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Claire Saffitz Transcript

 “Food For Thought with Claire Saffitz” Transcript

Kerry Diamond:             Hi everyone, I'm Kerry Diamond, founder of Cherry Bombe. Welcome to Food For Thought, a Radio Cherry Bombe mini series. We're taking a break from our travels around the country to bring you a special conversation with someone many of you know and love, Claire Saffitz, from the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen. It was my first time meeting Claire and she's as lovely as you might imagine. Given what's going on right now, I thought we could all use a little Claire Saffitz in our lives. Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting today's show and the Food For Thought series. Kerrygold is the Irish brand known for its award-winning butter and cheese, made with milk from grass-fed cows from family farms all over Ireland. We'll be hearing more about their amazing products later, so stay tuned. I've got some Kerrygold unsalted butter in my fridge, as well as some of their aged cheddar, and I'm very grateful.

Kerry Diamond:             In case you haven't heard, we're doing a digital version of our Jubilee conference, Jubilee 2.0. It's taking place on Sunday, April 5th, completely on Instagram and we'll have talks, demos, readings and a lot more with your favorite women in the food world. This global gathering of the Bombe Squad is free, but we'd love if you could RSVP. Visit for more. It might just be the first food conference to take place on Instagram, so don't miss it. I hope you all enjoy my conversation with Claire Saffitz, recorded last month at the Bon Appétit offices in New York City. You are just the hottest thing since sliced bread. What is going on?

Claire Saffitz:                I don't know. I don't know. It's been a really interesting past 18 months or so, since leaving my full-time gig at the Test Kitchen and transitioning to freelance. It's been a little bit of a whirlwind and the show, the popularity of Gourmet Makes has been a surprise, I think, to a lot of people, most of all me. But it's just a really fun project. I think my day-to-day hasn't changed a lot, I still come to the Test Kitchen and shoot video and go about my business. I still get to work with all my same co-workers, who I've worked with at Bon Appétit for so many years. So it's really fun, it's just more about hearing about how everything is resonating in the outside world, that is so surprising and gratifying and cool and a little freaky and a little strange. But it's been a trip to see it all play out.

Kerry Diamond:             No doubt. Why do you think the Bon App Test Kitchen videos have exploded the way they have?

Claire Saffitz:                I think people were really excited to see food content and food videos that didn't follow the really standard format, which is a recipe demonstration from start to finish with swaps, where the recipe turned out perfectly in the end. And so we turned that model on its head a little bit and mostly, you're seeing a lot of mess-ups and a lot of mistakes and errors and hypotheses that didn't quite work out. So it is that trial and error process that goes into normal recipe development that was a part of what we still do every day in the Test Kitchen, and we were just making that front and center rather than the perfect, finished, tested recipe.

Claire Saffitz:                So we're just pulling back the curtain a little bit onto the process of the Test Kitchen and it's just a really fun space. I think people pick up on the natural rapport that we have in the Test Kitchen. They're friends and colleagues, people I've known for so long, and so we have a playful relationship, but also I really trust everyone's pallettes and opinions and their excellent cooking skills. So it's a very trusting, safe environment and I think people just like seeing that.

Kerry Diamond:             How was the Test Kitchen video concept presented to you initially, and what were your thoughts?

Claire Saffitz:                Part of Gourmet Makes, I had done some Test Kitchen videos that were more straight-forward recipe presentations. The idea for Gourmet Makes ... And it wasn't called Gourmet Makes in the beginning, we didn't really have a name for the show. Well, maybe we did, I don't remember what it is. It initially came just as an idea for a pilot, which started with the idea of the Twinkie. So, someone on the video team came up with the idea of let's watch someone reverse engineer a Twinkie. And they were, I think, initially going to ask a pastry chef, someone in New York, to come into the Test Kitchen and do it, and then they said, "Well, let's just try it out and maybe Claire can do it or something." So-

Kerry Diamond:             So you were the runner-up?

Claire Saffitz:                I was the runner-up, yeah. Did not start with me. It started with a Twinkie. And we taped that episode, took four days and someone followed me round with a camera and I complained a lot and some of that made it into the video. And they edited it together brilliantly, so all the videos have that in common, they're just brilliant editing. And that was it. And then it got off to a slow start. I was still working as a full-time editor and I didn't have a ton of time to be taking four days out of the week to shoot a video. It was fits and starts in the beginning, and then we, couple of months later, did a Gushers episode and then it really picked up after maybe four or five episodes.

Kerry Diamond:             So for the listeners who are basically living under a rock right now and don't know what Gourmet Makes is, can you explain the concept to us?

Claire Saffitz:                Sure. Gourmet Makes is a show on the Bon Appétit YouTube channel in which I attempt to recreate and reverse engineer a classic snack food or candy. I was going to say it's shown in real time, it's not actually shown in real time because that would be a much longer video. They're already pretty long.

