#SCBD Exclusive Interview with Aida Mollenkamp, Chef & Author of Keys to the Kitchen

A few weeks ago I was looking at cookbooks with my friend Ashley at Williams Sonoma. We came across Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp and we knew we had to get it! It has 305 recipes, 40 fundamental techniques, and 300 photographs & illustrations! It’s an ideal cookbook for any amateur chef since it covers all the basics.  Before Superstorm Sandy hit, I had the opportunity to interview Aida Mollenkamp about her first cookbook Keys to the Kitchen, life and following your dreams.

SCBD: Hi Aida, thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you and tell my readers about your new and first cookbook, Keys to the KitchenYou have always been passionate about cooking, which eventually led to you studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. What was your favorite experience while at Le Cordon Bleu?

AM: There are so many memories from Le Cordon Bleu that it’s hard to pick one, but they all seem to come down to the experience and interaction that the French culture fosters with food.

One of my favorite moments was when my classmates and I gathered in the middle of the night in order to visit the Marché de Rungis when it opened in the pre-dawn hours. Rungis is one of the largest wholesale markets in Europe and has whole hangars dedicated not just to one animal but to one section of the animal, like offal! It was the first time I really understood that nose-to-tail eating was a very real concept and that the French had been doing it for years.

Aida Mollenkamp, Photo Credit: Robin Jolin

SCBD: I’ve been thinking of taking cooking classes so I can be a better cook & writer. Do you think it’s a good idea? Why?

AM: Well, I think that it’s important to learn something new everyday whether it’s a shortcut on your way to work or trying a new food when you eat. I personally really enjoy classes and like working collaboratively so cooking school really gave me a lot. It may not be for everyone but my belief is you build a solid and then you’ll be able to find your own voice, be it on the page or in the kitchen.

SCBD: You’ve had tons of editorial experience, what was the best part of working for a food magazine like CHOW?

AM: That too comes down to the things I learned. CHOW was founded by Jane Goldman who has had an impressive editorial career that’s included Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, Wired, and Industry Standard. Her journalistic approach to food reminded us that food writing doesn’t have to be precious and that we can and should talk about it in plain terms. That concept imbued the whole editorial vision and allowed us a lot of creative freedom in our recipes, food photography, and story concepts.

SCBD: You have quite a record and had two shows. Ask Aida which aired on Food Network followed by foodCrafters on The Cooking Channel, what was your favorite part about filming? What was your most memorable segment (on both or either show)?

AM: Oh, the crew would be my favorite part about filming – you get to work with amazingly talented people and it really is a group effort to make a show come to life. As for my most memorable segment, that’s really hard to say as I had some seriously awesome experiences. On Ask Aida, it would probably be one of the first days when I was told to never stop or call cut and to leave that to the producer. I began doing the show intro and had a pan with oil heating on the stove. Well, I went on a little too long and the pan caught fire but I was thinking, “the show must go on.” The producer thought I had a screw loose but I was just trying to follow orders!

On FoodCrafters it’s really hard to say because each experience was really unique. I adored making orange marmalade in traditional copper pots with Rachel Saunders of Blue Chair Fruit  because her work is proof that attention to quality ingredients and detail really makes a simple product like a preserve that much more exceptional.

Aida Mollenkamp, Photo Credit: Bonnie Tsang

SCBD: Those eventually led to you writing your first cookbook, which I bought this past weekend Keys to the Kitchen. It’s a cookbook that covers all the basics that every chef should know along with some delicious innovative recipes. How does it feel to have your first cookbook published?

AM: It’s really quite surreal. Keys To The Kitchen has been over two years in the works yet nothing really prepared me for the publication day. A fellow food writer told me it was like having a baby and, though I haven’t had a child, I do feel like this book was almost as much effort, attention, and work. The fun part is that now I get to travel around and share this book with people and do what I love: encourage people to have fun in the kitchen.

SCBD: All the recipes look delicious, what’s your personal favorite in the cookbook? Which should I start with?

AM: The great thing about Keys To The Kitchen is you can pretty much start anywhere. If you’ve really never cooked before, I’d take it easy and make baked eggs or one of the pastas. If you feel like baking, the Sage-Maple Cornbread is a lot of flavor for minimal effort. And if you want to try something different and a bit challenging, try out the Caramelized Fennel Tarte Tatin.

