photograph by ken gabrielsen
Jennifer Aaronson, a willowy gal with a big smile and auburn hair, is often pictured alongside fellow Westchester foodie Martha Stewart. Until 2015, Aaronson was editorial director of food and entertaining at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she worked for 14 years. Now, she’s bringing her own brand of living to Hastings-on-Hudson, where she recently opened a wine bar with husband Paul Molakides. They intend Boro6 to be a neighborhood joint, but with Molakides’ deep well of warmth and Aaronson’s honed ability to craft and execute a simply lovely menu, odds are good that it will become a destination.
“My mom always made home-cooked meals,” says Aaronson, who in addition to running Boro6, works as cofounder and culinary director of the meal-kit service Martha & Marley Spoon, which helps tons of busy modern families do just the same thing. “She could make a casserole out of anything! She’d stretch two chicken breasts for four nights — she really was quite crafty, and it was good.”
Aaronson cites her mom’s deft home economics and her dad’s enthusiasm at the table as core inspirations. “[My father] would be moaning over how good dinner was every night, and I saw how powerful that was. My mother was this sorceress with food,” she explains. Aaronson is arguably a sort of sorceress herself — a warm, local sorceress, likely to dole out milky coffee and excellent homemade marmalade while passing hugs to her kids, Gio and Frannie, at the family’s cozy Hastings-on-Hudson Tudor.
After graduating from Cornell in 1992, Jennifer worked for a bank and was then hired to write for a “dry as a bone” economics trade journal. She quickly ditched the job, however, to enroll in the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, where she became well versed in kitchen fundamentals and the fresh, local aspects of Italian cooking. Perhaps most important, she fell in love with cooking.
At a women’s restaurateur event in 1994, Aaronson approached famed Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin. After inquiring whether Goin needed any help in her kitchen, the award-winning chef — whom Aaronson describes as the greatest mentor of her life — asked Aaronson to begin that very night. Aaronson soon found herself struggling to physically and mentally adapt to the intensity of restaurant life. Goin would taste a simple mesclun-and-balsamic salad Aaronson had put together and say: “If we can’t get this right, we might as well not be open.” Others would crumble under this scrutiny; but for Aaronson, it resonated.
While Aaronson cites meeting Goin as one moment of great luck, she mentions a baby shower in San Francisco as another. There, she met a West Coast editor for the magazine Martha Stewart Living who insisted that she interview. Aaronson, who had decided to apply her knowledge and passion to food writing rather than restaurant work, was delighted to comply. After a few meetings and a food test, where she made Stewart a beer-braised brisket, as well as a shortbread with blueberries and maple caramel (“It was a big tart, and she ate the whole thing!”), Aaronson was hired in 2001.
She credits her time at the magazine with putting her in touch with her creative side and forcing her to “take an idea and push it to the outer limits. And now,” she explains, “I just think in those layers.”
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Fourteen years after joining Martha Stewart Living, Aaronson was surfing around online for a new job for her husband, a front-of-house guy who has worked with Danny Meyer at Eleven Madison Park and ran the private restaurant at 15 Central Park West, once called “the world’s most powerful address.” (As a couple, Aaronson and Molakides are the minimalist and the maximalist, the gourmet and the gourmand, and high and high-low in their tastes and approaches.) During her Web search, Aaronson spotted a job as culinary director at Marley Spoon, a German company starting up in the US that was perfectly tailored to her skill set, not his.
Culinary whiz Jennifer Aaronson and husband Paul Molakides, at home with their children in Hastings-on-Hudson.
Aaronson took stock: “If I was going to make a change, and I kind of wanted to make a change, what was I going to do?” She’d heard of meal-kit pioneer Blue Apron; Marley Spoon was an analog that had seen great success in Germany and was ready to expand globally. The idea of a startup culture, rather than corporate culture, was intriguing.
As head of the US office, Aaronson has been exercising her well-learned precepts of good food, simply cooked (which she learned from Mom); cooking school; Goin; and, of course, Martha.
When Marley Spoon’s founder asked Aaronson whether Martha might be interested in partnering, Aaronson found herself once again working with her old boss — and once again, luck played a role. “One day I’m walking to Grand Central, and the phone rings,” Aaronson recalls. “It’s Martha. I answer, and she says ‘Who is this?’ Clearly, she had mistakenly dialed me. I said ‘Martha, it’s Jennifer! Now that I have you on the phone, I really want to tell you about Marley Spoon!’” Soon after, Stewart decided to partner with the meal-kit space; the brand is now known as Martha & Marley Spoon.
Aaronson won’t leave Martha & Marley Spoon for Boro6, where she is co-owner and has developed the menu with input from Molakides, who first rented the corner space in Hastings. The couple moved to the town six years ago. “I feel like we found our little Shangri-La; it’s perfect for us. We are surrounded by really smart, like-minded people interested in the same things,” she says. “Every year we gain a few more friends, and it keeps reaffirming our decision to be here.” Through their business, they are eager to give back to the community.
Life seems to revolve around activities for the kids — soccer and birthday parties were on the agenda the weekend we met up — and lots of dinner parties. Like many transplanted New Yorkers, they revel in Westchester’s more meditative lifestyle, and the natural landscape, including a colossal yet picturesque boulder positioned directly outside of their kitchen window.
As for Boro6 — whose name alludes to Hastings as New York City’s sixth borough — the concept grew out of slow, relaxed evenings they’ve spent at enotecas in Italy. Karen King, who designed wine menus at Gramercy Tavern and The Modern, is consulting on wine selections. The space won’t have a full kitchen. Instead, look for Dobbs Ferry-sourced charcuterie from Campbell Meats, sliced “as thin as lady’s lingerie,” as they like to say, and composed salads starring elements such as fennel and cheese. All desserts will be based on fresh whipped cream. Like Aaronson’s cooking approach, her reasons for launching Boro6 are similarly pared down: “We’re opening it for ourselves,” she says. “And, of course, our neighbors.”
Meredith Phillips is a freelance writer and editor recently relocated from Brooklyn to Croton-on-Hudson, where she has a fig tree with which she hopes to have a fruitful relationship.