America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo
Meet the Cast

Deputy Editor Becky Hays Has an Appetite for Global Food

From Asian to Indian to Mexican to vegetarian and healthful, Hays is always looking for the next great bite.

Published Dec. 12, 2016.

The 2017 season of America’s Test Kitchen has arrived! To help you share in the excitement, we’ll be giving you a peek behind the television curtain with interviews with our hosts and on-screen test cooks—familiar faces and newcomers alike.

Want to know where and when America’s Test Kitchen airs in your area? Enter your zip code into our station finder.

Becky Hays returns for the 2017 season of America's Test Kitchen with the same zest for global food she’s brought to the show since first appearing on the show in season 5. When she’s not busy making strawberry jam or Peruvian quinoa stew for the cameras, Becky works as the deputy editor of both Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines. I caught up with Becky to discuss her love for Julia Child and preserving, and her constant need to sample different cuisines from around the world.

Can you recall what sparked your interest in cooking?

I was a huge Julia Child fan, starting when I was seven or eight years old. I have a twin sister, and my mom would let us plan all of the meals for the week. We’d go to the grocery store with her, we’d help cook everything. But I remember making Julia Child’s soufflé and chocolate mousse and all of those complicated French recipes when I was a kid.

Would you say that’s carried over and that you favor French cooking over other cuisines?

No, no. I’m more into vegetarian, healthful cooking.

Becky chats with ATK TV host Bridget Lancaster.

So definitely not French food.

Definitely not. I love ethnic food—that’s what I’ve always done on the show.

I don’t know if I can choose one cuisine. That’s my thing, I’m always doing something different. I rarely put the same meal on the table twice for my family. I really love Asian food. And Indian food. And Mexican. That’s really what I gravitate toward most. I really can’t name one dish that I do over and over again because I just don’t have one.

You’ve been on the show since season 5, so you’ve spent a significant amount of time in front of the cameras. Do you ever get nervous, or is filming old hat at this point?

Yes, I always get nervous. I get super nervous probably about a month before starting a shoot, and then it ramps up the day of. So I just try and forget about all the cameras and try to just have fun with Bridget and Julia. I focus on the food—doing what I love—and I focus on the fact that I’m getting to do what Julia Child did, which I get a huge kick out of. I still pinch myself all the time. I can’t believe I’m actually doing it. I just try to enjoy it. And once I get going, the nerves always fade away. Once I start focusing on the food and talking about my passion it all kind of goes away.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

Becky on set with ATK TV host Julia Collin Davison.

What was your favorite recipe segment to film for the 2017 season?  

The strawberry jam. I thought that was really exciting to do for our viewers. Canning is kind of this mysterious project to a lot of people, and we had never done it on the show. We’d always shied away from it, so I was really psyched that we got to do that on camera. There was a lot of preparation that went into that because there was a lot that I didn’t know and that I had to learn so that I could teach everybody.

I do canning at home, but doing it yourself and explaining the process and the science behind it to a national audience is different. We didn’t want to make a mistake, because we wanted to make sure everyone does it safely at home. So I wanted to make sure the information was crystal clear and accurate. But I was really, really excited for that segment. Julia was too; we had a lot of fun with that one.

What, in your estimation, is the most interesting part of the filming process? Something that our fans don’t get a glimpse of when they’re watching at home.

I think everything that happens in what we call our “back kitchen” is really interesting. There’s a whole team of people cooking behind us, making what we call “twins,” which are copies of the recipe that we’re preparing. And they’re doing this every single step of the way, so that if I make a mistake—I burn something or forget to add something—there’s someone in the back kitchen that can whisk it out and it looks like everything just went perfectly smoothly. I don’t want to make it sound like we make that many mistakes, but they’re prepared to handle stuff for us when that happens. It still amazes me even after all this time. It’s a huge feat for them to pull off.

Becky has been on ATK TV since 2005.

You’ve worked on the show with Bridget and Julia for a while now, but you’ve never shared a scene with either of them—until the 2017 season. That must have been fun for you. Can you tell us a bit about what that was like?

I’ve worked with both of them for more than 16 years, so I know them pretty well. We’re old friends. Bridget is hilarious. She’s constantly cracking me up. And Julia’s very fun too. I genuinely enjoy cooking with them! We have this shared passion and that makes friendship easy because we all have the same hobby. And that happens with everybody here, I love it. Everyone wants to talk about what they cooked last weekend or the restaurant they went to. You don’t find that at every job, you know?

Bridget is hilarious. She’s constantly cracking me up—I think everyone knows that. And Julia’s very fun too. I genuinely enjoy cooking with them!

What’s your favorite part about being on the television show?

We’re having as much fun as it appears that we are. And we love the food—when we taste that food we’re actually eating it and we usually keep on eating it once the cameras are off because it’s so good. It’s all genuine.

Want to learn more about your favorite ATK TV cast member? Check out our cast interviews:

This is a members' feature.