Aida Mollenkamp, Photo Credit: Bonnie Tsang

SCBD: Why do you think it’s so important for every chef or just newbie cooks to know basic techniques?

AM: My other love aside from cooking is music, and many a great musician would claim that you can’t make it your own and riff until you know the basics. Those basic techniques function like directions on a compass, without them you wouldn’t really know which way you’re headed.

SCBD: What’s your favorite dish to cook?

AM: That’s a hard question because it’s constantly changing. If I’m in the kitchen, it’s almost always about recipe testing so I don’t have a ton of time to cook just any old thing. I do really enjoy doughs and pastas because it’s a really apparent payoff as the effort and time you put in directly results in the level of quality of the finished product.

SCBD: You have a cookbook tour going on, what should people expect at the tour?

AM: What’s really great about this tour is that I’ve got an assortment of events as we’re doing almost 40 events in nearly 20 cities. I’m traveling with Williams-Sonoma to do cooking demonstrations in a variety of their stores; I’ve been holding cocktail parties in locations such as urban farms; am collaborating with some of my favorite food stores for hands-on cooking classes; and am doing a number of ticketed dinners through mid-December.

My belief is you eat three times a day so you might as well have fun with it, keep in interesting, and know how to make a few things and all these events weave in those concepts.

SCBD: What was the last dish you cooked?

AM: Let’s see, that would be veggie tacos I made for the site yesterday. I have a series called Pretty. Easy. where I teach simple recipes and ways to dress them up or further simplify them and this month will be quinoa, black bean, and caramelized onion tacos.

SCBD: What’s your life motto?

AM: I aim to seek adventures – be it as little as a new nail color or as massive as a trip somewhere foreign – every single day.

Aida Mollenkamp, Photo Credit: Bonnie Tsang

SCBD: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone trying to break into the many facets of the food industry?

AM: Well, it’s a lot of hard work so do what you love. Think about why you want to be in the industry – if you like making food gorgeous, you should aim for food photography; if you like food science, maybe a test kitchen is for you – and find people doing those jobs. Ask them what they’ve done and how they’ve gotten where they are. Finally, always be willing to take a bit of risk to go after what you want – I started as an unpaid intern at CHOW because I wanted that badly to be a part of something new and different like CHOW.

SCBD: You’ve accomplished a lot in a few years, where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

AM: To be honest, I’m just focused on the next 5 weeks. After that I’m going to need some serious rest and then I’ll start thinking about the long term future.

 Click here to order a copy of Keys to the Kitchen.

Aida Mollenkamp on Facebook & Twitter.

Be sure to grab a copy of Keys to the Kitchen!

It’s a cookbook I highly recommend– happy cooking! :)

#SCBDExclusive Interview with Jessica Stambach of Nonna’s Kitchenette of the #GreatFoodTruckRace!

Nonna’s Kitchenette is an Italian catering business founded by three Jersey girls. They also had the opportunity to be on the show lead by Food Network’s own Tyler Florence, The Great Food Truck Race. After various challenges they made it to 2nd place, check out my interview below with Jessica Stambach one of the ladies of Nonna’s Kitchenette and got the 411 on how they started and what’s in store for their future!

The ladies of Nonna’s Kitchenette!

SCBD: Thanks for letting me interview you. It was great to meet you and see fellow Jersey Girls on The Great Food Truck Race. I have a few questions. How did you all meet? Have you all always been foodies and love to cook? What part of New Jersey are you all from?

JS: Lisa & I met in Pre-school and Lisa actually met Jaclyn out in Los Angeles when both of them were living there. I then met Jaclyn through Lisa.

We all have Nonna’s who passed down recipes and their love for cooking. Growing up in households where food was everything, as adults we continue to share the love for cooking.

Lisa & Jessica are from Parsippany, New Jersey. Jaclyn is from West Caldwell.

SCBD: What inspired you to start Nonna’s Kitchenette?

