It was so fun to find out we won the blog-the-recipe contest. I loved seeing posts from the 50+ bloggers who submitted and meeting a few of them via Twitter and comments. Blogging bakers are obviously some of the nicest people one can hope to encounter in the internet world.

On top of being delighted to win, it was an unexpected perk to get to read the judges’ comments. In typical Test Kitchen style, they took the contest seriously and had several judges from different backgrounds rate the posts. Here’s what they said about our post:

  • “Simply put, brevity is the soul of wit, and the vintage-tinged ‘Brief Guide’ photo essay bridges that sexy line between straight-forward utilitarianism and a lyrical portrayal of the kitchen. ”
  • “Her opening paragraphs perfectly capture what we do at America’s Test Kitchen, and the photos are great. They illustrate the most important parts of the recipe— and her final batch looks picture-perfect.”

Geez, thanks guys.

I say “we” because my husband Joe was my creative partner for the post and the photographer.  So luckily I got to bring one guest with me to the set. It was an easy trip on the T over to Brookline where ATK is based.

All of the ATK efforts–Cook’s Illustrated magazines and cookbooks, Cook’s Country, the recipe testing, the radio show, the product testing, the television show, the website—come out of one relatively tiny space that they’ve been in for years. The kitchen they film the show in is also the actual test kitchen. It’s remarkable to imagine the enormous variety of work and projects that come out of that little space.

Spotted! Chris Kimball. Chris and his partner for each show don’t have memorized lines, they just really know what they are talking about. Sometimes they have to do several takes of a certain shot and they come up with new, better approaches each time. It was amazing to watch in real time.

The crew was so friendly and accommodating even though there was no room at all. I had an eight month pregnant belly to add to the mix, so it was a tight fit.

Joe particularly hoped we would see this helpful guy:

Serious mise en place. Secretly wish we would’ve showed up on Nutella bread pudding day.

One of my favorite parts of the visit was seeing the enormous cookbook library. When you read a recipe that’s been remade by the Test Kitchen, they always reference the dozens of recipes they examined before they began. This is how they do it! They estimate that their library is the largest cookbook library in the United States. It takes up all the walls of the largest room in the office, and is meticulously organized.

The library had just recently gotten in Modernist Cuisine. Now that I think about it, I can imagine the ATK cooks loving the scientific examination of cooking that Modernist Cuisine pursues, but I was still impressed to see it on the shelves. (Also, considering the $625 price tag, I had not had a chance seen it in person yet.)

On the day we visited, one of the recipes they were filming was chocolate pudding.

I don’t even like chocolate pudding, and I couldn’t stop eating this. All the food they make for the show gets devoured almost immediately, by the crew, staff, cooks, extras…everyone takes part in the labor and gets to appreciate the results. I was lucky to get my own bowl.

Everyone we met obviously loved their job and wanted to do it very well. I think you get that vibe when you read Cook’s Illustrated, but it was even better to encounter in person and great to see the inner workings of such a unique company publishing company. Thanks for letting us visit, ATK!

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