Millennials Aren't Killing Home Cooking — Just Ask Molly Yeh

Photo: Courtesy of Chantell Quernemoen.
Photo: Courtesy of the Food Network.
In the frenetic world of 2018, Molly Yeh is living the dream. You can find the food blogger turned Food Network star online, documenting her quaint lifestyle for over 300 thousand followers. She lives on a beet farm outside of Grand Forks, North Dakota with her husband, cats, and chickens; her stylish country kitchen and garden are enough to make anyone reconsider their career trajectory.
We recently caught up with Yeh to chat about the second season of Girl Meets Farm, quitting city life, and the pros and cons of social media. Plus, Yeh — who is known for recipes that combine her Jewish and Asian roots (as well as her stunning cake decorations) — has some pretty stellar advice for anyone who is overwhelmed by the thought of learning to cook.
What do you think it is about farm life or the simple life that people react so strongly to?
I remember I was living here [in New York City] and my husband and I were deciding where we would move next; we took a trip out to New Jersey to go hiking. We were in the woods and we were just walking around looking at trees. We were energized, we were in nature, and there was just something so special about being back with the land that drove us to make the decision to move to the farm. So, that's one aspect of it. For me, it's this base level of energy that I have when I'm there that is a similar energy that I get when I go on vacation. I don't feel the need to go on vacation anymore because I feel like we have the country house that if we still lived in the city we would have to have in order to stay sane. And there are stories there, too. We live on the land where my husband's ancestors came 150 years ago. He's fifth generation; the farm will hopefully be there for generations. There's this sense of permanence and sense of story and life and energy and that helps me to be creative. And, plus the garden is like Willy Wonka, but for rhubarb and apples.
How did your Food Network show come about?
So I wrote Molly On The Range, my first cookbook that came out two years ago. From there, Food Network wanted to meet about that. I don't remember talking about specific show or anything. We just talked and got along and then they paired me with a production company and I clicked with the production company. By the following year we had shot a pilot and then one thing led to another. Then, we did the series.
What do you think about being dubbed the millennial Pioneer Woman?
I just met her for the first time and I have never been so starstruck. She is exactly who she is on TV. She's so sweet, she's awesome. So, I'm very honored by that comparison. She has such a positive community. You look at her Instagram and she has just such an amazing community there. To have the resources to have a mercantile in Grand Forks and a pizza place, like the one that she just opened — that would be awesome. She's using her resources to do awesome things in her town and if I could get to a point where I can use resources like that to make Grand Forks better, that would be a dream.
People are using cooking and also cooking shows like the The Great British Bake Off as a kind of escape from everything going on in the world. Do you think about that when you're making your show? Do you feel like you're serving a higher purpose?
Oh my God, yes. I think I would go crazy if I didn't have this as a creative outlet. If I make a cake for someone, even if it's just on TV, I like to think that throwing sprinkles all over something might be a high point of their day — maybe it brings a smile to their face. So yeah, if I can be a part of that, my job is fulfilled.
Is that what cooking kind of is for you, you can kind of zone out?
For sure, I can zone out. And also that whole lovey-dovey, this is how I say 'I love you' thing. This is how I show people that I care. I'm not a mushy person where I'm not going to sit someone down and express my love for them as a friend. But I'll invite you over for dinner or I'll make your your wedding cake. And that's just how I show love.
What are your thoughts on keeping up with all your social media platforms? Do you feel like you have to post a certain amount? Is it overwhelming or is it natural?
I like to be consistent personally just because I've always had this kind of need to document. It really just has always come from within. But, with Twitter, I find it really difficult right now; I've slowed it down with Twitter. I love interacting with people on Instagram and so that's definitely a feed that I still have on my phone and I really have fun with and it's where I go to for inspiration for house design, for recipes, for skating videos, for all sorts of things.
Do you feel like your relationship with social media has changed since moving to the farm?
I like having it in the middle of nowhere. If I didn't have it, I don't know what I'd be doing. I think about this all the time, if I had the opportunity to move to the farm before the internet, I don't think I could have done it. It's how I keep in touch with my friends; it's how I have a job.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a better cook?
Start slow. I know a lot of my friends who don't cook that much, do it for the reason that they're overwhelmed with how many recipes are out there and different ingredients are out there. I would say find one recipe that you enjoy making and then make it a few times, get comfortable with it. Get comfortable to the point where you feel like you can maybe switch out an ingredient like an herb or the type of cheese in the mac and cheese.
The first recipe that I really got to know and love and what kind of started my love for recipe development was macaroni and cheese. My mom made macaroni and cheese and I learned in college late-night after some parties that, oh, I don't have to use cheddar. I can use smoked Gouda in this and I can add these things. Find like a simple delicious recipe that you like and that you can make your thing and build confidence through that. You'll gain a knowledge of whatever techniques are used and then go onto the next thing. Just start somewhere and don't feel the need to learn how to make everything at once.
People love to talk about how millennials are going to be the end of home cooking. With the platform that you have and the people you engage with as a part of your brand, how do you feel about that?
Leave millennials alone! Even my friends who don't cook or who don't consider themselves into food at all, often know so much more than previous generations. It's such a great culture to be a part of it. It's so exciting. I think there's so much more to be excited about food than worrying about people cooking. I think people should cook because they enjoy it and I would want them to know if they don't know already that there is a lot to enjoy about cooking, but food
is so much more than just cooking. It is an entry point to different cultures. It is an entry point to learning about farming. It's all about the meaning.
This interview was condensed for length and clarity.

More from Food & Drinks

R29 Original Series