cooking?
Start out roasting. Whether it’s roasted vegetables or chicken, a roast is low fuss and high impact as the flavors get concentrated from all the high, dry heat. Cooking is honestly fun if you realize that it’s about flavor and not perfection. Constantly experiment with food whether through eating, shopping, or cooking with new ingredients. Don't bite off more than you can chew, as it’ll just frustrate you.
Have you ever had to work with any particularly strange ingredients?
I constantly try to challenge myself and push the borders on my cooking so anytime I come across a strange ingredient, I buy it- be it cherimoya fruit or an exotic spice like dried mango powder (aka amchur).
What was your biggest cooking disaster?
Well, I’ve had my fair share of cooking hiccups as I’ve been at it for over 10 years now. One that comes to mind from way back is when my sister and I were trying to bake a cake for a family party. All went well until we tried it and it tasted off – we had used olive oil instead of vegetable oil! Turns out olive oil cakes became a la mode a while after that so I like to think we were just ahead of the times!
What, in your opinion, is the most versatile food?
That’s a hard one. It’s a toss-up for me between eggs, tomatoes, and potatoes. In fact, just combining all three of them can make for endless combinations from a scramble or a strata to a frittata or a pasta!
Is there any food that you just can’t stand?
Oh, definitely cotton candy. To me, the texture of a food is just as important as flavor and the texture of cotton candy simply makes me cringe.
Tell us a bit about “FoodCrafters,” your new show.
FoodCrafters is basically my dream show as I get to travel the nation in search of intriguing artisanal ingredients. We highlight the product and tell the back story of the artisan. They are a very passionate, talented bunch of people and I’m very excited to share these products with our viewers and to help champion these excellent products.
Watch Aida explore these incredible products every Monday at 10pm Eastern time! To learn more about her show, visit the Cooking Channel website.