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So you want to be a Test Kitchen intern: Meet Jonathan Wing

March 18, 2011 |  6:17 pm

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As you can see, we have no fun in the Test Kitchen. Nope, not an ounce of it.

Fire and knives aside, working in a test kitchen is actually a lot of fun. We are constantly testing and developing a variety of recipes, learning new techniques and exposing ourselves to different and often unique ingredients. Working for a newspaper, we test recipes with the reader in mind -- adapting for the home kitchen, and styling each recipe so the steps are clear and concise. When we're finished testing, we shoot each dish -- made exactly as it appears in the recipe (no shaving cream or glycerin used here) -- in the adjacent studio, working with photographers and graphic designers to style, light and shoot the food from the best angle. Every couple weeks, we work with KTLA, taping recipe demonstrations for their afternoon "Eat Beat" news segments. When we're not working with food, we're answering reader e-mails and requests. And sometimes fooling around.

In addition to our full-time staff, we host interns from culinary schools all over the United States, including international students. These students receive hands-on training as they learn the finer points of recipe testing and development. The students also interact with chefs, writers and food professionals of all kinds.

And as much as they may learn from us, we also learn a lot from them. Hailing from various regions and with diverse ethnic backgrounds, our interns bring unique perspectives and passions to our kitchen, whether it's discussing the intricacies of a Texas-style "bowl o' red" or sharing a mother's technique for making Chinese bao. What we all share is a deep love of food.

Over the last few months, I've introduced some of our recent Test Kitchen interns, including, most recently, Maria Sulprizio, Mary Pat Kuppig, Sicily Johnson and Larry Diamond. Here, I introduce Jonathan Wing, on loan from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles (Hollywood campus).

-- Noelle Carter

I can rarely think back to my childhood without remembering the countless hours spent in the kitchen with my family. With a mother from the Philippines and father from the Netherlands, I think we were probably pretty spoiled with a variety of different kinds of meals growing up.  My mom assigned one day a week for each of her six children to make dinner with her in the kitchen. I was Wednesday.

My favorite part was making dessert....

I can remember one time — oh, I must have been 6- or 7-years-old — when my mom wouldn’t let me bake a cake because I was too young to use the oven on my own. I snuck a jar of store-bought icing out of the cupboard and iced a glass bowl that I flipped over. I tried to hide it, but I can’t keep any secrets from my mom.

After graduating valedictorian of my high school class I continued my education at Brigham Young University. While studying abroad, I was on a bus leaving Geneva en route to Paris when a friend asked me, “Jonathan, what are you truly passionate about? You could do anything you want career-wise, why don’t you do something you love?”  That question never left me and it didn’t take long for me to realize that the answer to that question was and has always been baking. 

Now I’m at the Los Angeles Times, interning in the Test Kitchen and learning to test recipes. No matter where we receive our recipes from — cookbooks, restaurants, writers — all recipes printed in the Food section are tested before printing. I soon learned the procedure by which we tested the recipes and all the little details that ensure that the recipes actually work.

Each recipe is tested by two people — one reads the recipe, timing each step and making sure it is followed as written while the other executes. Almost all ingredients are measured twice, by weight and volume to guarantee accuracy. After testing, it’s not unusual to see a recipe riddled with handwritten notes detailing measurements, timing, clarifications, specifics on where to buy special ingredients, and answers to questions that come up during testing.

I remember one particular cake recipe we tested and retested a number of times as we worked to fine-tune the consistency. We tested the cake with varying amounts of baking powder, double-checking the oven temperature and even trying different pans to create the best outcome.  After at least a dozen cakes, we had a solid recipe.

So why The Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen?  I would have loved to go to France or some other foreign destination, but I knew I needed to get some practical experience more applicable to what I plan to do. At The Times, in addition to testing recipes, we learn how to style food for photography, we learn how to prepare for television spots filmed for KTLA, and much more.  Looking back, all of this experience has helped me prepare for the career I plan to pursue.

Photo1 I think it was shortly after we moved to the States when my dad purchased our first video camera. I used to set it up in the kitchen and record myself baking cakes and just about anything — teaching my pretend audience.

My mind kept returning to my childhood when I would make home videos teaching people how to bake — so during my time at school, I worked on creating a one-of-a-kind instructional baking show. I also kept a personal blog, The Unexpected Culinarian. Over time, some of my creations have been featured on other food websites. Through the blog, I was discovered by various food stylists and was requested as help to style for Betty Crocker, featured on CBS’ "The Talk." 

So what’s the next step after the Los Angeles Times for me?  Fingers crossed, food television.  One network is already interested in producing my show so maybe sometime soon you’ll see me on your home television doing what I’ve always loved doing!

-- Jonathan Wing

Photos: Noelle Carter

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