Meet the Sunset test kitchen

November 12, 2010 | By | Comments (7)

I noticed the other day that somehow we haven’t mentioned our test kitchen on our blog. This is very surprising, since the kitchen is often one of the most popular parts of the tour at Celebration Weekend our big annual event—and it’s an integral part of our recipe creation process.

Therefore, I would like to introduce you to our very lovely test kitchen.

Our kitchen is made up of 4 individual kitchens that are fully equipped and meant to simulate a home kitchen. We (the food department) cook and create recipes for our One-Block Feast (and of course for the magazine) in these kitchens. Once we have a perfected recipe, we then give it to one of a few women who work with us, whom we call “retesters.” These women have no formal culinary training, and get no instruction from us regarding the recipe. They make it and see where it isn’t working. Most of the time it needs only small tweaks for timing or simplicity. But occasionally, a recipe needs to be made numerous times to guarantee success for our readers. I think the record is 16 times—but it wasn’t worth it. Every recipe must be tested successfully at least 2 times and by 2 different people.

Here are a few pictures of the test kitchen in operation.


That’s Doni Jackson, one of our retesters, hard at work on a wine club meal.

Here’s a picture of José (he’s a bit camera shy) who helps clean up after us and keeps the kitchen organized.


The pretty blonde is Stephanie Dean, our test kitchen coordinator (I think she’s looking at nothing, but it’s hard to know). She organizes the daily activities in the kitchen so that we all know what we’re doing and sets the priorities based on our story deadlines. Behind her is Elaine Johnson, our associate food editor, and she’s getting organized to cook for the day.


This is “our table” where we taste the food once it’s finished cooking. We all give our opinions; sometimes we make notes for the next test, and sometimes we proclaim it delicious and off to the editor it goes. Talking about the recipes they just made and taking a 5 minute break, are Sara Epstein and Linda Tebben, a few of our other testers.


This is Margo True, our Food Editor and leader of all things food-related at Sunset. The counter behind her is where we put the food when we’re done evaluating the recipe; then it’s up for grabs for the rest of the staff. Notice the hungry-looking people waiting for something to show up? Must have been lunchtime.

The most important thing for you to know is that this is where all of our recipes are created and perfected. So next time you see one of our recipes on our blog or in the magazine, you’ll know how it came to be.


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  6. Jennifer

    Thanks for all the great recipes. What is the surface that the food was placed on in pages 62-63 of the jan. 2014 issue? I love the color and am curious if it’s a working surface or just for the photo shoot. Thanks!

    January 9, 2014 at 2:25 pm
  7. Kara

    Oh! Can I be a retester? Sounds like a wonderful job!

    November 12, 2010 at 3:48 am

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