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Hot 20 2010: Aida Mollenkamp, Host, Food Network and Cooking Channel

Photography by Alex Farnum

Aida Mollenkamp, 30
Host, Food Network and Cooking Channel

In the new millennium, becoming the next Food Network star is the dream of many and the reality for few. But Aida Mollenkamp, who was discovered in 2007 while working as an editor at foodie website CHOW in SF, might just be on her way. With both brains and beauty, she’s clearly got the one-two punch. That’s not to say there wasn’t a learning curve. “I completely didn’t know what to do the first time something caught on fire,” says Mollenkamp. “I thought I should just keep talking.”

Today, she’s the host of Ask Aida, now in its third season on the Food Network. But her true passion is FoodCrafters—the show she just launched on the Cooking Channel in which she seeks out the best artisanal products on the market. Mollenkamp’s favorite discovery so far? “I grew up in LA and loved going to Korea Town,” she says, “so I was excited to find Mother-in-Law’s kimchee.”

Although she’s married to her work, Mollenkamp has dabbled in the dating world. “Once, a guy I was seeing walked in the door eating a Sno Ball,” she says. “It ended there.”

When she’s not in New York, you’ll find the Duboce Park resident eating her way through NoPa, from the panuchos at Nopalito (“I’m addicted!”) to the kati rolls at Kasa. Her taste might run toward West Coast eclecticism, but working in TV means she’s had to learn to empathize with Middle America’s cooking conundrums. What are fledgling cooks’ biggest concerns? “People are really scared of fish and the big roast,” she says.