Kerry Diamond:             They're so long.

Claire Saffitz:                They're long.

Kerry Diamond:             I can't imagine longer videos.

Claire Saffitz:                Right. 35 to 40 minutes. But it's a lot of trial and error. It's me coming up with an idea. I mean, it goes in acts, so the first act of the show is me trying to really deconstruct and take apart and sample and taste and research. We've done everything from Gushers and Twinkies to Skittles to Hot Pockets to ... I mean, there's so many, I can't even ... I blacked out and don't remember half of the ones that I even did. And then it goes into trial and error and it's just a lot of ... There's some crafting always, making of molds and trying to repurpose kitchen equipment for a use it's not intended for. And then you get to see a lot of the personalities, I'm always asking my colleagues in the Test Kitchen for help too.

Kerry Diamond:             Have any of the makers of these snack foods solicited you to try to get you to make their product?

Claire Saffitz:                No. That's a common misconception, I think, is that we're somehow sponsored by the company and that's-

Kerry Diamond:             Well, you're not always complimentary about-

Claire Saffitz:                No, no, we're not. We're not. And there's also such a nostalgia factor, so a lot of times, it's ... You remembered the way something tasted and then you try it as an adult and it's not quite the same. So there's a lot of talking about that, that facet of taste memory. But no, we do not solicit suggestions from any companies. We mostly just take suggestions from viewers who leave it in the comment section. But no, there's no affiliation between Gourmet Makes and any maker of any other products.

Kerry Diamond:             Got it. Good to know that's clear. Yeah, you had done the Butterfinger one and you read the label and you said, "New and improved taste." And I was like, how could one improve on the classic Butterfinger? And I realized I hadn't had a Butterfinger in a long time.

Claire Saffitz:                I know. Had been maybe a decade since I had one. A lot of these candies, I haven't had since I went trick-or-treating. I think they really did improve it, as I remember it at least. It was less sticky in your teeth kind of texture, but Butterfinger is just such a phenomenal candy. It's so good.

Kerry Diamond:             You might've inspired me to-

Claire Saffitz:                I recommend.

Kerry Diamond:             Go try a Butterfinger. I bet that these companies see a little bump-

Claire Saffitz:                I don't know.

Kerry Diamond:             In the sales of these products. That would be a good story.

Claire Saffitz:                I would be curious.

Kerry Diamond:             For all you journalists out there, somebody needs to tackle that. All right, what is this tempered chocolate thing all about?

Claire Saffitz:                I hate tempering chocolate, it's such a pain. I don't even remember the first episode where this came up. We've done a lot of episodes with candy bars, so there's many chocolate coatings. And tempering chocolate is a difficult operation and I think one misconception is that all pastry chefs are somehow chocolate experts or something. I hadn't done a lot of chocolate work and it's a finicky, sensitive process and it's always plagued the show a little bit, my having to temper chocolate and I usually complain a lot about it too. So it's just come up so many times and every single time, I try to get out of it and I'm convinced or guilted into doing it by my director or Chris, someone else in the Test Kitchen. And more recently, Sohla helped me. Sohla's another Test Kitchen editor, with tons of pastry experience and a much better chocolate temperer than I am. So I've tried so many methods, there's the seed method, sous-vide, it's just not an easy process.

Kerry Diamond:             But now people know what it is.

Claire Saffitz:                And now people know what it is. I keep-

Kerry Diamond:             You really had to have gone to culinary school or worked in food in some capacity to even know what that term meant.

Claire Saffitz:                Right. I mean, I went to culinary school and we had pastry, but we never tempered chocolate because I went to a school in France and it was like unless you were specializing in chocolate, you weren't going to do that. So I tried to convince them to buy a 3000 dollar chocolate tempering machine for future episodes, but-

Kerry Diamond:             Adam said no to that?

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah. They say it's not in the budget for the show.

Kerry Diamond:             All right, why do people think you're opening a bakery in Alaska?

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, I have no idea how this rumor got started. This was almost two years ago, a year and a half ago. I went to Alaska for vacation, for a trip, and it was right after I had left the Test Kitchen full-time and somehow this rumor got started on the internet that I moved to Alaska to open a bakery. And I was like, "Nope, I was just there for a week, for 10 days, and came home." And then when I reappeared in BA videos after that, people wrote in the comments, "Oh, I guess her bakery didn't work out in Alaska and she's back in the Test Kitchen." So I would love to know how that rumor got started. It wasn't me. I don't know who started it.

Kerry Diamond:             What can you tell us about your upcoming cookbook?

Claire Saffitz:                The cookbook. It's called Dessert Person, that's the name of it. It'll-

Kerry Diamond:             Cute title.

