This spring 2014 semester, I’ve had the privilege of working as a Web Editorial/Social Media Intern at America’s Test Kitchen. I grew up reading Cook’s Illustrated (I believe one of my aunts had purchased a print subscription for me for one of my birthdays?), one of the company’s two magazines (Cook’s Country is the other, newer magazine), and when I found out America’s Test Kitchen was located in Brookline Village, just a quick 3 T stops away from BU, I had an epiphany and jumped at the opportunity to intern at the nationally-recognized test kitchen.
The highlights of this internship so far:
1-As simple as this sounds, it is SO COOL to be around fellow foodies 24/7. Eating food, talking about food, writing about food…everything simply revolves around food so it’s pretty much heaven on earth for me. They get me! There are other people like me! (I am not exaggerating–I’ve sat in editorial meetings during which time one singular cheesecake recipe was discussed for about 30 minutes straight. Who knew there was so much to talk about when it comes to cheesecake? This internship has taught me that there is so much that goes into each and every dish–much more than anyone realizes.)
2-The taste tests. As the name ‘Test Kitchen’ implies, the test cooks work in the large, state-of-the-art kitchen from 9-5 (sometimes even longer) every day, testing and retesting recipes sometimes 20 to 30 times until they are 100% perfected. As a part of the testing process, there are taste tests constantly happening which everyone in the building is always welcome to attend. I always get unnecessarily excited (it just never gets old!) when I hear the little click of the intercom go on, as one of the cooks is about to announce “there’s a __ tasting in the large kitchen.” YES PLEASE. I pretty much fly out of my cubicle and race downstairs every time, thankful I have three flights of stairs to burn off the mushroom bisque, beesting cake, pork belly, beef tenderloin, cheese puffs…(I can go on but I’ll refrain). The other great part about these taste tests? All leftover food is individually wrapped up and put in a communal ‘up-for-grabs’ refrigerator that employees/interns can visit as many times as they want throughout the day and claim any of the food that doesn’t already have someone’s name written on it. It’s basically a culinary treasure chest; you never know what you’re going to find inside those promising stainless steel doors, and the mystery of it makes it that much more exciting.
3-The annual equipment giveaway. Just as the editors conduct taste tests 24/7, equipment is also tested to provide readers with objective reviews of every type of cooking equipment imaginable. America’s Test Kitchen actually purchases the equipment they test (to be as objective as possible–props for journalistic ethics!), so once the editors are done testing, they end up putting everything in storage. As you can imagine, all this equipment accumulates over the year. So once a year, the company purges all the equipment in storage that has been tested throughout the year. To do this, there is a well-organized equipment giveaway on Valentine’s Day (not sure why on this holiday but I’m not complaining…happy Valentine’s Day to me!). All the equipment is gathered in the ‘library’ area, both towering on top of the conference table as well as hiding below it and all around it on extra shelves. Everyone at the company is randomized and given a time slot. At your time, you head downstairs and have 10 minutes to look around and pick either one large or 2 medium of 4 small items. If there is enough leftover after everyone has gone through once, the order is reversed and everyone can go back to get more items a second time. Toward the end of the day, once everyone has gone through twice, it becomes a ‘free for all.’ You really need to see it to believe it, so watch this video for a better visual. As I do not yet have my own apartment with a kitchen, I was pretty much willing to take anything and everything I could get my hands on; I ended up with a slow cooker, plastic mixing bowl, baking pan, cutting board, scale, whisk, wooden spoon, pot holder, and probably a few more minor (but still useful) things I’m forgetting.
So what do I do at America’s Test Kitchen exactly?
Well, besides eating a lot, I…
- Primarily report to the Assistant Web Editor who has been incredibly kind, welcoming, patient, and fun to work with thus far. Though these same adjectives could really describe everyone I’ve met.
- Write ‘sifters’ for the Daily Sifter, the food news section of The Feed (America’s Test Kitchen’s blog)
- Respond to posts on the America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country, and Cook’s Illustrated Facebook pages
- Write and schedule tweets/Facebook posts for the America’s Test Kitchen Twitter account
- Share The Feed content on Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr
- Write a series of blog posts for The Feed as a part of my ‘intern project.’ Titled Cook’s Country Confidential, I am writing posts on each of the magazine’s features, giving readers a glimpse into the inner-workings of the magazine. This has been a fascinating experience so far because it has allowed me to interview various editors and cooks throughout the company. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them and hearing all about their past cooking and writing experiences. It’s also a really cool experience seeing how much traffic my blog posts get. Knowing how many people are reading what I have to say just further motivates me to write even better posts with each and every week.
- Attend as many taste tests as possible to learn about foods I’ve never heard of before (just discovered and tasted ‘sformato’ the other day), give my opinions, get to know the test cooks and editors, etc.
- Attend editorial meetings where I simply sit and observe, listening to the editors go back and forth with the cooks about certain recipes. It’s interesting learning how editorial decisions are made and how many opinions and ideas go into each and every feature of the magazines.
Here are the aforementioned Cook’s Country Confidential blog posts I’ve written throughout my internship, all in one centralized location: