Meet the Cast

TV Cast Member Tim Chin on the Comfort of the Humble Poached Chicken

The tireless test cook talks about the food of his childhood and his international culinary training.

Published Jan. 31, 2017.

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.

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Today, we’re highlighting one of our new cast members, Tim Chin. When Tim isn’t cooking alongside Bridget and Julia on the television show, he’s hustling in the test kitchen developing recipes and writing stories for Cook’s Science. I caught up with Tim to talk about the first meal that inspired his love for cooking, staging in Switzerland, and the best advice he ever received.

What’s the first thing you learned to cook?

The first thing I learned to cook was Chinese poached chicken. It’s actually one of the most boring dishes you could think of—it’s just chicken in a pot with water—but I grew up eating it and it was delicious. It’s perfectly cooked—you put a whole chicken in simmering water, take it off the heat and let it cook by itself for an hour and it comes out perfect. Then you put all sorts of spices on it—five-spice, pepper, lots of salt—and then rub it in a cool marinade with ginger. It’s delicious, it’s so good. To me that’s like comfort food. My dad would make it, my mom would make it, eventually we all learned how to make it. It’s really representative of my childhood.

What’s your background in the food world? What did you do before joining America’s Test Kitchen?

After college I moved from Atlanta to New York to get a Master’s in biochemistry. I’d been cooking part-time in Atlanta a bit, and doing some personal cheffing during the summers, but I never fully committed to it. I’ve been cooking my whole life though. I had a babysitter who was a caterer in Indonesia so she taught me how to cook—instead of babysitting me, she just left me in the kitchen while she cooked. When I was about five, she gave me a little paring knife and put me to work. So I moved to New York, and I enrolled in pastry school. I went to the French Culinary Institute. [Ed's Note: The French Culinary Institute is now known as the International Culinary Center]I was going to classes [for my Master’s] during the day, then night school for pastry, and then eventually I picked up a stage. [Ed's Note: A stage, or staging, is an unpaid internship during which a cook works in another chef’s kitchen to learn about different techniques and cuisines.] When I graduated pastry school I had to decide what I wanted to do because it had to be one or the other. So I chose cooking.

New America's Test Kitchen TV cast member Tim Chin gets to do some cooking with host Bridget Lancaster.

And then you dove right into the restaurant world?

I worked at Rouge Tomate for a bit. After I finished there I traveled—I went to Switzerland and staged there, which was really fun and I learned a lot. And then I came back to New York and spent a long time at a farm to table place called Northern Spy. I left because I wanted to branch out, so I went and staged at a few different restaurants.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned from your time in restaurants?

The greatest piece of advice anyone ever gave me was, “Work for as long as you can for as free as you can.” Because when you’re working for free, you’re just learning, and people are appreciative of you. When you’re a full-time employee it’s a bit different. You can burn bridges if you’re a paid employee and only want to stay for three months. It was really good advice for me—if you can afford it, work for free for as long as you can because you’ll learn the most doing that. And that turned out to be true for me.

Tim and Bridget have a chat during a recipe segment for the 2017 season of America's Test Kitchen TV.

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Had you ever been on camera before filming the 2017 season of America's Test Kitchen TV? Were you nervous at all?

I had never been on camera before. The last time I was on camera I was making my own documentary films as a seven-year-old, which doesn’t really count. I’d performed before—I was in musical theater in high school; I was in an a capella group for a while in college; and I danced in a hip-hop crew in Atlanta for four years. A lot of what I did was more physical performance. I wasn’t very nervous because cooking is a pretty physical thing for me anyway, so I felt pretty at ease moving around. Filming the actual segments, I was nervous for sure. But if you prepare enough—I looked at my lines and cooked the recipes a few times—it’s easy to get right into it.

How was it getting to work alongside Bridget and Julia?

They’re both great. I had worked with Julia on the books team, so I know her style pretty well. It was my first time working with Bridget. In fact, I had never even rehearsed with her prior to filming the segment because she was sick the times we were supposed to practice. But she was really cool. She’s super good at what she does—very knowledgeable, very comfortable. Always cracking jokes. I really appreciated that.

What was your favorite recipe segment to shoot?

I shot the Lemon Posset with Berries and the Shredded Chicken Tacos, and I’d definitely say the tacos were my favorite.

America's Test Kitchen TV host Julia Collin Davison presents Tim with a gift: a hybrid between a possum and a rabbit, or, a posset. It's a play on Lemon Posset, which is one of the recipes Tim cooked for the 2017 season.

When you’re not in front of the camera cooking on TV, what’s your day to day role in the test kitchen look like? [Ed's note: Since this article first ran, Cook's Science has become a part of Cook's Illustrated. Tim is currently working with fellow Cook's Science test cook Sasha Marx on an upcoming book about sous vide cooking.]

I work for Cook’s Science, which launched last year. We’re a digital magazine for narratives in food science and cooking. The angle is to provide stories—more than just recipes. It’s a really small team and we work at a quick pace. It’s pretty cool.

Day to day, I cook. At any given time I’m working on four or five recipes at once because of the pace of what we’re doing. I’ll go through at least two trials with each recipe, so there’s a lot of cooking, writing, and proofreading. You have to wear many hats on this team. I’m never at my desk. I just get to work, put on my chef’s coat, and head to the kitchen until 6pm. I like it that way—it’s very much dedicated to being in the kitchen.

Want to learn more about the 2017 season of America's Test Kitchen TV? Watch the season trailer and check out our cast interviews:

What's your favorite food from childhood? Let us know in the comments! 

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