Dan Zuccarello joined America’s Test Kitchen three years ago, applying on a whim after wanting a change of pace from restaurant kitchens. Now he’s a test cook for the books team, cooking up recipes for slow cookers and skillets. Dan took a break from his current projects and answered some of our questions:
What are you testing right now?
We’re working on a “quick” book, in the style of our family ring-bound cookbooks, where all the recipes are 45 minutes or less. I’m currently working on the pizza and sandwiches chapter. It’s a lot of cheese to eat.
Got a book you can’t live without?
I have two: One is the Family Baking Book. I’m a terrible baker. I can’t just think in my mind, “I’ll throw a couple of things together,” because baking is very methodical. The book is a great resource. My other favorite is the Skillet cookbook, because my wife and I have a small kitchen and it’s nice to be able to cook an entire meal in one skillet.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a test cook?
I would love to be a carpenter. My dream is to have a little workshop in my garage. I love working with my hands, and I think that’s why food worked really well for me. I know a lot of chefs that are into things like that, like pottery.
What has been your most intensive testing experience?
The Slow Cooker cookbook was intense. We had an entire wall of slow cookers, 15 to 20 going at once. We work a 9-5 workday, and you figure a slow cooker takes 4-6 hours at least, so you’ve got to cram a long recipe into an eight-hour workday. With the Slow Cooker book, it was a mad dash to get everything into the slow cooker, then there was this lull, then, at the end of the day, we had nine recipes being tasted all at once.
If you ran a food truck, what would you serve?
This is an obscure combination, but ice cream and soup. During the summer you could do ice cream, and in the winter, soup. I don’t know what I would call it [laughs], but you would have a definite market for each season, and it could last all year long.
“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.