Last week, one of my dreams came true.
I got to attend an intimate tour of America’s Test Kitchen. In case you didn’t know, ATK is filmed right in Boston’s backyard in Brookline in a small, unassuming building right off the D Line. It’s an area that I frequent quite a lot, and the fact that one of my favorite TV shows/magazine/cookbook series/people were located just a short walk away, well, let’s just say I get a bit giddy thinking about it.
The ATK studios is SMALL, made up of2 floors and they jam pack it. During our tours there were test cooks and staff and editors politely saying “Excuse me” to us as they try to develop a new tasty recipe. One of the most impressive parts of the ATK studios is their library collection. Steph (pictured below) who is the social media extraordinaire for ATK told us that ATK’s cookbook collection is one of the largest collections in the world. And I believe it. Not only were we surrounded by books on this floor, but there were books upstairs as well!
You may be wondering, why do many books? Well, Steph told us that most test cooks like to find 5 different versions of a single recipe when they are researching to come up with the “perfect” recipe. While there is certainly a wealth of information on the internet, most test cooks rely on cookbook as well as food literature in general, when coming up with a recipe. And it shows in the final product (the picture above is all ATK cookbooks) when the test cooks that not only write the recipes but the accompanying articles and tell you the story and the process they took to find that perfect recipe.
We also stumbled upon the end of a photo shoot. ATK uses all real food in their photographs, they even had some extra cakes over on the side (it took a lot to not ask for a piece!). They don’t use fake food, they said, unless it’s food like ice cream, which melts very easily.
Obviously as food bloggers, we were very interested in the process that goes into those mouthwatering photos.
We also got to take a look at their prop closet. They have two; with this one filled with towels and place mats and cutting boards.
Their other closet is filled with silverware, plateware, glassware, every kind of ware you could think of. During their filming (which lasts about 3 weeks) they empty this particular room and that is where the director and producers hang out during filming. I was VERY jealous of their prop rooms, they were the size of my apartment!
Steph informed us that they have 2 full time employees who job is to do the grocery shopping for ATK. They buy anywhere from 25-300 items in one shopping trip. They obviously do A LOT of baking considering they have 2huge barrels filled with flour and sugar. And I thought I had a lot of flour and sugar.
ATK technically has 2 test kitchens, the main one and this smaller one. They also pride themselves on using appliances that are available to the home cook. Which includes like, 20 stand mixers.
They also have a ton of ovens (I think they said around 16?). Let’s just say I was planning on hiding in a corner and never leaving.
I wish I had taken a larger picture, but in the corridor leading to the main test kitchen is every kind of kitchen utensil, pot and pan in existence. They have pots and pans that are only used for photos, and pots and pans that can be used whenever. As you may or may not know, ATK does extensive kitchen product reviews, and even after they have picked a winner, they are continually evaluating them and putting them into use in the kitchen so if something were to go wrong, they can let their readers know about it.
Right here, ladies and gentlemen, is where the magic happens. When you see Chris Kimball and Julia Davidson or Bridget Lancaster discussing and sampling a dish, they are doing it here. I also had the urge to go over to it and hug it. Or chain myself to it.
The time of our tour coincided with the end of the day of filming. Check out those loaves of bread?!? Aren’t they amazing. Again, I had the insatiable urge to tear off a piece of that bread.
They even had some baking in the oven! Why does my bread never rise that high? ::le sigh::
The tour ended with us visiting the editors lounge upstairs. I caught a glimpse of Chris Kimball in his trademark suspenders and bow tie. I was sending him some subliminal messages to get off the phone and come say hi to us, but apparently he wasn’t listening to me. I apologize to Steph as I didn’t really listen much to what she was saying at this point because I was trying to figure out how I could get into his office without being thrown out in the process.
I had such a fabulous time learning more about what goes on behind the scenes at ATK. While the studios are small, what they produce is epic.
Make sure to check out their new website: America’s Test Kitchen Feed which is a wonderful addition to their lineup of websites where you can get free recipes and food stories from the crew at ATK. It’s a must check out!