Research and Recipes: Bringing Library Science to America's Test Kitchen
Araceli Hintermeister ’16MA/MS on her role as a Research Assistant at America’s Test Kitchen.
Araceli Hintermeister ’16MA/MS combined her studies and her fandom of America’s Test Kitchen when she became a Library Intern during her time at the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS). She shares how her studies at SLIS prepared her for her current role, a Research Assistant for the Customer Insights team. We featured originally Hintermeister in 2017, as a founder of Books on the T.
What was the focus of your studies at SLIS?
I was in the dual degree program for LIS and History so my main focus was Archives Management. However, I tried to balance my studies with a little bit of the digital courses such as "User Experience" and "Usability and Digital Libraries."
How did you end up at America's Test Kitchen?
I've always been a cook and food lover, but before graduating college I only cooked what I knew and didn't really venture out until later. When I started cooking for myself full-time, I became a huge fan of America's Test Kitchen. The first quick tip I encountered from them—dividing bacon before freezing so you only defrost what you need—may have been obvious to others, but it revolutionized cooking for me. I was lucky to live in the same neighborhood as America's Test Kitchen and kept an eye out for opportunities with them. In 2015, an internship in their special collections library opened up and I was able to start as their Library Intern.
Can you tell us about your role?
My current position at America's Test Kitchen is a Research Assistant for the Consumer Insights team. In my role, I help other departments connect with our customers by conducting or collecting market research that helps them meet their informational needs. Potatoes and chicken always make the favorite ingredient list when we conduct research, but if we based our recipe development on that alone, we wouldn’t be serving our diverse customer base, all with unique taste buds. Rather, we use market research to help us make educated business decisions, even if they are sometimes risks. For example, we learned that while approximately 0.5% of the U.S. population is vegan, home cooks were still open to integrating vegan meals into their recipe repertoire and that led to our award winning cookbook, Vegan for Everybody. Instead of creating a book about a vegan lifestyle, we created a book about integrating plant-based recipes into your life.
Additionally, I coordinate our home cook recipe testing which involves remote and in-house research sessions. We want to ensure that the recipes we develop are written for home cooks with their needs in mind. Our recipe testers provide valuable feedback on recipes under development by ensuring that they are foolproof in home kitchens. Most recently, for our newest brand, ATK Kids, we invite children regularly to test the recipes that we're developing. By cooking in our kitchens, we're able to observe how kids react to the language and instructions in our recipes as well as the overall flavor of the final product. We want to ensure that the recipes are not only delicious, but also easy to understand and execute.
How did SLIS prepare you for your current job?
One of my professional passions is to help others navigate the resources available to them to meet their informational needs, and that's an important pillar in library and information sciences. Much of my background and training in LIS was to help others find the answers to their questions, which today allows me to better understand a patron’s research needs and identify a path to get there. While I'm not currently working with archives, I find that archives management prepared me to tackle hard and unique research questions and think differently about the resources we're presenting to our patrons. Library and information sciences is a diverse field that focuses on not only research, but facilitating research by providing diverse resources to fit everyone’s unique information seeking behaviors. The coursework reflects just that with courses on user experience research, data management, reference services, and evaluation.
One of the most important lessons from my time at Simmons was hearing Prof. Donna Webber emphasize the importance of turning a "no" into a "yes," or rather to learn how you can meet a patron's informational needs when it may seem that you can't. This in no way means you should let patrons eat chicken wings in the archives. For me it means that while I may not hold all the resources to help a patron, I should be able to break down their request and try to address the parts that I can, as well as help them find the pathway to get the answers they need. This is so important with specialized collections. You should know your collection and know what other institutions share similar resources as yours and network with them.
What advice would you give to students?
Be flexible in your studies and try different things inside and outside the classroom. While you may have a very clear idea of how you want to spend your time at Simmons, I encourage you to try classes outside of your focus. Diversity will strengthen your professional portfolio and help you think differently about your work.
What is the best recipe you have found/tried at the Test Kitchen?
I've seen how much time and energy is put into each recipe that's developed at America's Test Kitchen and I'm forever a loyal fan. Additionally, so many recipes pass through my desk each week, that I'm always craving something the editorial team is developing. When it's published, I often rush home to make it—believe it or not, you don't get to sample much food unless you are on the editorial team.
Twice a year, I get an opportunity to watch my coworkers film for our two TV shows, America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country. The first time I sat in on a session, I watched Keith Dresser, Executive Food Editor for Cook's Illustrated, perfect corn fritters. It may be the fact that I watched him make the corn fritters over and over again and never get to eat them, but I'm obsessed with this recipe. They are absolutely delicious and easy to make.