Catching up with Aida Mollenkamp

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Aida Mollenkamp is back with a brand new season of Ask Aida, and she's made some exciting changes. We caught up with her to hear all about the new style and to find out what viewer question (almost) stumped this gastronomical guru.

FN Dish: The new season just premiered on Saturday. Loved the first episode! Can you give us a little taste of the rest of the season?

Aida: Thank you! I feel like I’ve hit the ground running this season with a lot of really exciting, fun recipes. I’m focusing on fewer questions in each episode so that we can really drill down to the details of each topic and ingredient. With a fun approach, you can actually learn how to cook and enjoy it at the same time. For example, we have one episode that is all about cheese. I show everyone how to make a blueberry-lemon blintz, an enchilada, and a pesto mac and goat cheese. It’s really fun to pick one thing and get a little crazy with the possibilities. And, at the end of each episode I throw in something I like to call a “No Recipe Recipe.”

FN Dish: What is that?

Aida: A big part of cooking is just breaking down the barriers to make you realize it’s not that hard, and this new approach doesn’t involve any measurements. You don’t need a thousand precise ingredients all the time to make something that tastes good and is worth cooking. For example, my "no recipe" grilled cheese demonstrates the basics of making the perfect grilled cheese. No measurements needed, but you can jazz it up by adding greens or fruit. The "No Recipe Recipes" are incredibly useful, especially since people seem to have less and less time to cook.

FN Dish: People reach out to you because you’re an expert, but have you ever been stumped by a topic or ingredient?

Aida: We came close last season when a woman asked us why her pickled garlic was purple. It literally took the Food Network Kitchens, our entire staff and me to figure it out. As it turns out, one of the enzymes in the garlic had caused it to change colors. It was just a temporary thing, but it almost stumped the whole crew!

FN Dish: That sounds like an episode of CSI: Food Network!

Aida: Yeah, it’s really fun! And I feel like this season we’ve hit that magic mix of making it accessible and offering useful information. You can go to a cocktail party armed with these tidbits and rattle them off as trivia and look really smart to your friends.

Be sure to tune in for Ask Aida. Saturdays at 9:30am/8:30c.

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Aida Mollenkamp Bio

With a diverse culinary background and a passion for sharing her knowledge with food enthusiasts, cooking expert Aida Mollenkamp prepares delicious dishes while providing answers to questions submitted by Food Network viewers in her interactive cooking show, Ask Aida. From recipe and ingredient issues to advice on kitchen machinery and tools, Aida even offers guidance for impromptu parties, feeding a crowd, make-ahead dishes, and time-saving tips. Growing up with an Italian-American mother and a French stepmother, Aida was always surrounded by good food. Eventually, she made her way into the kitchen and discovered her true passion for cooking. In the years since, Aida has worked everywhere from a gourmet deli and California Pizza Kitchen to the Hotel Bel Air and, most recently, at CHOW.com. Having studied Hospitality Management at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, Aida worked at Ernst & Young in Hotel and Restaurant Consulting before traveling to Europe to attend culinary school at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Paris. She lived between Florence, Italy and Paris, France for two years, and graduated with a Grand Diplôme in 2004. In January 2005, Aida joined the editorial staff at San Francisco-based CHOW.com, a Web site created for food and drink enthusiasts. As the Food Editor, Aida fulfills many roles. She regularly appears in instructional videos for the site, serves as an expert spokesperson, runs the test kitchen, works as a lead food stylist, develops recipes, and writes informative articles. When not working, Aida continues to live the life of a food fiend, whether hunting out the hottest restaurants, searching for the newest artisanal products, or hosting her friends and family at laidback dinner parties and lively cocktail hours. She currently resides in San Francisco.

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