A Fresh Start at Cooking Light: ICE Alum Katie Barreira
While cooking in restaurant kitchens is time well spent for any culinary career, many ICE students enroll in our program with the goal to find a future in food outside of restaurant kitchens. Fusing her freelance writing experience with her culinary training, ICE alum Katie Barreira (Culinary Arts ‘07) has landed her dream job in food media, strategically building a career that includes both test kitchen and editorial experience at such magazines as Every Day with Rachael Ray—and, most recently, as the Test Kitchen Director for Cooking Light.
Why did you choose ICE for your culinary education?
After graduating from Bucknell University with a BA in English, I worked on the line at La Morra, a fine dining Tuscan restaurant in Brookline, MA, while freelance writing for publications like the Boston Globe. So when it came to choosing a school, I liked that ICE supported food media as a culinary career path and encouraged me to use my externship as a springboard toward work in that part of the industry. And, as it turns out, the industry connections I made through my externship at Food & Wine magazine were instrumental in helping me break into food media.
What have you been up to since graduating?
While completing the classroom portion of my culinary degree, I took the initiative to intern at Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. When I graduated from ICE in 2007, the magazine had just finished building their test kitchen and after my internship, I was hired on as the Test Kitchen Assistant. I was on staff at the magazine for seven years, and held various positions, working my way up to Food Editor.
Are there any professional accomplishments of which you are particularly proud?
When I started out in magazines, test kitchen and editorial work were viewed as two very separate entities, but it was important to me to be able to flex my muscles as both a cook and a writer. It took a good deal of perseverance to successfully pursue both, but doing so provided me with the most fulfilling and exciting work of my career.
Briefly describe a day in your current working life.
It’s only my third week at Cooking Light, so I’m still getting into the routine, but typically, the day starts with some grocery shopping (always one of my favorite activities—I still can’t believe I get to do it for a living!). When I get into the office, I check emails, often attend a morning meeting (or three) and then get to cooking, which could mean recipe testing or development. Around midday, we organize a tasting with the editors to evaluate what we’ve cooked. In the afternoons, I like to write—whether it’s working on copy for a story or brainstorming recipe ideas—as the hours of 3-5pm tend to be my most creative time.
What might people be surprised to learn about your job?
Even though I cook food, talk about food, write about food, eat food, take pictures of food, and so on, I never get sick of food. It’s a remarkable subject matter in that way, which I think might be connected to the fact that it’s one of our basic human needs. The one caveat is that I’m not a huge fan of competitive cooking shows. They make me anxious—too close to home!
Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
Given how new my current position is, I’m pretty focused on the “now.” I’m looking forward to building the Cooking Light brand and contributing a body of work to the magazine.
How would you describe your “culinary voice?”
I wouldn’t say I have a specific culinary style—developing recipes for magazines requires you to be flexible and not to get too hemmed into one cuisine or genre of cooking. I’m a pretty quirky, fun-loving gal, which definitely comes through in my voice as a chef and a writer—nothing too fussy, just clean, profound flavors. If it makes me happy when I eat it, it’s good.
Interested in a career in food media? Click here to learn more about ICE alumni in magazines, test kitchens, and food television.