For over 16 years America's Test Kitchen has approached cooking through a methodic, scientific lens, explaining how to execute a recipe to perfection. In a crowded landscape of culinary television, they stand out for their rigorous testing and accessible recipes.
Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster have been appearing regularly on the show since its inception, and are taking the reins as hosts this year for the show's 17th season. You can expect more of the same in the best way, with equipment reviews, taste tests and recipes for home cooks evaluated by professionals in America's Test Kitchen. We caught up with Julia and Bridget to learn a little about how they work when they're not behind the stove.
Current Gig: Food Editors and hosts of America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country television shows.
One word that best describes how you work:
- Julia: Organised
- Bridget: Caffeinated
Current mobile device:
- Julia: iPhone — no idea which version.
- Bridget: iPhone 7
- Julia: MacBook Pro — again, no idea which version.
- Bridget: MacBook Pro
What apps, software or tools can't you live without?
- Apple Music: It's basically the radio for me. While I hate the idea of paying to listen to the "radio", I love that any music I want is right at my fingertips, especially when I'm working.
- Audible: I rarely have time to read any more. I save the great books for actual paper, but listen to everything else on Audible. It's transformed my commute from being the worst part of my day into one of the best. Sometimes, I sit in the driveway when I get home just to hear the end of a chapter.
- Gym Trainer Appointment App: I eat a TON of food at work (it's part of my job) so finding time for an efficient workout is crucial to my health. I love any appointment making apps in general.
- Google Calendar: It isn't pretty, but it seems to be the only way for everyone to track my schedule. Maintaining my schedule is a real battle and currently, I'm losing. I've looked at other types of apps, calendars and so on, but so far, none of them have worked for me. Maybe someday someone clever will come up with something that really works.
What's your workspace setup like?
Julia: I care very much about my work space. I have two offices (at home and work); my work turns out better when I'm at one of my desks. I always plug my laptop into a proper keyboard, mouse and large monitor. I'm short so my desks are humorously low — they almost look like desks meant for children — but my feet have to rest flat on the floor or else I get cranky. Also, I have good lighting (no blue-tinged, buzzy overhead florescent lights for me) and need to have neat things on the walls to look at when I'm thinking.
Bridget: Most of the time I work from my home office. It's a pretty traditional setup (desk, window, phone), but I also have a FitDesk — which is a stationary bicycle and desk.
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Julia: I wear headphones when I'm in my office, even if I'm not listening to anything. It helps me focus, but also prevents folks from interrupting just to say hi when my office door is open. It's like having a bouncer at the door.
Bridget: I have a couple of "cook days" per week, where I cook as much as I can and package up the food for easy leftovers. That way I'm not starting meal from scratch every single day.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
Julia: Old-school paper and pencil. I have a favourite, small, spiral-bound notebook and I write my work-to-do list every morning, with a side list of all my meetings for the day. I carry the notebook everywhere. Anything left on the list at the end of the day either gets written down for the following day and/or I find someone to help me get it done. Before I leave work, I rip out the day's page, crush it into a ball and throw it into the bin — very satisfying. I also have an old electric pencil sharpener at my desk because writing with super sharp pencils feels cool.
Bridget: I'm old school! I have a Moleskine journal and a pen. There's something incredibly satisfying to manually crossing items off a "to-do" list.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
Julia: Good in-ear headphones that have good sound quality, don't hurt after a few hours, don't crush my earrings and don't muss up my hair. My favourite pair is from an office supply chain store and have uniquely shaped rubber covers that nestle nicely inside my ear — very comfy. I have earphones everywhere — desks, computer bag, purse, suitcases, car...
Bridget: Coffee maker! I'm like The Hulk without my first cup of coffee. Also, I have a homemade "keezer" (chest freezer converted into a keg chiller/dispenser) in my basement that is pretty handy.
What kitchen gadget or tool that people often overlook is a necessity for you?
Julia: An electric tea pot that turns it self off when the water comes to a boil. I've no idea why folks aren't in love with this thing — we use it several times a day at my house.
Bridget: An electric tea kettle. I have to have a cup of tea in the late afternoon.
Do you find yourself always working on something? Or when you finish a project, do you take time to let your mind wander without concern for what's next?
Julia: Huh — I've never thought about this before. I do "celebrate" when I'm done with a project by letting my mind wander. It could be as simple as taking a walk through the Test Kitchen to see what everyone else is working on or indulging in some aimless web trolling. I also do this when I'm stuck in a project with no ideas.
Bridget: I'm always working on several projects (home and work) at once. I do a lot of DIY at home so there is always something to do.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
Julia: I'm very efficient at getting out of the house in the morning; from waking up to commuting takes me just 15 minutes (including a shower). I don't cook breakfast (I drink kefir), I don't really read my emails (just glance to see if anything is on fire) and I don't drink my coffee/tea until I'm driving. Also, I have simple clothing that's mostly black so everything always matches.
Bridget: Making a bed. I love a well-made bed with hospital corners and tightly tucked sheets.
Do you have any culinary guilty pleasures?
Julia: American cheese — so creamy when melted.
Bridget: You know, indulging your desire for Taco Bell or... I don't have any guilt when it comes to eating.
What do you listen to while you work?
Julia: I have a specific play list for work that helps me focus. It contains mostly modern music (some chill/ambient stuff and electronic stuff) with a little classical and classic rock thrown in. Also, I love the playlists on Apple Music's "For You" feature.
Bridget: I definitely prefer silence when I work.
What are you currently reading?
Bridget: I've gone through a reading binge lately. Read Ready Player One, and old Agatha Christie novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, as well as Hillbilly Elegy. Currently re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird.
How do you recharge?
Julia: Have a hard work-out at the gym, then take a long shower, followed by a good nap.
Bridget: I have two wonderful sons and make sure to spend as much time with them as I can. It puts everything else in perspective for me.
What's your sleep routine like?
Julia: I'm a night owl. I often have a hard time getting up early in the morning and oversleeping is problem.
Bridget: I'm a terrible sleeper so I'm both a night owl and an early riser. I use my iPhone alarm to make sure that I've gotten out of bed.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see ________ answer these same questions.
Julia: My older relatives. Would be fun to see what they picked as "gadgets".
Bridget: I'd love to see Nigella Lawson answer these same questions.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Julia: "Say what you're going to do, then do it." Works for so many things-writing essays, giving demos, running meetings, making plans with others, working with kids...
Bridget: Always find the things you have in common with another person, rather than dwell on the differences.
We've asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.