Earlier this month Boston Brunchers organized a blogger tour of America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). Since moving to Boston I’ve watched hundreds of ATK and Cook’s Country tv episodes and Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook is my go-to guide for kitchen recipes. So you can understand how I felt like a 10 year-old waiting for this awesome field trip to Brookline.
Steph Yiu, the ATK Social Media Manager (above explaining the ‘Wall of Awesome’), was our headquarters guide. The wall is full of website comments and image submissions that change weekly to reflect reader experiences. Steph shared ATK history, was patient with all of our necessary food blogger photography, and even let us in on a few secrets.
Our first stop was the library. ATK has thousands of cookbooks and other food-themed literature. Steph explained the reason for having so many books: before a new recipe is developed in the Test Kitchen, there’s a ‘Five Recipe Test’. Five versions of the same dish are made to compare options for the future ATK recipe. Test cooks can easily find variety with so many books.
After the library we visited the photography rooms where photographers use natural light. This is how they achieve the stunning ATK images that you see on The Feed and in their magazines and cookbooks (and why I’ll wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning to cook and take photos).
The most well-stocked kitchen I’ve ever seen (although, as you can see, many of the items are for photography purposes). We learned that ATK buys kitchen items from local stores and everything is home-size with the exception of the hoods and an industrial refrigerator and dishwasher. This allows cooks to test the true quality of items as if they were home cooks. Similarly, they purchase ingredients from markets at home kitchen-size portions (no industrial orders!).
If you’ve seen the ATK tv series you’ll recognize this room. I had no idea they film an entire season over a three week period in May (that means those thick winter stews are made in the summer!). The majority of cooks leave the main kitchen during filming because of constant activity in the room. Throughout the rest of the year the kitchen is busy with activity and ovens are on for over 40 hours each week.
I also learned that recipes are made six months in advance, so sometimes you’ll find test cooks grilling outside in the snow with a space heater. That’s dedication!
It was such a privilege to tour America’s Test Kitchen and have a behind-the-scenes look at the dedicated and enthusiastic team. It’s amazing how much work is produced behind these Brookline doors – now whenever I watch ATK shows on PBS I have a completely new appreciation. It was a wonderful experience!