Michaela Kenkel's Dining Table Expands OnlineMay 27, 2022 03:28PM ● By Hannah Amrollahi
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Those who talk to Michaela Kenkel, the mind behind An Affair from the Heart food blog, will soon find themselves in a conversation about family.
“Everything that is on my blog we eat,” Kenkel said.
When she started blogging in 2011, Kenkel had four kids at home and six to eight people at every meal. Kenkel’s main focus was staying home with her children.
“I’ve always had a side hustle,” Kenkel said. “Everything I’ve ever done had a creative outlet and cooking is definitely creative.”
An Affair from the Heart also started as a side project, born from her work as a party-planner for family and friends. Guests would ask for dip and dessert recipes after events, and she started posting them online.
“I was pretty new in the game when food blogging started,” Kenkel said. “Now it is saturated.”
Blogspot was then all the rage, and followers got every post in their timeline. Today, the landscape is competitive and social media is fragmented, while algorithms control what gets onto timelines.
“As the kids got older and were away more it just morphed into a full-time gig,” Kenkel said.
During this time, Kenkel moved her blog to Wordpress and diversified her social media. About four years into An Affair from the Heart, she started working with brands and the blog became a full-time career. It attracts 925,000 average monthly views, has 216,000 Facebook followers, and pages on Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.
“She is one of my favorite entrepreneurs,” said Janell Anderson Ehrke, CEO of Grow Nebraska. “You’d think she’s in Chicago or downtown New York. She has got it going on right here in Nebraska.”
Kenkel works with Nebraska companies and national household brands, including Dunkin Donuts, General Mills, Horizon Organic, and Bob’s Redmill. Her first partnership with Frank’s Kraut evolved organically from Kenkel sharing the recipe for Polish sausage and sauerkraut from her grandmother, traditionally served to their family at Easter. Katie Peterson, marketing manager for Frank’s Kraut, reached out to Kenkel asking to share the post.
“The feedback we get from our community is amazing,” Peterson said. “I know what she makes hits home for a lot of people.”
Whether working with large companies or helping Nebraska products get exposure, Kenkel works with brands she “uses in her own kitchen.”
Her most popular recipes often come from her family, such as her grandmother’s hamburger soup featured on the Today Show website. As with Frank’s, the morning staple reached out to Kenkel. In the past she has worked with booking agents, and over time, developed relationships to work with brands directly. Regardless of a project’s origin, Kenkel is proud to develop and eat with her family all the recipes on the blog, sponsored or unsponsored posts. For example, Kenkel painstakingly recreated the beloved Chocolate Macaroon Bundt Cake Mix from Pillsbury after it was discontinued.
“It was my husband’s birthday cake growing up,” Kenkel said. “It took me years to figure out the exact recipe for this cake, and that cake brings back so many memories for people.”
While her grandparents had signature recipes, whether it was Polish sausage for Easter or oyster stew for Christmas, An Affair from the Heart has a wide berth.
“I don’t know what recipe I’ll be known for because I have 11,00 recipes,” Kenkel said. “If you can’t come to [An Affair from the Heart] and find something to eat, you must not be hungry.”
Kenkel developed all the recipes and does her own food photography and posts. She has virtual assistants to help re-shoot older posts or share-out to specific groups. She makes sure to touch everything associated with the blog.
“I couldn’t do it all by myself and do it well,” Kenkel said. “I found good people.”
Now cooking for an empty nest, her children all college-age or older, Kenkel is starting a series of recipes for two. She also sends extra food to work with her husband, Brian.
“My husband and I, we were very much about the family table,” Michaela said. “Not to say my kids weren’t busy, but nine times out of 10 we sat here and ate dinner, even if someone had to rush out the door.”
When the Kenkels built their home, Michaela included a generous kitchen and dining room. Windows give the area great light and its renovation in 2020 updated the look and added a cocktail space. Kenkel learned culinary interior design from growing up in a cooking family. Her grandparents would seat the entire family at a winding table that stretched from the back porch to the dining room. Her own dining room table is still where she shoots most of her dishes for An Affair from the Heart.
“No matter what, everyone gathers in the kitchen,” Kenkel said.
Visit anaffairfromtheheart.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.