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The Test Kitchen


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6 replies to this topic

#1 Malawry

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Posted 04 June 2002 - 06:53 AM

Jeanne, you've mentioned the Post's rigorous recipe testing and rewriting in a couple of your responses. Could you tell us more about the test kitchen? I assume the Post has one, but I realize this may be an erroneous assumption. What's it like? Who does the recipe testing? How do you ensure that everything really is followed to the letter when a recipe is tested? Do you think your recipe testing methods and equipment work well?

#2 Jeanne McManus

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Posted 04 June 2002 - 04:54 PM

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about what I refer to as our "gleaming, space age test kitchen": That would be a toaster oven, a 15-year-old microwave and a couple of mini-fridges.

No, we have no test kitchen at The Post. And, frankly, that's fine with me. Apparently, there's a fabulous one at the LATimes. We test all of our recipes in.... our home kitchens. And, as you may have read in another of my responses, I have a lousy electric oven that I inherited from the previous owner of our house.

The Food staff or friends in the newsroom help us test recipes. We reimburse them for expenses, but not their time, and it sometimes really is a labor of love.

Why no test kitchen? First, because we're journalists, not cooks.

Second, because we want to test recipes under the same conditions as our readers, whether it's an efficiency apartment or a kitchen with a HORRIBLE white LINOLEUM floor and a LOUSY ELECTRIC OVEN (have you guessed that's me?)

Oh, another reason? If we had a test kitchen the Style writers would probably ask us to warm up their lunch for them.... :)

#3 Malawry

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Posted 04 June 2002 - 05:03 PM

See, I remember Tom Sietsema saying in his Live Online chat a couple times that he got his start as a recipe tester for the Wash Post Food section. Did he just test a lot at home as his job? If so, can I please have that job?  :smile:

I feel your pain on the workplace kitchen. My workplace was like that except we didn't even have a toaster until I bought one and schlepped it in myself.

#4 Jeanne McManus

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Posted 04 June 2002 - 05:08 PM

You know, it sounds like a great job, recipe testing. But when you're standing at your stove at 11:30 at night waiting for your 10th attempt at brining a Thanksgiving turkey to come out of the oven... well, it's not so great. But I'm really not complaining. I've learned a lot. And I've learned a lot about what to do with leftovers. P.s. At 8:50  a.m. on Sept. 11, I was taking a Thanksgiving turkey recipe out of the oven. I'll never forget it.

#5 russ parsons

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Posted 06 June 2002 - 09:31 AM

hmmm, jeannie, no test kitchen because you're JOURNALISTS? i'll try not to take offense. i certainly admire the devotion of food writers who test recipes at home--i do that, too, before i turn it in. but there is no replacement for having a pair of impartial eyes (or several pairs) go over a recipe before you run it.

i understand it's a rarity, but i'm extremely proud of the work of our test kitchen and i think having it makes us a better section (than we would be without it). everything recipe we run is tested in house and all of our photography is done here. as well. and we kind of think of ourselves as journalists, too.

#6 Jeanne McManus

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Posted 06 June 2002 - 09:46 AM

And the National Desk doesn't make you warm up their leftovers???

Sorry Russ! Didn't mean to impugn your work. Maybe I really just have test kitchen envy!

#7 russ parsons

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Posted 06 June 2002 - 10:23 AM

it's actually kind of interesting. with new staffers, sometimes they want to use the kitchen for "warming up leftovers", but we make the point that this is a place of work, not a cafeteria annex and in a way that seems to enhance our reputation among the staff--we're working, not playing in the kitchen; we're journalists, not "moms".

and i've got test kitchen envy, too. everything in it is so much nicer than what i've got at home... for the record, i should also point out that it is all home equipment, albeit very nice home equipment. well, very nice to me, anyway: i cook on a 1940s o'keef and merrit (though with with 4 burners a griddle and a separate broiler, i think it's very nice, too). anyway... who isn't a sucker for marble pastry stations?