Aida Mollenkamp

For this month's author profile, we have a story from Aida Mollenkamp, a TV chef and former editor for chow.com, reminiscing about an accident that would shape her career of choice and the cookbook that inspired it.  Her current book, Keys to the Kitchen (Chronicle), is a kitchen primer with recipes that are simple enough for the new cook yet untraditional enough for the more experienced one.

Aida Mollenkamp

It's impossible to remember which was my first cookbook, but I do know that if it weren't for one specific book, I very much might not be doing what I'm doing today.

After a knee surgery sidelined me in high school, I started reading anything and everything, and eventually, I turned to my mother's cookbooks. It was Lorenza De'Medici's Italy, The Beautiful Cookbook with its sleek photos and regional Italian recipes that got me off my crutches and into the kitchen. I cooked the whole book and, by the time I got to the end, I was completely hooked on cooking and the stories that cookbooks convey. My mother then gifted me the kitchen essentials of Martha Stewart's Entertaining and Mastering The Art of French Cooking and I read them nightly as if they were my kitchen bibles.

Writing a cookbook has been a dream ever since then, but it's taken almost 10 years of working in food media for that to become a reality. The planning and development of the recipes was something I loved doing ever since I worked in the CHOW kitchens; what I wasn't ready for was the amount of non-recipe writing a technique-based book like Keys To The Kitchen would entail. It was hours upon endless hours and tons of research to ensure I was providing practical pointers that would make this a true manual to the kitchen.

The idea with Keys To The Kitchen  was to create a book that can't cook for you but can make you a better cook. And to create a book that friends could give to beginner cooks as a reference, but would have intriguing enough recipes for seasoned cooks. While I used to hesitate which cookbooks to give as a kitchen resource, now I give Keys To The Kitchen.

Recipe testing and photography are my absolute favorite part of my job and, having written and photographed well over a thousand, it's seriously hard to pick favorites. But, if I had to, it'd be a tie among the Caramelized Fennel Tarte Tatin, the Oatmeal-Cheddar Breakfast Soufflé, or the Shortcakes with Citrus Compote and Orange Flower Whipped Cream. All these recipe represent my passion of food that's familiar enough to be comforting, creative enough to be interesting, and communal enough to achieve my ultimate goal of fostering memories and friendship through good food.

2 Comments

  • aida mollenkamp  on  1/31/2013 at 11:34 AM

    Thanks for letting me share with the Eat Your Books readers!

  • peggy curry  on  2/8/2013 at 12:28 PM

    You are inspiring! Thanks Aida!

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