Claire Saffitz:                Thank you. I was excited about that title.

Kerry Diamond:             Because you are a dessert person.

Claire Saffitz:                I'm a dessert person, that's how I self-identify. And I think that everyone's a dessert person, even people who say, secretly, that they don't like sweets. This is something I talk about with Adam a lot, our editor-in-chief, one of those people who say that he doesn't like sweets. And I'm just like, you're lying, there's no way that that could be right. Sweetness is one of the essential five tastes, so anyone who says they don't like dessert, I'm a little suspicious of. So the premise of the book is that everyone is a dessert person and everyone can learn to bake and to enjoy baking, it doesn't have to be that really anxious, difficult, technical process that it has a reputation for being. So it's all baking. It's not quite all sweets, even though it's called Dessert Person, there's one chapter on savory baking. Because a lot of the book is defensive baking, it's about how-

Kerry Diamond:             Defensive baking.

Claire Saffitz:                Defensive baking.

Kerry Diamond:             I've never heard that term.

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah, because I think baking gets, sometimes, a little bit side-lined compared to cooking. People say, "Oh, I'm a cook, but I'm not a baker", and it's considered a little more type-A and precise and exacting, whereas cooking has more of a reputation for being improvisational and creative. So I wanted to show people, through recipes, that baking could be every bit as creative and improvisational as cooking, you just have to know the rules and the roadmap. So there's lots of practical advice and tips, but it's all recipes. So that's partly why there's some savory because I wanted people to know that baking can be versatile. You can bake dinner, you don't have to just bake dessert. It's mostly sweets though because that's what I love to make and what I love to eat.

Kerry Diamond:             When will the book be out?

Claire Saffitz:                Fall 2020. October 2020. This year.

Kerry Diamond:             October?

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:             Great.

Claire Saffitz:                October this year.

Kerry Diamond:             And you're publishing it with Clarkson Potter.

Claire Saffitz:                Yes.

Kerry Diamond:             Our favorite.

Claire Saffitz:                Clarkson Potter.

Kerry Diamond:             We love them.

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah. It's been great.

Kerry Diamond:             Who's your editor there?

Claire Saffitz:                Raquel Pelzel. So I was working with her really closely today and I'm going to go back. We finished all the photos in January.

Kerry Diamond:             How long did you shoot?

Claire Saffitz:                So we had two short shoots, two two day shoots, one in January, one in September because we wanted to take advantage of all the really seasonal, beautiful produce in the market. Because I love baking with the seasons, so we shot in the summer, we did a sour cherry pie and all the beautiful stone fruit.

Kerry Diamond:             So two two day shoots, that's not a lot of time.

Claire Saffitz:                Not a lot. And then in January, we saved probably 75% of the recipes to just shoot, that were more evergreen, things of you could shoot any time of year. So then we had a second really short shoot in September for all the beautiful fall stuff, like quince and pears and-

Kerry Diamond:             Oh, see, you're smart, you broke up how you did it.

Claire Saffitz:                Yes, we broke it up. And then we had two five day long shoots in January, separated by a week, so it was ... By the end, we're all ... My wonderful friends, Sue Li, who did the food styling and Astrid Chastka, who did props and Alex Lau shot all the photos. We were all a little stir-crazy by the end.

Kerry Diamond:             Clarkson published the Cherry Bombe cookbook and we did the whole thing in two weeks, which I think made us all crazy.

Claire Saffitz:                I can imagine. How many recipes was it?

Kerry Diamond:             Over 100.

Claire Saffitz:                Wow.

Kerry Diamond:             And we had a photo for every recipe.

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah. I did the same thing. I mean, I wasn't even prepared for how much work goes into producing a cookbook.

Kerry Diamond:             Nor was I. Nor was I. But we're very excited for your cookbook and so is everybody else in the Bombe Squad. And speaking of the Bombesquad, we crowdsourced questions from them on Instagram this morning and they came back with a lot of questions. But before we get to theirs, I have a number of questions that I want to ask you, that have nothing to do with food. Okay. Your kitchen footwear of choice?

Claire Saffitz:                I love Dansko clogs, although I've recently also started wearing a brand of clogs by an Italian company called Calzuro. And it's the same material that Crocs are made from, they're super lightweight and I also really loving those. So, Dansko or Calzuro.

Kerry Diamond:             Who turned you onto those?

Claire Saffitz:                Actually, I learned about them because they're commonly worn by doctors and physicians because they can be sterilized. So a friend of mine is a surgeon and she wears them, and so she sent me the link and I ordered them on Amazon and they're great. I think Anna now, in the Test Kitchen, also is wearing them, so they're catching on.

Kerry Diamond:             You started a trend. What color?

Claire Saffitz:                They're bright blue. They come in crazy colors, so they're deep, bright, royal blue.

