Spotlight: One student out of 36,000

Jaclyn Rymer

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Photo Credit: Jaclyn Rymer / Staff Reporter

Photo Credit: Jaclyn Rymer / Staff Reporter

In a medium pan, toss in one part daughter, one part sister, one cup Christian, a drizzle of cook with a dash of baker, and a healthy pinch of friend. Cover the pan and allow it to simmer for 18 years to create Melissa Simon.

Simon was born in Huntington Beach but grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and it was the 1994 Northridge earthquake that created memories for Simon she still revisits today.

Ironically, many of the memories that resulted from the earthquake were happy ones that helped Simon to discover one of her favorite hobbies: cooking.

With the destruction that came from the 1994 quake, Simon, her mom, dad and older sister were forced to move in with Simon’s grandmother because the family’s home was “red-tagged,” meaning no one was allowed inside, since the house was nearly two miles away from the earthquake’s epicenter, Simon said.

During the time she spent living with her grandma, Simon said she reveled at the skills her grandma possessed in a kitchen.

“I just remember coming home from school, and I would always help her make pasta because she used to make spaghetti sauce, so she had this pasta machine and she’d roll it out, then she would put it in the machine,” Simon said. “It comes out and I got to cut it.”

This simple act and the enjoyment that came from cutting pasta noodles as a child grew into a real interest for Simon as she got older and turned into an adult, she said.

“I like to experiment with things,” Simon said. “My favorite thing to do is bake, though.”

More recently, while baking a pineapple upside-down cake for her dad, Simon had something very bad happen, a baker’s worst nightmare. Her oven broke. Simon said she is working on getting it fixed before Thanksgiving so she is able to cook dinner.

Simon has a flair for cooking, but she said she would rather not pursue a career in the culinary arts—at least not yet.

“I used to want to open my own restaurant, but I think I might do something like that when I’m closer to retirement,” Simon said.

“Maybe even just open my own little bakery,” she added. “I don’t know if I want to do it right now, full-time because I enjoy cooking and it’s like my stress reliever, so I don’t know if I want to do it as a business because I think it might not become a stress reliever anymore and it might become a stress.”

Simon is a fan of the Food Network, and out of all the chefs on the network, she said she prefers Guy Fieri because he has a unique style that appeals to a different kind of audience.

“There’s just something so different about him,” Simon said. “If you put him next to all the other Food Network cooks, he’s just kind of out there.”

Simon said Fieri will be doing a road show in December, which will be filmed at the Gibson Amphitheater. She hopes to sit in the audience when her favorite chef comes to town.

As for Simon’s best recipes, most of them consist of family recipes that are all protected inside of a box, and she sometimes uses those to invent new recipes. However, out of all her recipes, the one that holds the most value dates back to when she was first exposed to cooking.

“The one I make the most is my grandma’s spaghetti sauce,” Simon said.