JS: Well Lisa & I knew for years we wanted to share our love for cooking with everyone. However, she lived in California and I lived here in New Jersey. Several years later she moved home and sure enough we got started right away on creating a catering company and questioning the idea of a food truck.

SCBD: How did you find out about The Great Food Truck Race?

JS: I had watched previous seasons of the show and thought how great it would be if we could be on it, although we didn’t have a truck yet but we were looking at some. Lisa and I kept checking back for the casting of the show and one day there it was and in the best possible scenario. They were looking for people who have always wanted to own a food truck and start the business but people who have never owned or operated one before. We thought for sure right then and there it was meant to be.

SCBD: What was your favorite challenge on the show?

JS: I would say our favorite challenge was the French toast challenge. We won!

SCBD: What was your least favorite?

JS: I would say the cactus challenge but not because of the taste but because I had cuts in my hands for days!

SCBD: What was a lesson the three of you gained from the show?

JS: There is no specific lesson we learned as we learned everything about running a food truck from the inside and out. It was the best thing that could have happened to us because we truly got to experience all the aspects of it.

SCBD: Since you are all Italian, what’s the secret behind the Nonna’s Kitchenette meatballs?

JS: Well surely, the answer to this is love & of course fresh ingredients. Plus some fun twists like adding fresh chopped basil & fontina cheese.

SCBD: What was your favorite dish to cook on the show?

JS: I wouldn’t say we had a favorite to cook because they were all so great. Especially because they were all loved by everyone!

SCBD: What’s a personal recipe you recommend to an amateur chef like me? Who taught you this recipe?

JS: Well I would say our meatballs or our French toast recipe. We used flavors we grew up with but with our own twist. So we really self taught ourselves them. However, they’re our little secret!

SCBD: What was a motto you ladies lived by during the Great Food Truck Race?

JS: Our motto was to hustle always. We just had to give it our all, all the time!

SCBD: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting a career?

JS: I would first say to follow your dream but also to remember that things do not come easy and that you have to give it your all to succeed.

SCBD: What’s next for Nonna’s Kitchenette? Where do you think the three of you will be in 5 years?

JS: Currently Nonna’s Kitchenette is launching in Los Angeles with hopes to shortly launch in New Jersey soon after. I am most excited about writing a cook book based on my Nonna’s recipes and some of my own. I would hope to see my cook book published and doing well. As for the girls I cannot speak for them but I would say running the food trucks on the East and West coasts.

Thank you again for letting me interview you. It was great to meet you and hear about your experience on The Great Food Truck Race. Don’t forget to take a lot at the Nonna’s Kitchenette site, here.

Look out for more interviews on the way! Happy Eating! :D

Upcoming Fall & Fun Food Events: The #SCBD Edition

It’s official– food event season has begun and is going strong at least until November. I already had the pleasure of attending the Vendy Awards & Food Truck Rally. So in honor of the event season, check out this line-up of upcoming food events, starting with Bergenfest tomorrow night:

Bergen Health & Life Bergenfest 2012:

BERGEN COUNTY’S BIGGEST CELEBRATION!
No one knows the best go-to destinations in Bergen County better than the people who live here. You voted for your favorites and now we are bringing them all together for the 5th annual Bergenfest Party & Expo. at a New and Bigger Venue–with Great Parking.

Where: Sheraton Mahwah, 5-9 PM
The 411:
VIP Ticket Admittance – Don’t miss a thing! Enjoy EARLY admission and the chance to win great prizes, and special gifts. 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. | $50 | $65 at the door
General Ticket Admittance – 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. | $35 | $50 at the door
*VIP tote bag will be given to the first 500 attendees!Order tickets here: http://www.bergenhealthandlife.com/Bergenfest2012/Sponsors:
Bergen Health & Life, Sheraton Mahwah Hotel, The Fountain Spa, Devon Fine Jewelry, Atlas, & Montvale Health Associates.

NYC Wingfest 2012:

The 411: WingFest returns, with some new challengers to try and de-throne back to back champion, Dukes NYC’s title. Join us for all you can drink drafts, and all you can eat wings from the city’s best BBQ joints.