Kerry Diamond:             Okay, that's fun. And I used to be a beauty editor at Harper's Bazaar, some of our listeners know, so I do care deeply about things like hair. I know people are obsessed with your hair. So the famous streak, is it added or is it natural?

Claire Saffitz:                It is natural.

Kerry Diamond:             It's natural?

Claire Saffitz:                It's natural. It runs in my family actually. My mom started all of her ... She had hair my color, so very, very dark brown. When she was in her 20s and 30s, it started going gray. And I got the gene, so it just came in in the front, in that pattern, but it is natural. I do not put it there.

Kerry Diamond:             And you don't color your hair at all?

Claire Saffitz:                No, I used to color my hair. I used to color my hair in my 20s to get rid of the gray as it was coming in and I just got really fed up with the whole maintenance of it and the expense and the time, and I just let it go. This was maybe four years ago. Back then, I had a lot less. It's coming in more. So it wasn't such a painful growing out process, but I just couldn't be bothered to keep up with dying. And now I'm so glad because now I love the way it looks and I'm embracing it.

Kerry Diamond:             And it's your signature.

Claire Saffitz:                And it's my signature.

Kerry Diamond:             So it was more a practical thing than a feminist decision?

Claire Saffitz:                It was both.

Kerry Diamond:             Okay.

Claire Saffitz:                It was both.

Kerry Diamond:             Nail polish in the kitchen, yes or no?

Claire Saffitz:                No. I'm really not a nail polish wearer and it mostly came from just the fact that you couldn't really wear it in the kitchen. And now with gel manicures, it's a little different because there's less of a risk of it flaking off or chipping, but it's just not my thing. I like a nice manicure maybe a couple times of year.

Kerry Diamond:             I read that you ran the 2017 New York City Marathon. Very impressive, Claire.

Claire Saffitz:                Thank you.

Kerry Diamond:             Is running your workout of choice?

Claire Saffitz:                It is. I love-

Kerry Diamond:             Is it about fitness? Is it about mental clarity?

Claire Saffitz:                It's probably 50/50 fitness and mental clarity. I like to think of running, not as a replacement for therapy because I also do that, but just as wonderful maintenance. I would say it's my form of yoga or meditation. I like solitary things like that. I live near Central Park, so I run in the park a lot. And I'm running ... Planning on running the marathon this year. It was a goal of mine. And for years and years and years, I ran without doing any kind of racing or anything like that and I'm not a fast runner at all. It's the only thing I ever did that made me feel athletic in any way. Through running, I learned the importance of moving your body and how to learn to enjoy that. It started out being more about fitness and over the years, it's become more and more about mental fitness, just having that bit of time to yourself.

Kerry Diamond:             So we always ask people how they make a living and I googled you last night, of course. I was very interested in what came up and it was age, hair, husband, boyfriend, height maybe came up. And then I googled Brad and Brad got height, age, knife, and net worth. And I was aggravated that people wanted to know Brad's net worth and they didn't want to know your net-worth.

Claire Saffitz:                Huh.

Kerry Diamond:             So.

Claire Saffitz:                I know that there's websites that are what this person is worth and my dad told me once that he ... I think he was googling or something and it came up and it said something like five million dollars. "What? That is news to me." I don't know how they're coming up with this number, it's total nonsense. It is based on nothing, as far as I can tell.

Kerry Diamond:             But so many of the folks in the Cherry Bombe community, they're freelancers, gig workers, you name it, they're piecing together multiple jobs. You're a freelancer now.

Claire Saffitz:                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kerry Diamond:             So can you explain to people how you make a living?

Claire Saffitz:                Right. Yeah. The freelance transition, it's difficult. Being organized around your finances is a challenge and it takes a lot of work and time and effort. So I primarily make a living from what I earn with my video contract with BA and with Condé Nast. So that's my primary income. And I also have income from cookbook because when I signed a cookbook deal with Clarkson Potter, they give you an advance and it's paid out over various installments. Although that money mostly goes to producing the cookbook, I was careful not to spend it.

Kerry Diamond:             We learned the same thing, yeah.

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah. When I signed the contract, I had been freelance for four months and I had taken some jobs here and there, but I was in debt. So I used that money, initially, to pay off a bunch of debt that I had taken on since going freelance. And then I mostly put it away in savings, knowing that I don't have to spend it on producing all the photos and all the groceries and just lots of expenses associated with the book. So yeah, most of the income is from BA and then occasionally, there's a freelance thing that I'm doing here or there, where it's a nominal fee or something like that.

Claire Saffitz:                But I don't really monetize my social media, it just never felt good or right to do that. For how little I'm on it, it always started off as something that I just did for fun and I don't really want it to be a business. So yeah, I think people maybe imagine, with a certain amount of renown, income goes along with that. I guess I've made a conscious decision not to monetize certain aspects of my life because it just hasn't felt right.

