Leah Rovner, 23, started at America’s Test Kitchen in the Web Editorial department, but now keeps the kitchen running smoothly as a Senior Kitchen Assistant. From organizing grocery lists for the chefs to getting those finicky ovens fixed, Leah is in charge. She took some time from her duties and answered our questions:
Has grocery shopping for America’s Test Kitchen changed the way you shop for your own things?
I have all the winners and “best buys” cataloged into my brain so I don’t want to get something that is subpar. I’m more aware of the store, the layout, and who to ask for what. And how to pry—if something is not on the shelf, you know it’s there somewhere! They always have items in the back, and they keep crates of different produce in their storage. So it’s always worth asking if you are looking for a specific ingredient and it’s not on the shelf. Chances are they have it, or they can order it for you.
How many items are on a typical America’s Test Kitchen shopping list?
Anywhere from 30-350 items on a regular basis. During the months we film the TV show, we have up to 500 items if not more.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever had to buy?
We have had to order really funky ingredients for The Feed. We’ve made bacon jam and duck prosciutto. I had to order a pig’s head, pig’s feet, and things like blue eggs.
How many pieces of equipment do we have in the test kitchen, and how do you keep track of it?
In the kitchen itself, I’d say we have about 1,000 pieces of equipment—from general kitchen tools like can openers or graters, to standing mixers or ice cream makers. We have several inventories that detail what we have in storage, what items we have in Vermont [where we film Cook's Country TV], the equipment we have in our kitchens here, etc.
What superpower would you like to have in the kitchen?
I have a pretty good short-term memory, but I think I’d like to have a foolproof one. I could just remember lists throughout the week, and just be a encyclopedia of order knowledge. Especially with equipment. I’m good with the food but we have volumes and volumes of equipment…
Could you make it through a grocery store blindfolded at this point?
“Meet the Kitchen” is a weekly series where we learn a bit more about the folks who work at America’s Test Kitchen. See the archived interviews here.