All you can eat wings from:

When: Saturday, September 29th

Time: Noon to 7 PM (divided into two sessions)

Session 1: Noon to 3 PM

Session 2: 4 PM to 7 PM

Where: Center 548- 548 West 22nd Street, NY, NY

Robert Irvine Live:

When: Friday, October 5th 2012

Time: 8-11 PM

Where: Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ

The 411: Robert Irvine Live 2012” is Irvine’s first theatrical tour and he’s not taking the show lightly. “This is not just me cooking on stage for two hours because that has been done before. I wanted to do something totally different that makes cooking a vehicle for being able to create a theatrical event,” says Irvine. If his premiere performances in Florida are any indication, Irvine has truly taken the idea of theatrics to heart. Those performances found him rappelling down balconies and being challenged to feed members of the audience with no knowledge of the ingredients while a timer counted down. Of course, these challenges are nothing new to Irvine, whose Food Network shows “Dinner: Impossible” and “Restaurant: Impossible” often find him challenged both physically and creatively with deadlines that often seem nothing short of insurmountable let alone impossible.

Look out for my pre-show interview with Chef Robert Irvine on Jersey Bites & post show coverage coming up soon!

Fairway Foodie Programs:

FOODIE FRIENDS HALLOWEEN THEMED COOKING CLASS FOR KIDS

WHEN:   WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2012
TIME: 4-5 PM (AGES 4-6), 5-6PM (AGES 7-11)
WHERE: FAIRWAY MARKET WOODLAND PARK, 1570 US 46 WEST
THE 411: Hannah Netter, Children’s Culinary Instructor at Fairway Woodland Park, has over a decade of experience working in childcare and currently manages and teaches children’s cookingclasses as partof a NYC-based company.  The Fairway “Foodie Friends Class” will inspire kids to be independent with their food choices and with small responsibilities like preparing their own simple meals. Each participant will take home a Fairway lunch box that they will have time to decorate during the class; a coupon for their guardians to come back and shop; the food they prepared during the class; a Fairway grocery pad and pen; and a fun recap of what they accomplished for the day. Tickets are $5 per class and parents are welcomed but not required to attend as each class will be supervised. For more information, call or inquire within the store or email info@fairwaymarket.com. Purchase tickets at the Woodland Park store or online at www.fairwaymarket.com/foodie-friends-class.

6th Annual NYC Food  Film Festival: 

What: Where Guests Taste What They See on the Screen

When: October 17 – 21, 2012

Venues:

The 411: Returning to New York City for its 6th consecutive year offering a unique series of events where food and film lovers return to taste what they see on the screen, the NYC Food Film Festival is the only festival in the world that serves the food that is seen in the films. Produced in association with the James Beard Foundation and benefiting the Food Bank For New York City, the 2012 NYC Food Film Festival runs from October 17 through October 21 in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The NYC Food Film Festival has grown from an intimate food-nerd date-night destination to one of New York City’s most beloved festivals, and the largest of its kind in the world. Last year, the Food Film Festival made its 2nd trip to Chicago, where it will return this year from November 15th – 17th for the Chicago Food Film Festival. The NYC Food Film Festival was created by George Motz, the documentary filmmaker behind the award-winning Hamburger America film, book, and mobile app, and host of Travel Channel’s Burger Land, along with Harry Hawk. Through documentaries, features and short films, the Festival presents the best, and the most memorable, of the world’s favorite and exotic foods on the big screen…and then serves them to the guests. The NYC Food Film Festival is co-produced by Grease Bomb LLC and Food Films America.

TICKETS ARE FOR ON-SALE ONLINE AT:  www.thefoodfilmfestival.com

Hope to see some of you readers at these events! Let me know if you plan on coming! Look out for another event round up in the works closer to November. Comment me if you plan on coming out!

‘Til next time, happy Eating! :D

On the set of the Okadaman Eat Street Shoot…

On August 25th I had the pleasure of being part of the Eat Street shoot at the Okadaman Food Truck. Eat Street is a show on the Food Network in Canada and on the Cooking Channel in the US. It’s about the best, inventive street food found in North America & Okadaman is just that. Here are a few pictures from the set, if you didn’t see them on the Small Chick Big Deals Facebook yet:

It was a great experience and I am so blessed to be part of it!

For more pictures, click here!

Happy Eating!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...