From their very first day, Test Kitchen interns are immersed into the bustling, vibrant world of America’s Test Kitchen and are a vital part of daily operations. For three months they work full-time next to the test cooks and editors to develop recipes and content across all of the Test Kitchen’s TV shows, publications, and websites.
Assistant Test Kitchen Director Gina Nistico, who manages the internship program, emphasizes that what makes a good test kitchen intern is often what makes a good test cook: attention to detail and a focus on accuracy before speed.
Kitchen interns come from different backgrounds. Danielle DeSiato-Hallman started interning while she was still in culinary school. Andrea Geary started as an intern after teaching preschool and spending eight years as a chef in Scotland. Daniel Cellucci, who had attended culinary school but was involved in his own wine import company at the time, saw that Brookline, MA was where the show was filmed, so he dropped by and was making osso buco two days later. However, all these interns have one thing in common—following their internship, they became test cooks.
It’s not surprising that a kitchen internship is a great training ground for becoming a test cook. Below are skills every intern learns and soon masters.
1. Kitchen Production
Interns play a large role in recipe development, from research to testing. Prep work is a large part of their responsibilities. “It’s mise en place, mise en place, mise en place,” explains Gina, using the french phrase for prep work that literally means, “Everything in its place.” From breaking down cuts of meat to mincing herbs, interns exercise their culinary school chops while following the extremely specific instructions of the test cook they work under.
Andrea remembers that she spent a month helping create the complicated components of a complicated cassoulet, including making duck confit. Her first day, Danielle had to cut up 4 pounds of chuck roast for a chili recipe, and then immediately steam 10 pounds of spinach for a spanakopita recipe. Through the repetitive but important job of prep work, interns are able to build on their culinary skills and become better cooks.
2. Grocery Intake
Every day from around 8:00-10:30 am, trucks brimming with dry goods, produce, and meat pull up to the Test Kitchen, and the interns go to work quickly sorting the deliveries. Since test cooks work with fresh ingredients (and there isn’t much storage space in the kitchen), interns will sort everything from imported winter tomatoes to lobster caught off the coast of Massachusetts. As with everything in the Test Kitchen, accuracy is key, and interns check order lists against deliveries and alert Senior Kitchen Assistant Meryl MacCormack to any discrepancies.
3. Kitchen Operation
With all that chopping, steaming, grilling, and mashing that goes on in the Test Kitchen every day, kitchen equipment requires a lot of TLC. Interns are assigned tasks—from sharpening knives to repairing measuring spoons—that keep the Test Kitchen running smoothly. They also make sure the pantry stays stocked with basics like flour, olive oil, and canned tomatoes.
4. Research Project
Interns spend their three months at the Test Kitchen gaining tons of on-the-job experiences—and, at the end of the internship, they’re asked to show it. In the last few weeks, interns are assigned their own recipe to develop and write their own companion story in the style of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Then they get to work with an editor who gives them feedback.
Some of the test cooks’ most memorable aspects of their internships often have nothing to do with the typical tasks, but rather random opportunities that presented themselves during their internship. Danielle remembers getting to do brownie tastings to passers-by in Boston’s Copley Square, where Editorial Director of Magazines John “Doc” Willoughby handed out free samples to delighted Bostonians who knew and loved America’s Test Kitchen. Andrea remembers prepping 400 chocolate taste tests for audience members for a book tour with Jack Bishop. And that osso buco that Daniel got to cook his first day on the job? It wound up being photographed and published in Cook’s Illustrated.
What was your most memorable internship or apprenticeship? Let us know in the comments for a chance to win a copy of our Pasta Revolution cookbook. The winner will be notified by email on Tuesday, Sept. 18.