Kerry Diamond:             You're like the Alice Waters of the food video world. I'm always amazed that she's barely monetized what she does.

Claire Saffitz:                Right. I guess, backing up, working in the Test Kitchen for so long, the product that we put out in the world was recipes and it felt like there's real value in that and I'm so attached to that idea of providing value and service for people, and then you're compensated for that. I don't know. I've done a little bit of branded content here and there, where we collect a fee for that, but I've mostly just tried to be guided by what felt natural and organic and right. I think I'm better off in the long run.

Kerry Diamond:             Do you have someone who's helped you with these contracts? Do you have an agent? Do you have a literary agent?

Claire Saffitz:                Yes, I have a literary agent who's been so wonderful through this process and really helped me navigate a number of different contracts. David Black, who's-

Kerry Diamond:             Oh, I love David.

Claire Saffitz:                Who's wonderful. Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:             Hi, David.

Claire Saffitz:                I love David.

Kerry Diamond:             You better be listening.

Claire Saffitz:                He's great. Actually, he texted me today. I'm really grateful that I had someone, such a pro in the industry, to help guide me. And when it came time for the book, he was like, "Here's what you should do." And he was right, he steered me very well.

Kerry Diamond:             Oh, that's good to hear. Stay tuned for a word from our friends at Kerrygold and we'll be right back with Claire Saffitz.

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Kerry Diamond:             And now, back to Claire. Now we'll go to the Bombe Squad questions. People are very curious about the Test Kitchen and Gourmet Makes. So, Kenzie Rhodes wants to know, "What is it like navigating the different personalities in the Test Kitchen?"

Claire Saffitz:                Hmm, great question. Mostly, it's fun and very funny. It's such a funny mix of personalities and everyone has such a fun group dynamic when we all come together. So mostly, you have to talk really loud to be heard because there's a lot of big personalities. So that might be actually the only challenge is everyone has such strong opinions and we've been groomed to have strong opinions from our jobs as editors, so you have to be a little tough maybe and work to have your voice heard. And for me, that can be a little bit of a challenge because I feel like I'm a pretty true introvert. But it's such a fun group, it's just overwhelmingly fun and funny and entertaining. And I love when we all get to shoot together because you don't have to work edit at all.

Kerry Diamond:             It's like having a bunch of opinionated siblings.

Claire Saffitz:                Right. Right. But sometimes, there's just such funny individual relationships that come out and it's just the most fun to be around.

Kerry Diamond:             Do you have any siblings?

Claire Saffitz:                I have two older sisters.

Kerry Diamond:             You do?

Claire Saffitz:                Yes.

Kerry Diamond:             Oh, so you're the baby?

Claire Saffitz:                I am the baby, yes.

Kerry Diamond:             All right, Clara-Lynn would like to know, "Have you ever wanted to yell, "You do it", to all of your smiling male colleagues who come over and taste something you've worked on for 48 hours and then tell you it's not quite right?"

Claire Saffitz:                Every single time. Every single time. Yes. Yes. The answer is yes.

Kerry Diamond:             Okay. Bethany Gally wants to know if you get a say in what you create on Gourmet Makes?

Claire Saffitz:                Yes and no. Partially, I would say. I mostly have veto power. So if there's something I really, adamantly do not want to attempt, I'll say no. Although I did try to do that and then they brought it that and that was the Pop Rocks episode. So it's not even-

Kerry Diamond:             The infamous Pop Rocks episode.

Claire Saffitz:                Right. It's not even a full veto power. But yeah, I get input. Mostly, it's a couple of people in the video team putting together a list and saying, "Can you go through and say yes or no?" And now, at this point, we're so far along in the history of the show, that they know that if I'm not into it ... I've started to use other tools at my disposal for getting what I want in the show, which is mostly forms of protest of ... They just know that it'll be a better episode if I'm into the subject more, so-

Kerry Diamond:             That makes all the sense in the world.

Claire Saffitz:                Right.

Kerry Diamond:             Ann Loreto would like to know, "What's an item or dish you really want to try on Gourmet Makes?"

Claire Saffitz:                Butterfinger was one on the list for a very long time and I don't know why we never attempted it until more recently. So that was one. There's other fun things in the frozen confection world that I think would be fun, things like the ... I think the Drumstick is those ... Good Humor bar type things, there's the strawberry shortcake bar. I think that's a whole category of things we haven't really tackled and that could be really fun. That's so nostalgic, that's like ice-cream truck man type stuff.

Kerry Diamond:             Okay, Kelsie Cooper would like to know one thing you never want to attempt to recreate?

