An Interview with Bryan Roof, Cook’s Country Executive Food Editor and Cook’s Country TV Test Cook

From barbecue in Texas to cracklin’ in Louisiana, Roof loves nothing more than regional American cooking.

Published Dec. 20, 2017.

The 10th season of Cook’s Country is now airing! To help you share in the excitement, we’ll be giving you a peek behind the television curtain with interviews with the cast's newest additions.

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Get to Know Bryan

Hometown: Not sure I have one!

Years at America's Test Kitchen: 11

Years on the Cook's Country team: 6

Favorite Cook's Country recipes: Anything homey and regional: Carolina chicken mull, North Carolina fish stew, pierogi, dipped fried chicken, smothered chicken.

If Bryan Roof looks familiar, that’s because he’s not exactly a new addition to the on-screen crew of Cook’s Country TV test cooks. He used to be a member of both Cook’s Country TV and America’s Test Kitchen TV, but starting with season 10, he’ll be in the Country full-time. As the executive food editor for the brand, it only makes sense. Read on to learn more about Bryan, including his globe-trotting childhood, what he loves about Cook’s Country, and his idea of a truly epic road trip.

Where'd you grow up?

I was born in the Philippines, but grew up in the Southern US: South Carolina, Florida, Georgia. We moved around every few years.

Do you have any memorable food traditions from your childhood? Did you grow up in a cooking family?

Some of my earliest food memories are of our Filipino nanny’s lumpia. I seem to also vaguely remember whole roasted fish and dishes wrapped in banana leaves, but I'm not sure how much of it I ate when I was three years old.

My mom was an outstanding cook who traveled the world when she was younger. We grew up eating Japanese noodle dishes, Spanish paella, and Julia Child's beef bourguignon. My dad was a pure Southerner and more times than I care to remember we ate some form of grilled or smoked beef and baked potatoes, often several times a week. I still can't stare a bottom round roast in the eye without shuddering a bit. And at Christmas it was always smoked prime rib.

What's your favorite dish from your hometown/home state?

I'm not sure I have a favorite, or a hometown for that matter. But the meals I always looked forward to were at home, cooked by mom.

You’re more than just a pretty face on TV. Can you speak a bit about your day to day?

I oversee recipe development for Cook's Country. There's a lot of eating and running around and eating and discussion about food and cooking and eating—but mostly I eat. I also travel around the country—to places like New York City and Pittsburgh—with one of our staff photographers, Steve Klise, in the name of recipe development. And I also lotion my skin, so's to preserve my pretty face.

Bryan Roof
Bryan takes in a table of blintzes while conducting recipe research on a recent trip to New York City.

What was your favorite recipe to shoot for the 10th season of Cook’s Country TV?

I really enjoyed both the South Carolina Smoked Fresh Ham segment and the Pork and Pierogi episode. I had firsthand knowledge of those recipes from my time on the road, and it was really great to see them get their moment in front of the camera.

What's your favorite part about being on Cook’s Country TV?

I enjoy the whole process of shooting. Hanging out with the other cast members, seeing them perform, watching how the back kitchen cranks out an endless supply of near-perfect food while constantly adjusting to any potential hiccups that take place in front of the camera. It's much different than our day-to-day routine, and it's just fun . . . most of the time.

Any fun behind-the-scenes stories from filming this season?

Someone gave me a makeup kit and I have no idea how to use it.

Bryan Roof
Bryan teaches host Julia Collin Davison how to prepare Cook's Country's recipe for Fried Peach Pies.

What do you love most about the Cook’s Country brand?

The focus on regional American cooking, simple recipes, and techniques to make everyday cooking easier. And the fact that our recipe development process is truly unique.

Are there any recipes you figured you wouldn't like during development, but that you ended up loving in the end?

Well there are plenty of recipes that we thought would be simple that turned out to be a bear—like toffee squares and mustard chicken. Those are always the toughest to deal with because you can see the end, but getting there seems impossible.

You've been invited to a potluck. What dish do you bring?

Carolina chicken bog. And if you don't like it, then we're probably not going to be friends.

I still love food, probably too much. Everyone on Cook's Country loves food and loves to eat, and I think that shows in the quality of recipes we produce.

If you had to plan a road trip through the US based on food destinations, what would be your top five must-visit places, and what would you eat there?

For me, Texas is one of the best places in the country to eat. Aside from the barbecue in Lockhart, Austin, and Hill Country, the Tex-Mex in San Antonio is outstanding. And I can't forget Killen's Barbecue in Pearland, TX, which is probably consistently the best barbecue I've ever had. Note: consistency is key.

Believe it or not, Wisconsin is a great food state. From cheese to lake fish to every bloody Mary in between, they take pride in their local products and feature them on menus as a matter of course, not because it's what the cool kids are doing.

North Carolina is a super well-rounded food state, with everything from barbecue to fine dining to fried chicken and cheese biscuits. They've got a unique and delicious spin on just about everything served on a plate.

Louisiana is an obvious choice, but I would opt for a visit to Lafayette over the more widely-tread New Orleans. Once you discover boudin and fresh cracklin', your life will be forever changed.

Between Pittsburgh and Philly, Pennsylvania has more good food than you could consume in a lifetime of eating. And I'm not sure there are nicer people to be found anywhere.

Cook’s Country taps into the nostalgia of cooking, and I'm wondering how much the places you're from has impacted the way you cook and the recipes you choose to develop.

I was born in the Philippines, raised in the South, and frequented New York City throughout my childhood. I grew up with barbecue and bolognese. I jumped from grits and boiled peanuts to homemade Caesar dressing and Chinese dumplings. The underlying theme was a love of all things food. I still love food, probably too much. Everyone on Cook's Country loves food and loves to eat, and I think that shows in the quality of recipes we produce.

What’s your favorite food memory? Don’t forget to post your favorite Cook’s Country recipes on Instagram with #CooksCountry.

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