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A day in the life of Julia Collin Davison '94.

Julia Collin Davison ’94 makes people drool for a living. It’s an occupational hazard for the UAlbany alumna who majored in psychology and philosophy and who is now the co-host of the popular cooking show “America’s Test Kitchen,” as well as executive editor of their book division. Whether she’s perfecting a peach tarte tatin or unlocking the secrets to a great grilled cheese, Julia is on a mission to make sure every home cook is successful. Here’s a behind-the-scenes taste of what it’s like to be television personality, author and award-winning chef Julia Collin Davison.

A seatbelt holds several to-go coffee mugs in place.

When filming “America’s Test Kitchen” or “Cooks Country” on the set (located in the seaport district of Boston) the days start early…well before the sun is up. I often don’t have time to let the coffee steep before I drive in, so I bring the pot with me in the car and strap it into the front seat.

Julia sits in a chair while getting her makeup done prior to filming.

The first thing I do when I get to the studio, besides drink some coffee, is sit in a chair for two hours getting my hair and make-up done by professionals. We film in 4K under very bright lights, which means that the make-up must be done a particular way or else you’ll look like a ghost on screen. As I sit in the chair, I often rehearse the recipes I’m filming that day in my head.

Glass bowls of varying sizes filled with ingredients. On the right, a recipe.

When filming a recipe, all of the ingredients are measured out into small glass bowls (known as 'mise en place', or just 'mise' for short). The cook and director then discuss where all the ingredients should go on the counter, so that they're within easy reach for both the cook and the camera.

A member of the crew waves.

Just off set, there are a few people who we call 'runners'. They are responsible for making sure we have whatever equipment and food we need on set.

Shelving with trays of equipment.

The food and equipment is organized on trays and labeled well in advance. This helps us be as efficient as possible when the cameras are rolling. There is also a huge rack of extra equipment (such as spoons, spatulas, and so on) nearby, just in case. The runners also watch us cook on camera and make sure we get the recipe details right, like the cooking times and heat levels.

Large kitchen with multiple prep stations and chefs working.

To keep the pace moving, we don’t cook food through completely on camera. In fact, if anything takes longer than 5 or 6 minutes, we swap out the food on-set for a version that is cooked further along. These swap-outs are called ‘twins’, and the average recipe has around 15 twins. To make all of this additional food, we have a number of chefs working in a separate kitchen. They cook the same recipe that we are cooking on set, but simply cook it ahead of us. They watch us on a monitor to gauge their timing.

Julia prepares a board of cheese and meats while crew films.

In addition to filming the two PBS cooking shows in the studio (“America’s Test Kitchen” and “Cooks Country”), I film a third cooking show for Pluto at my house, called “Julia at Home.”

The crew sets up in Julia's house.

Filming at the house is very similar to filming in the studio, just on a smaller, more casual scale.

Julia's husband and trays of raw chicken ready to be cooked.Inside her home, Julia stands at the counter while her dogs look on.Julia cooks on a grill on her patio with film crew.

A family affair

My show is a family affair, with my husband Ian, my 12-yrold daughter, and my dear friend helping me out behind the scenes. My two dogs, Ziggy and Hazel, also hang around the set waiting for scraps to hit the floor; they even make it into the show every once and a while. When I film “Julia at Home,” I usually cook a few recipes outside on the grill, which is super fun. We clean off the patio and place the grill smack in the middle, so that the cameras have plenty of room. We also set up a small tent nearby for some of the equipment and make sure there are plenty of cold drinks and cooling towels for the crew when it’s hot out.

A collage of photos with chefs from around the world.

Photos from my travels

I travel a lot for work and appear regularly on several other national TV shows, including “Good Morning America,”“Dr Oz,” “QVC,” “Kelly & Ryan,” “Hallmark Home & Family,” “The Doctors,” and “Fox and Friends.” I often run into other chefs when I travel, which is a blast. And sometimes, I even get to go to the Emmy’s! Photos: 1. Pati Junich & Bridget Lancaster 2. Rocco DiSpirito 3. Nigella Lawson 4. Geoffrey Zakarian 5. Lidia Bastianich 6. Jacques Pépin 7. Dr. Oz 8. Bridget Lancaster & Masaharu Morimoto 9. Richard Blais10. Christina Tosi 11. Ludo Lefebvre & Daniel Boulud 12. Marcus Samuelsson 13. Emeril Lagasse

ICYMI: Great Danes Connect with Julia Collin Davison

Great Danes Connect ad. Cooking at Home with Julia Collin Davison '94. Watch the Facebook live recording from May 2020.

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