Claire Saffitz:                Well, it was Pop Rocks and then they did that. But at this point, I'm over the chewy, gummy candy thing because it's not interesting. It's not intellectually interesting to just cook pot after pot of sugar and corn syrup. And we've done, at this point, quite a few in that category. We've done Sour Patch Kids and Twizzlers and a whole bunch of others, and I think it's not interesting for me and it's less visually interesting for the viewer. So I'm happy to leave that category of candy behind.

Kerry Diamond:             Alexa Caruso would like to know, "What's one Gourmet Makes you would redo if you could?"

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, that's a great question. The perfectionist in me would probably want to redo Jelly Bean just because it was such an epic disaster. And Rick Martinez, Test Kitchen friend, just rescued me on the final day. That process could've gone more smoothly. I mean, in a lot of these things, it's really about thought process and problem-solving. I've developed a little bit of an instinct through the course of the show, where I realize there's a point at which I shouldn't go any further. It's like I need to back up and come up with some other way of doing it, and I never did that in Jelly Bean. So it's more about trying to redo that process and apply more of my learning in the show. I mean, I guess I'm pretty happy with the results overall. I would probably redo maybe Sour Patch Kids too because those could've turned out better. But again, I never want to do a chewy thing, so I'll leave that one in the past.

Kerry Diamond:             Okay, let's see. Who is next? Rachel Caspar. This is a good question. "If BA gave you an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?"

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, that's a fun one. I would probably do a little travel because Gourmet Makes is only in the Test Kitchen. That's a running joke, that people travel around and I'm still toiling away on the station in the Test Kitchen. I'd probably travel and visit some of the pastry chefs that I admire most around the country and even internationally. I would probably go to Hart Bageri, a baker in Copenhagen, where Richard Hart is the head baker, and I follow all of the work that they're doing and it just looks incredible. So I'd visit some of those spots, even around the world, where they're doing ... They have just amazing pastry and bread programs and just to learn from those people.

Kerry Diamond:             One of our Instagram followers, Gina, would like to know what cookbooks you can't live without?

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, I love this question. I could not live without The Last Course by Claudia Fleming, that's a pastry bible. And it was recently reissued, which is exciting. I had to buy my copy, a used copy, on eBay, I think. It was very expensive. And so I'm so glad that they re-released that book, it's a classic. I love Chez Panisse Desserts, another classic. Just such a wonderful treasure trove of ideas and a wonderful philosophy around baking. Also, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Anything Julia Child, I have a bunch of her books. Some Jeffrey Hamelman bread books. Even old-school, like James Beard, Beard on Bread, those kinds of ... I love old cookbooks. I love going to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the East Village and seeing what she has. I also love my Time-Life Good Cook series collection that I have, I've been slowly putting together the full set over the years and I find them everywhere at garage sales and vintage stores and stuff like that. That's such a wonderful series, I could not live without those.

Kerry Diamond:             Lily Brock would like to know, "Advice you wish someone had told you when you started working in this field?"

Claire Saffitz:                I guess I wish someone told me to trust my own opinions more. When I started out at Bon Appétit, I had never worked in food media before and it took me so long to work up the courage to speak up in meetings and to pitch ideas. And I wish someone had told me no, your opinion matters and is valuable and what you think is important. It just took me so long to pitch any ideas and to feel comfortable speaking up, so just to have a little more confidence in what I thought.

Kerry Diamond:             Trust your gut is a big one. I feel like when I got into magazines, I always had trouble with that. And the handful of times I got in trouble were times I did not trust my gut and follow my instincts.

Claire Saffitz:                Right.

Kerry Diamond:             And I only had myself to kick when it was all over. Sarah Ridgeway would like to know how you stay organized in the kitchen?

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, I'm hyper-organized, just as a person, in my life, so that part comes naturally. And I often will see cooks where it's like clearly they just have a different mode of being in the kitchen and it spikes my anxiety a little bit. As a cook, I like to really see everything and have it be super organized. So I just operate on the principle of mise en place, which is just ... It's just being organized and having all of your ingredients ready to go and out and prepped before you start cooking. And all the times when I ignore that is usually when things go wrong. It's like when you go to reach for an ingredient because you're halfway through the recipe and you realize you don't have it, and those times are so frustrating. So it's just, I think, initially slowing down enough to do the steps you know you should do first to set yourself up for success.

Kerry Diamond:             Abby Jones would like to know who is your biggest inspiration? I would like to know that too.

Claire Saffitz:                I would say probably Julia Child, just in every way, as a writer, as a personality, as a host, and as a video presence. She just approached everything, I mean, cooking and recipe writing and recipe explanation with a mix of such rigor and joy, and I think that that's a rare combination. Sometimes when people are very rigorous, there's a joylessness to it and she had both. And I hope to incorporate that into the recipes that I'm making and the way that I'm writing them and presenting them because it's just ... I'm someone who likes precision, and so I like to be precise and I like to do things a certain way, but you can't lose sight of just having fun, having it be joyful and also, social. Food is meant to be shared, so you don't want to just toil away alone in a kitchen somewhere. So I just love her combination of those two things.

