Visiting America's Test Kitchen

Remember, waaay back [in April], when my book was just released? I was on my first book tour segment, the trip that brought me to Boston. Well, I promised to share with you the insider’s tour of America’s Test Kitchen. Please excuse my delay in posting!

My relationship with ATK began at the snack table at the Austin #Techmunch event. Steph and I were poking around, determining if it would be too bold to go out on the veranda and taste the food being served for a different event (it looked good!). All good things happen when food is involved.

Steph invited me to tour the Test Kitchen during my stay in Boston a few weeks later. When I walked up the stairs and into the offices, I was delivered smack-dab into a treasure trove of book-lined shelves. As a first rate book hoarder myself, the assortment of cookbooks and cookery books that populate ATK’s collection is astounding. Steph says there are 4,000 books and it is one of the largest private cookbook collections in America. They have special library volunteers who keep it organized.

I was more than a little surprised to not find a Joy of Cooking-dedicated shelf. What better way to see what America is cooking than to track the editions of JoC? I can’t wait to read this book, by Anne Mendelson (thanks Marisa, fellow JoC collector and obsessor, for the tip!)

After doting on books, we ventured into the food stylists’ lair, I mean, work space. I saw all sorts of cool stuff, including a bowl of jiggly xanthan gum, which helps to shape food up for its five seconds of fame. I loved how they had a dedicated area for old doors, wood and cabinets for those rustic, farmhouse-feel shots. It made me feel right at home to not be the only person who scavenges through renovation-induced roadside trash.

After the front-end stuff, we ventured into the hallway that leads to the main, TV-kitchen area, where I commenced to drool.

They use pots and pans for years, tracking their performance during all stages of use.

If you’ve ever leafed through a copy of Cook’s Illustrated, you’ll notice they do all sorts of methods and recipes testing. Someone has grand plans for this pickled assortment. Steph said that there is always an assortment of all kinds of foods, and the demand for employees, and not just kitchen employees, to come down and sample or take home excess groceries (hellooooo dream job).

It was one guy’s job on the day of my visit to create a perfect fried egg. (No xanthan gum was reconstituted in the shooting of this egg.)

It was fun to see the magical and all-home-cook-equipped TV kitchen, though admittedly, I’ve never watched America’s Test Kitchen TV (because we don’t have a television with channels). The tour marched on, into the back closet.

Yes, those are all wrapped in cling wrap. They’re the TV dishes and cannot be allowed to accrue any speck of dust since they might be fetched in an instant and must be primed and ready for the big screen.

We then proceeded upstairs where I got to participate in a supermarket mozzarella cheese taste-testing session.

It was cool to receive in the mail the latest copy of Cook’s Illustrated and see the results of that test!

While a bow-tied Christopher Kimball is known to roam around the offices, I failed to encounter him on my visit. Though I did get a peek into his office where I could see his kneecaps and feet.

(Disclosure: I pay with my own money for my subscription to Cook’s Illustrated; There were no promo items nor prompting on ATK’s part to write this post or tour their facility.)