Meet our Test Kitchen!

August 13, 2012 | By | Comments (0)
Test Kitchen Staff

Photo by Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Get to know the folks behind the delectable food in each issue of Southern Living and all our Southern Living cookbooks! They’ll be posting on Test Kitchen Intervention with tips and tricks for easier, tastier cooking.

Rebecca

Photo by Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Rebecca Gordon
Test Kitchen Director

Years in the Test Kitchen: 11

Known around the office for: Chocolate chip cookies

What’s your go-to party appetizer?
Pimiento cheese. It’s a staple at my house and can be whipped up in about 10 minutes. I like to top it on toasted baguette slices and dollop with strawberry preserves, make mini grilled cheese sandwiches layered with Benton’s bacon, and I’m not opposed to pulling out a sleeve of saltine crackers and letting guests help themselves!

What cookbook do you recommend to new chefs?
Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise. If you ever have a question about why something is (or isn’t) happening, she’s who I turn to. She’s a phenomenal Southern food scientist.

What’s your drive-through guilty pleasure?
I’m a Five Guys french fry addict. Actually, I’m a bacon cheeseburger and french fry addict. Oh, and my husband and I have always talked about opening up a hot dog joint. If it’s possible to be a hot dog snob, I am. In summary, I’m always in search of the very best tasting homemade junk food.

Name a pantry staple that takes your food to the next level:
I add fresh lemon juice to everything; on a salad before dressing it, on any shrimp, chicken, or pork right when it comes off the grill, and a little bit in cheesecake to brighten up the flavors.

Vanessa

Photo by Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Vanessa Rocchio
Test Kitchen Specialist and Food Stylist

Years in the Test Kitchen: 19

Known around the office for: Biscuits.

What’s your go-to party appetizer?
Marinated cheese. I slice cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and monterrey jack cheeses into little 2-inch cubes and lay them out and pour Italian dressing over them. Let it sit overnight and serve it with crackers the next day.

What cookbook do you recommend to new chefs?
The Southern Living Cookbook. It was the one that was given to me. It has the 1, 2, 3 Chocolate Cake that I learned to make when I started cooking at 10 years old.

What’s your drive-through guilty pleasure?
Oh, I have a few things that I love. Hamburger Heaven’s soft-serve ice cream (it’s a dollar and the cone is ginormous – I had it every day the last four weeks I was pregnant). McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese and french fries. Bean burritos from Taco Bell. And the veggie bowl with extra guac at Chipotle. That’s my big thing now. Extra guac!

Name a pantry staple that takes your food to the next level:
I have eight different chipotle chili powders. I make this really, really good tortilla soup that takes me two days to make and I use those in it.

Norman

Photo by Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Norman King
Test Kitchen Professional

Years in the Test Kitchen: 5

Known around the office for: Coffee.

What’s your go-to party appetizer?
French fries. I just put them out and people can eat them whenever they want.

What cookbook do you recommend to new chefs?
Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. It’s an awesome book. It has two methods for making every dish and they’re both great.

What’s your drive-through guilty pleasure?
Wendy’s frosty. They only come in one flavor, and that’s chocolate. I get a big one with a spoon, and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes. THEN I’ll eat it. That’s the only way to have a frosty.

Name a pantry staple that takes your food to the next level:
I have a very diverse array of salts – at least five or more at any given time. I use a flaked sea salt, like Maldon, for anything pan-seared that’s not going to be cooked for a long time. I use sea salt for pasta water, blanching vegetables, that kind of stuff. And coarse sea salt for brining.

Pam

Photo by Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Pam Lolley
Test Kitchen Professional

Years in the Test Kitchen: 10

Known around the office for: Orange rolls.

What’s your go-to party appetizer?
I love to put together cheese trays. I arrange lots of different cheeses with nuts, assorted jams, crackers, and baguettes.

What cookbook do you recommend to new chefs?
The Southern Living Cookbook. It has lots of basic techniques and skills that are especially helpful to new cooks. I’ve even given it as a wedding present.

What’s your drive-through guilty pleasure?
Oh gosh, Zaxby’s fried chicken fingers. I love them, but I only get them every now and then.

Name a pantry staple that takes your food to the next level:
I always keep an assortment of pastas on hand. If you have olive oil and tomato products, you’ve got a quick supper. And I have an herb garden that I can go out to and pretty much cut what I want to use.

Angela

Photo by Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Angela Sellers
Test Kitchen Professional

Years in the Test Kitchen: 10

Known around the office for: Fried chicken.

What’s your go-to party appetizer?
I make a fresh salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, mint, and lemon juice and spread that over hummus. It’s so fast and fresh, and you can change the flavor profile by mixing and matching different herbs.

What cookbook do you recommend to new chefs?
Bon Appetit, Y’all by Virginia Willis. The pictures are so pretty and the food is delicious!

What’s your drive-through guilty pleasure?
Krystal’s chili cheese pups. And if Pizza Hut had a drive through, it would be a personal supreme pizza. Oh, and Chick-fil-A’s strawberry milkshakes, mmm.

Name a pantry staple that takes your food to the next level:
Buttermilk. I make my own salad dressing with it and I use it in an egg wash for breading and frying.

Sara

Photo by Maurys Garcia

Sara Claro
Southern Living Web Fellow

Months in the Test Kitchen: 1

I work on SouthernLiving.com and The Daily South, uploading all our new content and brainstorming ideas for more TK Interventions. I gather my information at daily test kitchen tastings and from our collection of cookbooks, making sure everything is accurate and easy to follow. I love food and talking about it, so this job is a dream-come-true!

If you have any questions for the Test Kitchen, fill out the form below, and we might feature it in an upcoming Q&A post!

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