Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Visit to Taste of Home Test Kitchen

Tucked away in quiet Greendale, WI, outside of Milwaukee, lies the Taste of Home test kitchen, affiliated with Reader's Digest. Each year, staff members sift through more than 50,000 recipes received from readers, and tests more than 3,000 for potential inclusion in the magazine. Most recipes arrive in response to 24 contests held throughout the year. Amazingly enough, in this Internet age, 95 percent of all entries arrive by mail.
                                        Marie Parker, Food Editor for Simple and Delicious magazine

Once a recipe is chosen, testing begins. What the Taste of Home crew must do is make the recipe and then consider possible tweaks, which they believe will make it more tasty and easier for readers to prepare.
Ingredients for use in a pie recipe

Getting dishes ready for their photo shoots is no small task either. Four photographers, eight food stylists and five set stylists spend hours creating the perfect image of each one. And food styling has come a long way in recent years, with an emphasis on making food look real. Food styling requires a combination of food + cooking knowledge + artistry, and control of the air and time so that food doesn't die before the photo shoot.
Many food styling tools can be found in most homes. Dental floss and small scissors aid in cutting, while cotton swabs and petroleum jelly are other useful items. Test kitchen stylists also may use clay modeling tools, wooden skewers, and fine mist sprayers. Hand-held heat guns can add color to a burger bun or decorate a meringue. Blue putty between the layers of a 'loaded' burger, keeps everything together without being visible. 'Shims' can help to make the top of the bun rest equally on all sides of the burger.
A big part of creating the perfect image is surrounding food with the perfect props. The Taste of Home prop collection fills an enormous room from top to bottom, with every imaginable color and shape of dishes, flatware, and table linens. After props are chosen and the dish is prepared, the photo studio is the next stop, where digital images immediately transfer to a nearby computer screen.

Low-tech and high-tech combine to create amazing images for each magazine in the Taste of Home family.

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