Meet the Taste of Home Test Kitchen Team
We're proud of our professional Test Kitchen team! Learn more about their diverse backgrounds, and be sure to check out their favorite recipes.
By Nicole Doster, Digital Associate Editor
Our recipes may begin with home cooks, but they're tested and perfected by a team of culinary experts. Day in and day out, our kitchen bustles with professionals busy at work. They whisk, write, edit and bite their way to the best-tasting, most-loved recipes—just for you! Meet the individuals who work behind the scenes at Taste of Home.
Our faithful culinary director steers the ship—er—kitchen. On top of juggling the staff's busy schedules, she tests recipes, balances the budget, connects with vendors, and hosts our weekly Test Kitchen Live! shows.
Role: Culinary Director
Sarah began her career at Taste of Home in 2004 as a food stylist. Now she's the culinary director who oversees the Test Kitchen team. Sarah's still head over heels in love with what she does: working with food and with people who love food—every day. She lives with her teenage daughter, Olivia, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Favorite Recipe: Sandy's Chocolate Cake "This is just one of my favorites. I have a three-ring binder that holds several pounds of my favorite TOH recipes sitting on the kitchen counter. It is the one (non-living) thing I would run into a burning building to save."
Armed with a cutting knife in one hand and notepad in the other, our test cooks use their food science know-how to make a recipe taste great.
Role: Lead Test Cook
Nick has a degree in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis. He also has a German shorthair named Gus, who happens to be a hunting dog.
Favorite Recipe: Chicken & Bacon Tart
Role: Test Cook
Matthew graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with degrees in business administration and dietetics. He enjoys spending his free time outside — motorcycling, hiking, biking and camping.
Favorite Recipe: Creamy Squash Soup "It's simple, healthy and comforting."
For a prep cook, thinking a step ahead is the name of the game. The team makes sure ingredients are sliced, diced and accurately measured before sending to the test cooks or food stylists.
Bethany Van Jacobson
Role: Lead Prep Cook
Beth studied biology and English at Illinois State University and gained her cooking chops working in catering and restaurant management. She's the resident stock-maker and cheese- imp at Taste of Home. Beth spends her spare time reading sci-fi novels and being herded by a Welsh corgi named Thor.
Favorite recipe: Crusty Homemade Bread
Aria C. Thornton
Role: Prep Cook
Aria, who joined the culinary team in 2016, has been an avid baker ever since she was a little kid. When she's not cooking, you'll find Aria renovating her 1890s house, studying martial arts and sewing. She also enjoys spending quality time with her boyfriend, Paul, and cat, Bounce.
Favorite Recipe: Herb Focaccia Rolls
Our recipe editors make sure the words you read on the recipe page are sound, clear and easy to follow. They also manage a database of recipe knowledge.
Role: Lead Recipe Editor
Sue has a background in journalism. She's spent over 25 years both writing and editing at Wisconsin newspapers—but her greatest love has always been food. She feels privileged to work with people whose cooking skills and food knowledge seem boundless. Her professional experience helps her translate their gifts into words, both printed and spoken. Sue is married, with two daughters and four grandchildren, and eats every chance she gets.
Favorite Recipe: Ultimate Double Chocolate Brownies "If you splurge and buy the very best chocolate and cocoa you can find, this recipe will amaze you."
Role: Recipe Editor
With an education in dietetics and professional cooking, Irene spent most of her career crafting recipes and new products for corporate test kitchens in Chicago and San Francisco. She's a self-proclaimed food geek at heart, so she enjoys applying the science of cooking while writing recipes.
Favorite Recipes: Almond Rhubarb Cobbler and Rhubarb Scones "Growing up in Los Angeles, I had little exposure to using rhubarb as an ingredient. The Taste of Home readers showed me how to use the ingredient in new ways."
Our styling team turns cooking into an art form. They make great food and know exactly what to do to make it look just as good as it tastes.
Role: Lead Food Stylist
After studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Kathryn's career as a chef and food stylist has included work with three magazines—Cooking Light, Health and Southern Living — as well as Duncan Hines and the Campbell Soup Co. Her work can now be found across all Taste of Home books and magazines. She shares her home with two grumpy, yet adorable, cats and a similar husband.
Favorite recipe: Herb-Brined Turkey
Role: Food Stylist
Lauren has a bachelor's degree in communicative arts along with a culinary degree, which pretty much means she's a Jane-of-all-trades. Working at Taste of Home is the perfect mashup of her love for science, art and food. When she's not making a birthday cake (or pie) for a family member, she can likely be found running, biking or swimming. Her top foods include homemade graham crackers, peanut butter and olives (not at the same time).
Favorite recipe: Lime Avocado Hummus. "Yum!"
Role: Food Stylist
Shannon studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York City (now called the International Culinary Center). She made her way into the styling world after a few years in the restaurant business. She's a huge fan of the Marvel and Harry Potter movies and has dressed up as Captain America for Halloween a couple of times.
Favorite recipe: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting "I've made it for many of my friend's birthday parties and I continue to get requests for it."
These folks are the glue that hold our kitchen staff together. Without them, we'd surely be lost.
Role: Culinary Team Assistant/Grocery Shopper
To describe her job, Maria wrote this haiku:
Finds all the fun foods
'Cause she knows all the cool stores
And is the list queen.
Maria received her degree from Cardinal Stritch University. She was raised vegetarian, but loves trying new foods from around the world. When not buying groceries, she works on films and tends to her herb garden.
Favorite recipe: The Best Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes "They rock!"
Role: Dishwasher Extraordinaire
Suzanne is always "fabulous"—that's the word she'll always use when we see her in the hallways. She's been working with Taste of Home for more than three years through the Milwaukee Center for Independence (MCFI), which offers life-changing programs and services for adults with disabilities and special needs. Suzanne does so much more for us than keep our dishes clean and organized. She makes us smile.
Role: Dishwasher Extraordinaire
Carlos, who is also employed through MCFI, is a hard worker, and has been keeping dishes spick-and-span for the Test Kitchen for more than three years. We adore Carlos not only because he does a great job at Taste of Home, but because he has a good heart and lots of positive energy!