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Juli Roberts - Test Kitchen Manager for a magazine
Coolest Jobs in America

“I’m A Cooking Magazine Test Kitchen Manager”

We interviewed Juli Roberts, Test Kitchen Manager of Rodale Publications in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Juli shares her story, and talks about the business of working in a magazine Test Kitchen.

Juli Roberts: Test Kitchen Manager For Cooking Magazines

This is the story of Juli Roberts and her job as Test Kitchen Manager at Rodale Publications in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.

Rodale Publications publishes a number of well-circulated magazines including Runner’s World, Organic Life, Prevention Magazine, and Men’s Health and Women’s Health; and these magazines frequently share recipes with their readers.

As Test Kitchen Manager, Juli’s team is behind the writing, developing, and testing of the recipes sent to print.

My job,” Juli says, “is to help anyone take up this recipe, and make it appear in front of themselves within twenty to thirty minutes.”

In the interview, she suggests that people who interested in a test kitchen job get started with culinary school or journalism school — either is suitable. And, she’s also eager to share that her background was in engineering.

Before culinary school, Juli worked on submarines.

Watch the entire interview with Juli Roberts, Test Kitchen Manager, who has one of the Coolest Jobs In America.

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Episode transcript

[00:00] I love the fact that I work in a restaurant. It gives you street cred. You know what I mean? Like, there’s a certain culture in restaurants where it toughens you up. It makes you a faster cook. It makes you better cook. It makes you a cook that, you know, sees things.

[00:20] Hi! I’m Juli Roberts. I work at Rodale and I’m the Test Kitchen Manager. Every magazine out in the world that has recipes has people in the back that are testing and developing those recipes. So, as a Test Kitchen Manager, it’s my job to get all that stuff accumulated, tested, and edited and written up for the magazine.

[00:38] There are six brands under Rodale. All the magazines report in to me with the recipes and the things that they need tested and developed and I organize it all into our week. Monday is our prep and shopping day meaning we get all the editors to send everything and make sure it’s in by Monday morning so that we can go shop everything.

[00:57] Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are our testing and on Friday is our editing day. So everything we tested throughout the week, we’ll edit all those recipes so we can get them out to all the different magazine editors for copy.

[01:10] The path I took to get here was a little varied. I started in engineering. I was working on submarines when I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore so then I went and I got a degree in English literature and writing. And then, I figured I wanted to cook in my life so the best way to marry all those things was in a test kitchen because it’s science and writing and food all together and it made me so happy.

[01:33] I feel like test kitchens are a mystery to a lot of people. I don’t I think people really understand what we do here. We’re not testing conveyor belts of different beans and whatever. We are actually developing recipes. We actually do try and make your work a lot easier at home, on the backend, cooking.

[01:51] It’s a very different thing to think about a recipe and conceptualize into words so that anybody can make it. My job is so that anyone picks up this recipe and they’ll be able to make it appear in front of themselves within, like, twenty to thirty minutes. We try to give you the markers, the things you’re smelling for, looking for, feeling for instead of the time. From one oven to the next, the time might skew by, like, five or ten minutes so it’s more important to me to tell you what you’re looking for than to tell you it’s going to take ten minutes.

[02:33] We do influence the recipes that we get in the test kitchen either by adding more language to help the home cook or by making ingredient changes that again are more helpful to the home cook. Not everybody can access tangerine oil so we try and figure out a way to make it more accessible for anybody using it on the outside world.

[02:43] At test kitchens, you can start as an intern straight out of culinary school. We do do externship programs with schools. Then there’s the different associate levels of test kitchen work. I mean, we are officially editors because we do do recipe editing. It’s not necessary to go to culinary school to work in a test kitchen but it’s probably your best bet to get into one. I went to the culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City.

[03:08] For a position in a test kitchen, I would definitely suggest some sort of bachelor’s degree in literature or writing. A journalistic degree is also great. It’s just because we are editing recipes, learning how to turn a phrase, and being good with your word count is really, really helpful.

[03:24] A lot of culinary schools build externship programs into their curriculum so you will already be cooking for a couple months to a year and they’ll send you out to work at different places, whether it be a magazine or kitchens. You can get externships anywhere. When I found out that test kitchens were like an actual job that you can do, I felt like the heavens opened because I really did feel that all these things that I kind of had built up in my arsenal, things to use in life were going to all merge into one place that I actually wanted to be.