Kerry Diamond:             Next question. Kennedy Hodges would like to know who inspires you outside the culinary world?

Claire Saffitz:                Outside the culinary world. I mean, I love reading and I think if I weren't a recipe developer ... I thought about this before. I think I would gravitate toward fine art. And I love the arts, I love museums, I love living in New York and being able to go see incredible exhibits of contemporary artists. I was visiting a friend in St. Louis last year and we went to this incredible museum in St. Louis called the Pulitzer Foundation, I think. They had this incredible retrospective from the artist, Ruth Asawa, who did these very intricate, almost croqueted, metal baskets. And just being able to go and find inspiration in exhibits like that, to see such incredible work is always inspirational.

Kerry Diamond:             I'm happy to hear you have time to hit the museums.

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah, hasn't happened more recently, not in the last several months, but it's a big goal of now that I have a little free time, after certain book milestones are hit, to go explore. I mean, I think, especially when it comes to developing a recipe and with baking too, I always want it to look really beautiful. It's amazing where you find inspiration for how you want things to look and it's often not from other food. That's one of the reasons I love living in New York is there's so much inspiration just on the street, so that's ... Yeah, museums are a big one.

Kerry Diamond:             Do you go by yourself? Do you go with your boyfriend, or fiance, whatever? Have you announced what the status is?

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, yeah. Fiance.

Kerry Diamond:             Okay. So that is an engagement ring?

Claire Saffitz:                Yes, it's an engagement ring. Yeah, I just started wearing it in video because I was wearing it not intending to make any announcement, but it's not a secret at all. He's also in the food industry, he's not a great museum partner, he's easily distracted and doesn't have a super long attention span, so I usually prefer to go alone or with a friend, but often alone. I think certain activities like going to the movies alone or museum alone can be really restorative and wonderful.

Kerry Diamond:             I was going to use the word restorative. Absolutely.

Claire Saffitz:                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kerry Diamond:             Two more questions from the Bombesquad. Molly Leora ... And this is something you referred to earlier. She said, "Claire has said that she wishes new bakers would learn what can be experimented with in a recipe and what can not. Can you give some examples?" And you sort of explained that earlier. So many people will say, "Oh, I cook, but I don't bake", and people will say, "Baking is so exacting. There's not a lot of wiggle room", but you seem to disagree with that.

Claire Saffitz:                Right. I think it's about knowing what the rules are and then when you can break them because I hear a lot from people that they made a recipe and it didn't turn out, but then they made a substitution. So a good example is what I don't recommend doing is substituting non-fat yogurt for sour cream because-

Kerry Diamond:             Some people make crazy substitutions.

Claire Saffitz:                They do. Some people make crazy substitutions and it's no wonder that the recipe doesn't turn out. Because I think one thing I like to sensitize readers to is the idea that the kitchen is not a laboratory and we cannot possibly test every recipe under every set of circumstances, tweaking every variable one at a time. It's just impossible and it's not practical. So we do the best that we can, within reason, but there's always going to ... Something that goes ... Even the most exhaustively tested recipe might not work out, for any number of reasons, in one person's kitchen. I just think it's good to be aware of that, that it's not for lack of trying or precision on ... I mean, sometimes it is actually, that is a reason things go wrong. But I always try to test as thoroughly as I can and give the most number of options about if you don't have this ingredient, you can substitute this. Or if you can't find fresh, you can use frozen. All of those things. But there's a limit to the amount of information we can give.

Claire Saffitz:                So for baking in particular, it's paying attention to important things like temperature. Temperature is a really big one in baking, that if something says that it should be room temperature, it should probably really be room temperature because certain ingredients only combine and emulsify when they're either the same temperature or very different temperatures. So yeah, I mean, it's maybe not what people want to hear, but at least when it comes to the recipes that I write, if I don't give you the option of deviating from the course, you should probably just follow the recipe. Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:             Okay, the last Bombesquad question. Em Lineker teaches at Hosford Middle School in Portland, Oregon. She shows Gourmet Makes to her class to demonstrate the scientific method. Em would like to know, "What are your strategies for moving through problems that feel impossible and fighting through it?" Her students would appreciate the advice.

