Testing, Testing…In The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

by Alexandra Ilyashov

Still catching your breath post-fashion month? Finally, you’ve got time to pore over some of our dishy gems from The Daily in print this season! Ever wonder about the wizards behind Bon Appétit’s irresistible recipes? Meet the quartet of culinary editors who toil behind the scenes to bring the dreamiest possible delicacies to life.

ALISON ROMAN, senior associate food editor
Restaurant cred: When I was 15, I worked at Jamba Juice. Then, I was a pastry chef at Boule, a pâtisserie in L.A. that has since closed, and then I went to Sona, a restaurant owned by the same people that has also since closed. Divorcing and co-owning a restaurant don’t mix. At Quince, I was a pastry sous chef, and then I was a baker at Pies-n-Thighs in Brooklyn. At Momofuku Milk Bar, I was a sous chef and manager.

Tales from the trenches: When I was at Milk Bar, we moved the kitchen twice. Like, the entire kitchen. During the first move to a temporary spot in Harlem, there were a lot of very hot, late nights, blocking East Village traffic, lifting refrigerators up stairs, moving hundreds of gallons of soft serve, listening to a lot of Beyoncé and baking a lot of f***ing cookies. At the end of a 15-hour day we’d pile into [Christina] Tosi’s car and she’d drive us home. It was almost like summer camp. Almost.

Kitchen takeaway:
How to make biscuits. It’s how I got the job at Bon Appétit. Aside from that? Clean as you go, never throw anything away until the end of the day, take photos of everything, present your food with confidence, and stand up for the dishes you believe in.

Greatest culinary feat:
I’m pretty proud of that sour cherry pie on the June cover. Dry-brined turkey was an achievement; I’ll never go back to wet brine again.

Success strategy
: Don’t leave early. In fact, just clear your schedule. Stay late. Always say yes like you mean it (you should also really just mean it).


BRAD LEONE, test kitchen manager
Culinary alma mater: The Institute of Culinary Education

Restaurant cred:  My background is kind of all over the place. I’ve spent time in a lot of kitchens. At the Stand Grill, I was a sauté slave. It was not a very long time that I worked there. At MS Catering, I learned a lot. I was the owner’s right-hand man.

Tales from the trenches: As a caterer, we cooked really nice food for weddings and private parties. I would cook the meals and run the operation with a team. It was a lot of fun at times, and I met a bunch of really cool and interesting people—mostly rich men and miscellaneous ladies. We did this sun-dried tomato sauce over chicken that people went nuts for, but my favorite things to cook were real nice pieces of meat and all types of seafood.

Kitchen takeaway: Work smart and hard. Personality can go a long way, and if you want something to happen you must make it happen. No one’s going to throw it in your lap. There’s nothing wrong with a little luck, no one can take work ethic away. Most chefs will hire the guy with a good head and heart. Skill can be taught!

Greatest culinary feat: I mastered steamed oysters in saké and ginger/soy sauce, but can cook a mean standing rib roast, too!

Success strategy: Don’t ask for help unless you really need it, and don’t be a jerk! Make friends, be on time, and respect the food.  The people you work with and the atmosphere they create are so important.

CARLA LALLI MUSIC, food editor
Culinary alma mater: The French Culinary Institute

Restaurant cred:  I was a line cook at Montrachet. At Union Pacific, I was a line cook as well as kitchen manager. I was also the first general manager at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

Tales from the trenches:  Every single celebrity that ate at Shake Shack—Lucy Liu, Jon Stewart, Mark Ruffalo, Drew Barrymore, to name a few—waited in that crazy line. It was completely and relentlessly democratic. The only person who got to cut the line during my time there was chef Kerry Heffernan, but he basically invented the Shack Burger, so he gets a free pass.

Kitchen takeaway: I’m Italian, and my mom is an amazing cook, so I’ve loved food since forever. But I didn’t learn how to cook, really, until I made it my career.

Greatest culinary feat: My mashed potatoes—I mean, pommes purée!—kill. I start with French fingerling potatoes, boil them, peel them, put them through a food mill and then combine them with so much butter that they will practically pour through a fine-mesh strainer. Literally, they’ll kill you.

Success strategy: Be prepared to do anything. Slice two cases of fennel on an electric slicer? Yes, chef. Stuff 200 mini bell peppers with exactly one tablespoon of rabbit confit? Oui, chef. Work 14 hours for no pay? Whatever you say, chef. As for don’ts: Don’t start drinking until the end of your shift. You’re dealing with knives and fire, for crying out loud—safety first.

senior food editor 
Culinary alma mater: Le Cordon Bleu at California Culinary Academy

Restaurant cred: I was a pastry cook and line cook at Quince in San Francisco, and at Gertrude’s in Baltimore, I was pastry chef.

Tales from the trenches: Quince was my first BOH [back of house] experience. The owners, Mike and Lindsay [Tusk], are real industry pros, and their knowledge and skills are second to none. The community of food compadres they’ve built there is amazing. I had a car at the time, so once I was asked to make the trip over to Berkeley to pick up a whole (dead) pig from Chez Panisse. We just covered the back seat with a tarp and laid the pig in there, like a big sleeping dog. I was secretly hoping to get pulled over just to see the look on the officer’s face.

Kitchen takeaway: When working an off-site event, I heard, “We can’t be the first to leave, but we will be the second.”

Greatest culinary feat: Mastering zabaglione! It’s all in the wrist. Something about my whisking makes for the fluffiest zabaglione this side of the Mississippi.

Success strategy: Always ask before you use something for staff meal, even if it’s labeled as such. You don’t want to, say, fry up a bunch of skate nuggets that was intended for service that night (no one cares that they were delicious with the lemon aïoli). Do go to the farmers’ market/fish purveyor/farm with your chef. Watching them source and select ingredients will be hugely rewarding and informative.

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