More than elections will be cooking Tuesday when Aida Mollenkamp, a former South Bay native and cooking star, visits the Manhattan Beach Farmers' Market from 12 noon to 2 p.m. to use fresh, local ingredients from the market to whip up some recipes from her brand new cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen.
Afterward, she'll wander a few blocks to friend Kris Macker D'Errico's Bella Beach boutique in downtown MB to sign and sell her cookbook, which she hopes will people waste less food, get more for every food dollar they spend, and become a healthier, more accomplished, and more adventurous cook, from 3 to 4 p.m.
After her MB visit, Mollenkamp will head to New York City for a Nov. 8 booksigning event at a Williams-Sonoma there.
Patch: What's your relationship to Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach? Where do you live now?
Aida Mollenkamp: I am a South Bay local as I was born over at Little Company of Mary and lived between Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Palos Verdes from the day I was born through high school. In fact, my father still lives in the South Bay to this day! After living everywhere from the East Coast to Europe, I now split my time between San Francisco and West Hollywood.
Patch: I understand you're on Food Network. When did you start working for Food Network and what do you do?
Mollenkamp: Starting in 2005, I was working as the food editor at the online food magazine, chow.com, where I'd do everything from research, write and test recipes, to food style, and act as on-air talent. Food Network came across my work online and asked me to host the show, Ask Aida, which began in fall 2008. From there I moved to the sister network, Cooking Channel where I hosted the show FoodCrafters as of May 2010. Since then I've taken a hiatus to author, test, and edit this, my first cookbook, Keys To The Kitchen.
Patch: When did you begin to realize you enjoyed cooking? I assume you do.
Mollenkamp: 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 engage in my other hobbies--so I turned to cooking to keep busy and it quickly became my prime passion.
Patch: Is Keys to the Kitchen your first published book?
Mollenkamp: This is indeed my first book and it was just published on October 24th. I wrote Keys To The Kitchen for my friends who like food but are intimidated by the kitchen because they were never taught to cook. Over and over again, I’d have people (friends, readers of chow.com, and viewers of Ask Aida) ask the same general questions–things like how to read labels, which cuts of meat are best for which preparations, and recipes for interesting but accessible recipes. I wrote Keys To The Kitchen to provide those answers and to help people become better cooks, whether it’s their first time turning on the stove or the one thousandth.
Patch: Why a cookbook, what sets this one apart, why would readers want to have it?
Mollenkamp: Most cookbooks are a sort of silo of recipes that are an ode to the author and his or her cooking style. Keys To The Kitchen is a technique-based cookbook that is a modern manual to the kitchen. Organized into four main sections: The Set-Up, The How-To, The Recipes and The Riff, Keys to the Kitchen takes you from the store to the stove with over 300 original, whole foods-based recipes.
Patch: What's a typical workday like for you?
Mollenkamp: Because I have a variety of work that I do, every day is different from the last. Take just last week, I spent two days in-studio filming, one day meeting with editors at major magazines, one day doing a cooking demo and book signing, and the remaining time developing, testing, writing, and food styling recipes for the various clients I partner with.
Patch: You're at the MB Farmers Market tomorrow? What recipes will you demo? Will there be enough samples to go around?
Mollenkamp: For the demo, I'll be showing a few of my favorite seasonal salads and appetizers that would be perfect for fall entertaining. I will be providing a few samples of each recipe so stop on by for a few bites!
Patch: Why did you decide to do a cooking demo and book signing at the MB Farmers Market? And how did you decide to hold a book signing at Bella Beach?
Mollenkamp: Because I grew up in Manhattan Beach and because I still have so many friends and family in the area, it only seemed natural to do an event in the area. Our long time-family friend, Kris Mackerer D'Errico, owner of Bella Beach, is helping to organize the event so I'll be doing two cooking demos (12:30 and 1:30 p.m.) at the Manhattan Beach Farmers Market followed by a book signing at Bella Beach.
Patch: Does your book have holiday cooking and entertaining tips?
Mollenkamp: The book is divided into four sections: The Set-Up, The How-To, The Recipes, and The Riff. That fourth section, The Riff, goes into many general entertaining and cooking tips from how to plan a menu, how to time a meal, how to pair flavors, and how to use last night's leftovers.
Patch: After your events tomorrow, where can someone purchase a copy of your book?
Mollenkamp: If you're in Manhattan Beach, then you can pass by Bella Beach and grab it there. Otherwise, it is available at all major bookstores and online, including at Amazon, Borders, and Chronicle Books.