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, I love that question. I'm very gratified that she shows it to demonstrate the scientific method because I ... We always joke about how I'm constantly changing more than one variable at a time because I'm just a little impatient and get a little frustrated, so I'm glad to hear that she approves of the method that we use in Gourmet Makes. I think the most important part about problem-solving when I hit a roadblock in the show is a little bit of time away from the problem, actually, to think. I think that the mind opens up to new solutions when it's not under the pressure and it's not in that environment. So often with Gourmet Makes, I'll come back the next day with a solution or with an idea. But it usually involves stepping back and going home, making dinner, not thinking about the problem. I think it's when you're not thinking about it directly that the ideas come. So I've found that that's a process that I have learned and learned to trust through the whole course of making Gourmet Makes.

Kerry Diamond:             So a little distance?

Claire Saffitz:                A little distance is very important.

Kerry Diamond:             All right, Claire, we have a little speed round for you.

Claire Saffitz:                Okay.

Kerry Diamond:             Next, your favorite kitchen utensil?

Claire Saffitz:                Small offset spatula.

Kerry Diamond:             The oldest food in your fridge at home?

Claire Saffitz:                My sourdough starter.

Kerry Diamond:             Your starter. Does it have a name?

Claire Saffitz:                It doesn't have a name. I've had it for years. I've had it for probably five years at this point. And I used to keep it in the Test Kitchen and now I just keep it at home and I feed it once a week. It's still alive and well and holding on.

Kerry Diamond:             Did you start it from scratch or did you get someone else's-

Claire Saffitz:                No.

Kerry Diamond:             Starter?

Claire Saffitz:                A friend of mine got a little bit of starter from She Wolf and then I kept it in the Test Kitchen for years and then I took it home. So it's had many lifetimes.

Kerry Diamond:             So it's still got a little bit of the She Wolf DNA in it?

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah, it has those roots. But I think any time it's been in a different environment for a while, it takes on a different character. But it's still one continuous live starter.

Kerry Diamond:             One thing you would never eat?

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, I really strongly dislike sun-dried tomatoes. I've always hated them. They don't taste good. I have some aversion to them that I've always had, I will pick them off of a salad if they're on there, or anything, in a pasta.

Kerry Diamond:             You are not alone. That's a divisive ingredient.

Claire Saffitz:                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kerry Diamond:             I'm pro sun-dried toma-

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, really?

Kerry Diamond:             I don't know why, I love them.

Claire Saffitz:                Oh, wow.

Kerry Diamond:             Yeah.

Claire Saffitz:                That makes me think it's just a genetic thing. It's like cilantro.

Kerry Diamond:             Like cilantro.

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:             Mm-hmm (affirmative). Song that makes you smile?

Claire Saffitz:                Any Fleetwood Mac. Any Stevie Nicks. Gypsy. I listen to a lot of Fleetwood Mac in the kitchen and that always ... It's such feelgood music.

Kerry Diamond:             You know that answer's just going to make people like you more?

Claire Saffitz:                That one's very true.

Kerry Diamond:             Dream vacation destination?

Claire Saffitz:                Japan. I would love to visit Japan. There's just so much to eat and see and do, so that's high on my list.

Kerry Diamond:             I'm dying to go to Japan. I've never been either.

Claire Saffitz:                You've never been?

Kerry Diamond:             No. I really want to. I think the problem is you feel like you need a big chunk of time there.

Claire Saffitz:                Yes.

Kerry Diamond:             And there just are so few big chunks of time.

Claire Saffitz:                Right. It's going to take you a whole day to get there and then another day to get back, so you might as well spend a good amount of time. So yeah.

Kerry Diamond:             Exactly.

Claire Saffitz:                Waiting for that.

Kerry Diamond:             All right, so we always end with the same question, but a few people wanted to hear a little twist on it, so I think I'm going to ask it to you twice. So if you had to be trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be and why?

Claire Saffitz:                I love this question. It would probably be Brad because he's going to know ... He's going to make sure we don't die, he's going to have all the tricks and skills. This has been a running joke actually, in the Test Kitchen, we talk about this similar question and Brad is always the answer. It's like he's going to know what to do.

Kerry Diamond:             That's so funny because the part two of that was if you had to pick someone from the BA Test-

Claire Saffitz:                Oh.

Kerry Diamond:             Kitchen, who would it be? So everybody, there's your answer.

Claire Saffitz:                Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:             It's Brad.

Claire Saffitz:                Brad. I don't want to go anywhere without Brad, basically.

Kerry Diamond:             That's it for today's show. Thank you to Claire for sitting down with me. Your cookbook can't come soon enough. In the meanwhile, you can all watch Claire's videos on YouTube, be sure to check them out. Don't forget to RSVP for Jubilee 2.0, taking place Sunday, April 5th. Visit to RSVP, it's free and open to everybody around the world. Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting today's show. We love your butter and your cheese. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited and produced by Jess Zeidman. A special thank you to Debbie Daughtry for engineering my interview with Claire. Thanks for listening, everybody. I hope that you and your loved ones are okay. As always, you are the bombe.