Food Vancouver Select Guide: Interview with Annabelle Waugh
This time the Food Vancouver (FV) Select Guide features an interview with Eat! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival presenter and Food Director of Canadian Living magazine Annabelle Waugh.
(FV): As the Food Director of Canadian Living, take us through a ‘typical’ work day. (although we know there is likely no such thing!)
(AW): Oh gosh, things definitely change from day to day! My main area of focus is to oversee the test kitchen so what we do is line up the concepts or what we call stories, for the year, then the staff who are all trained chefs, will come up with amazing tasty recipe ideas for the story. One common story is ‘quick and easy’, so that would typically include 5 recipes for Monday to Friday - chicken, beef, pork, seafood and vegetarian. Then, I have the job of choosing what I think are the most relevant and of course delicious recipes. After the chefs work on the recipes, we taste the dishes, evaluate them and keep retesting until they are perfect.
(FV): Is there a gym in the building? :-)
(AW): No, I wish, it would help balance all the eating! (laughs!) Once we are happy with the taste, we send it for testing to an objective group within the Canadian Living team. We do this to make sure there are no gaps in the recipe and that someone who has never seen or tried the recipe finds it clear and that the result is exactly the same as in the test kitchen. From there the recipe is sent for fact and nutritional analysis.
(FV): How long does the process take, from the selection of the story until the perfected and analyzed recipe?
(AW): It can take up to 6 months. For seasonal or specialty recipes, we might start a year in advance. A day often consists of half a day cooking/testing, and half a day writing. There are 4 open concept kitchens and 1 galley. My office is off the main kitchen and we are all in and out of the cooking space, collaborating, sharing and helping each other. It’s a real team effort. Aside from the test kitchen, I participate in TV appearances; how-to videos which are available on our site; I attend press trips and do demos in front of live audiences. It is an incredibly rewarding job (and fun!), really like the job you dream about!
(FV): Is this your first role with Canadian Living?
(AW): I started at Canadian Living in 1999 working as a chef in the test kitchen under Elizabeth Baird. After 6 years I went to work in TV production and on a few cooking shows, and worked as a culinary consultants and editor. In 2010 I returned to Canadian Living as the Food Director and it was a real homecoming for me.
(FV): What do you love most about your job?
(AW): I love trouble shooting, working through recipes to make them the best they can be. I also love to teach, and I really enjoy the demos. It brings me a great deal of joy to connect face-to-face with our readers.
(FV): What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about your job?
(AW): The most rewarding thing by far is when readers write in to say how much they loved a recipe and when they send photos! Canadian Living means a lot to people. It’s an important part of their lives because food brings people and families together especially during the holidays. We feel a huge responsibility to make sure the recipes we share work out! I’d say the greatest challenge is having recipes that are relevant for readers across the country. What is seasonal in BC is different from what’s available in Manitoba or the Maritimes. But it’s a challenge we welcome and we do our best to have something meaningful and relevant for all of Canada’s readers.
(FV): What was your all time favourite recipe to test?
(AW): I couldn’t begin to choose a favourite, I can’t even remember all of them! Each month I taste something amazing and I think ‘now this is the best one ever’ and the following month I taste something even more amazing. It is so great working with such a talented group of people who are constantly wowing me.
(FV): How do you ensure you remain on the cutting edge of food, as well as bringing Canadians the best in health, lifestyle and family related information?
(AW): We keep trends in mind of course, for example, slow cookers are becoming more and more popular so we’ll address that. Generally speaking we stay away from food fads, things that are around for a few months and then disappear as quickly as they came. We try to balance following food trends with sticking to the classic recipes, food for everyday Canadians. To stay in touch with what people want we run focus groups. We also check in with our web team to learn what people are searching for most often. It’s a great way to ensure that what we are offering is what people are wanting and asking for. Everyone on our team loves to eat, cook and travel and we are always on the lookout for new and innovative things to bring to Canadian Living.
(FV): Let’s talk Eat! Vancouver. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, what are you most looking forward to about the show?
(AW): This is our first Eat! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival. I adore doing live demos and connecting with readers. We always like to hear people’s interesting questions and stories.
(FV): What can we expect to see at the show from Canadian Living?
(AW): We’re still finalizing the recipes but at that time the July issue will be on the stands and it will be full of amazing and delicious recipes – lots of things for the grill, make-ahead salads, desserts featuring seasonal berries, and some fun things to celebrate Canada Day so we’ll be sharing some of these. We’re really looking forward to connecting with our west coast readers!
Be sure to visit www.canadianliving.com/contests to enter to win a trip for two to Vancouver to the Eat! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival, including accommodations the Loden hotel and a special lunch prepared by Rob Feenie at the new Cactus Club at English Bay!
Article by Dana Mahon
Images supplied by Canadian Living Magazine
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