Our office in Boston’s Seaport district includes 15,000 square feet of active kitchen space where we develop recipes, test products, hold tastings, and create the culinary content that you crave.
It’s also where we shoot all of our TV shows and digital videos, including the currently in-progress 24th season of America’s Test Kitchen.
Our television shoots are massive collaborative efforts between several teams at our company, including the TV and Video production teams, recipe developers, ingredient and equipment testers, our best-in-the-business Kitchen Operations team (or Kitchen Ops, as they’re known around the office), and our onscreen experts whom you know and love.
My ATK Reviews teammates and I help produce segments about ingredients and equipment hosted by Jack Bishop, Adam Ried, Bridget Lancaster, Julia Collin Davison, Lisa McManus, and (new this year!) Hannah Crowley.
We’ve just wrapped shooting for this season. Read on below for an exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpse at how it all comes together.
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Months Leading Up to Filming: Start Planning and Prep
Although filming the ingredient and equipment segments takes place over the course of just two or three days, we start preparing our segments months in advance of the actual shoot. This prep ranges from writing scripts to unboxing equipment as we get closer to filming.
Three months before filming: We work with our hosts and the television producers to select recent reviews and articles we’ve written that TV audiences will find especially helpful or interesting.
One of my favorites from this season? My teammate Valerie’s comprehensive guide to dozens of soy sauces.
Two months before filming: Once we've narrowed down our selections, it's time to write the scripts. Jack dove deep into Valerie's soy sauce review and wrote his script for the segment, then met with my team and the TV production team to go over the script and think about how best to bring the segment to life on camera.
Once we met about the scripts, my team compiled a list of ingredients we needed for the shoot and shared it with Kitchen Ops. Their job is to track down every single item—often hundreds of individual food items—and make sure we get it in time. They’re miracle workers!
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One month before filming: We started sorting through equipment for the shoot. We pulled and unboxed all of the equipment that Adam, Lisa, and Hannah were going to discuss in their segments and made sure it was all ready for its close-ups.
Three weeks before filming: Have you ever wondered how all the food for TV always looks so flawless? It’s a carefully coordinated effort between a group of employees from across the company who staff the back kitchen. They’re those chef coat–clad superstars in the background churning out dish after dish for our tasting demos (and later on, recipe segments).
Yes, those folks are really cooking (and are second-to-none)! We meet with them in the weeks preceding the shoot, making sure they have everything they need to execute the precise schedule.
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It's Showtime: What a Day on Set is Like
After months of careful planning, it’s finally time to start filming! We film all of the equipment and ingredient segments over the course of a couple of days. Here’s a look at what a typical day on set is like.
7:00 a.m.: Today we’re filming equipment and ingredient segments for ATK24. Our hosts have already been in hair and makeup for at least an hour and are diligently reviewing scripts for their segments. I arrive at the Reviews lab with my teammates Carolyn, Valerie, and Sarah, and we quadruple-check that we have everything we need for the busy day.
8:00 a.m.: We don our walkie-talkies, which help us stay in constant communication with the producers in the control room and Culinary Producer (and ATK cast member) Erin McMurrer, who runs the back kitchen. We talk through segments as a team, reviewing how we’re going to set up and clean up everything on set. We load in and arrange everything we need for the first segment.
8:30 a.m.: Talent arrives on set, gets mic’d and does “last looks” for camera, where the production team and camera ops check if everything from hair, makeup, wardrobe, and color balance are good to go. Then it’s lights-up on segment one for the day: Lisa and Hannah talking about equipment repair.
9:10 a.m.: We roll on segment 2 for the day; Lisa and Hannah are discussing kitchen essentials for a small-scale “capsule kitchen.” Director Herb Sevush comes out on set to talk through a couple changes to blocking. During the shoot he communicates with talent from the control room next door over a speaker and will often ask my team to make adjustments or quickly grab an additional item for the setup.
11:35 a.m.: The morning is progressing smoothly, and Jack is presenting a segment on anchovies. Just before the shoot, he practices cleaning and prepping a salt-packed anchovy the way his grandmother taught him, and Carolyn and Valerie coordinate with Erin to set up the tasting for host Julia. Anchovies on crackers for a midday snack!
1:00 p.m.: We’ve just wrapped on a tasting segment about vegan chicken nuggets, and my team surprises me with a cake for my birthday! Turning 30 on the ATK set was a fun twist to the shoot, and the entire production team made it feel extra special with candles and the whole nine yards.
1:30 p.m.: It’s back to business with my teammates Sarah and Carolyn working with Adam on a segment about bread lames. We sourced and baked the most beautiful bread for this segment, which is all thanks to the power of Kitchen Ops! We have four proofed, unbaked loaves ready for host Bridget to practice scoring with different blades so that Adam can explain which design factors set the winners apart.
4:00 p.m.: We’re nearing the end of the day, and Jack is leading Bridget and Julia in a head-to-head randomized tasting of different veggie burgers. It’s fun to watch the hosts react to foods they may or may not already be familiar with and try to guess which option won our review.
5:30 p.m.: We’ve wrapped for the day and my teammates and I are working quickly to clean and rebox equipment and organize leftover food. The food will either be recirculated and used for other purposes in the kitchen or given away through our famous take-home fridge. A long day of filming, but worth it to produce a fantastic show we’re proud of.
There’s your behind-the-scenes glimpse! If you have an idea for a segment or topic you’d like us to tackle on television, please let us know at email@example.com. America’s Test Kitchen season 24 airs in early 2024!