After enlisting many, many volunteers to help test about half of the recipes in The Modern Potluck, I found myself backlogged with more testing and retesting. Recipe testing is a fun gig but cleaning up is less so. Plus, to be honest, I started to get tired of making the same dishes over and over.
Throughout the book writing process, people told me to hire an intern. The problem is, I like developing recipes by myself, with no one looking over my shoulder. Sometimes, my process involves a bit of puttering around; I don’t always come to the kitchen with a clear-cut plan so I wasn’t always sure what an intern could do.
Testing and re-testing written up recipes, well, that is something someone else could do. I didn’t have any budget left to hire a tester, but I remembered that one of my best early experiences post culinary school was helping a cookbook author organize her ideas and doing some testing. For free. Yep.
I decided to get over my anxiety about having someone work in my home kitchen and ask my alma mater, the Institute of Culinary Education, if they knew of a recent graduate who might like some experience testing recipes. Within a few weeks, they sent me the perfect person—a career changer and mom of two girls who had some serious grit and a great attitude. She was working full time at a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York and looking to transition away from the restaurant gig to a job with saner hours.
I couldn’t pay her in dollars, but I promised her tons of food, recipe testing experience and all the contacts she could ask for. She came to my house once a week and cooked through three or four recipes each time. The best part about having in her my own kitchen was that I was able to check in and taste throughout the process. I could immediately see where instructions needed to be better or where we needed to add more of less of an ingredient. And yes, she cleaned up the kitchen when she was done.
Best of all, she found a job as a test kitchen assistant almost immediately after she stopped working at the restaurant and with me. I’m thrilled I could be part of her journey, and I know she’ll continue to do awesome things.
If I ever write another cookbook, I will definitely hire another intern. It was an incredible experience for me, and one that has only made the book better.