Online Issues / Summer 2013 (Vol. 1, Online Issues)

Serious Eating: A Summer Internship

Serious Eats HeaderSerious Eating: A Summer At Serious Eats World Headquarters

By Meena Lee | Photos by Robyn Lee, Courtesy of Serious Eats | New York City

Porchetta staff tasting? Fish taco snack break? Muffin delivery? Banana pudding from Magnolia? Going to the office every day doesn’t get much better than this, even if it means giving up on that summer beach-bod.

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I started off the summer with some beautiful plans set before me. In addition to reading for pleasure, developing one of the many ideas I had jotted down throughout the year into a short story or screenplay, and watching old movies, I had also resolved to catch up on sleep, exercise regularly, and, most of all, follow a more balanced diet after last semester’s erratic sleep schedule and binge eating sugary granola bars or Godiva dark chocolate truffles at two in the morning.

As most ambitious plans go, I failed on multiple accounts—I read a few stellar biographies before pulling my Harry Potter books off the shelf and rereading them for the umpteenth time and watched some truly excellent movies like The Great Escape and Life is Beautiful only to slump back on the couch later to watch Friends reruns on Nick at Nite until the George Lopez show kicked in. But most of all, I failed on the balanced diet part.

giant whoopie pie that came through the mail - Meena on the leftWhile I could blame my bad eating habits on my complete lack of willpower and restraint, I will instead blame my less-than-stellar beach body on my summer internship at Serious Eats. With more-than-appetizing dishes coming out from the kitchen daily, interns sporadically running out to grab new sandwiches to taste, and deliveries arriving to the door chock full of food on the regular, I’ve learned that it’s next to impossible to keep a diet while working at Serious Eats.

A day at the office could mean taste tests of four homemade lemon sorbets made using different kinds of sweeteners, as well as two brands of hot dog buns served with small cylinders of salty wieners alongside, and nine brands of mayonnaise, each clump remarkably different in taste, hue, and texture. Other days, we sample fat fistfuls of dry, chocolate Lucky Charms cereal, eaten straight out of the box. Or Chief Creative Officer and mad Food Lab scientist J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s superlative crunchy fish tacos. Or a pint of Magnolia Bakery’s famous banana pudding. On the off-chance that there is nothing in the office to eat, I can always run to Golden Steamer next door for fluffy pumpkin bao fresh out of the steamer, Taim a few blocks up for harissa falafel or glazed carrots and hummus, or try something new. Located in the intersection of Chinatown, Little Italy, and Nolita, with the Lower East Side mere blocks away, good, cheap food is not difficult to find.

Peter Pan Bakery doughnut tastingBut of course, eating isn’t the only thing I’ve been doing during my time in the office. Serious Eats just started doing their own ad sales in house last year in order to fund the site, and as one of the office’s inaugural ad sales and marketing interns, I do a little bit of everything—participate in weekly ad sales staff meetings and creative brainstorming sessions, fill-in ad specifications on proposals, draft sponsored editorial posts, complete invoices for billing purposes, collect data on the competition using an Internet data analytic site called comScore, and create mock proposals of my own, just to name a few. Though the seven editorial interns are the ones trekking all over the city in search of new sandwiches to try or different prosciuttos for a staff taste test, I’m never left at the intern table with a rumbling belly. Ad sales and marketing interns also participate in the blind, homemade vanilla ice cream taste test (an experiment to see how many yolks should be added to an ice cream base), snack on slivers of sandwiches, porchetta, muffins, and ice cream bars laid out on the kitchen counter, and go to lunch meetings and on coffee runs.

prosciutto taste test - Meena in centermayo taste testA few weeks ago, the ad sales team hosted Slider Night at the office, a casual networking event during which we hosted about 30 ad industry people. At the suggestion of New York Editor Max Falkowitz, one of the other ad sales and marketing interns and I trekked up to the Upper East Side to purchase 30 gigantic cupcakes from Two Little Red Hens bakery, then searched all over SoHo, Nolita, Chinatown, and Little Italy for cardstock for recipe cards, birthday candles, bathroom hand towels, surprisingly elusive tea lights and Mason jars to put them in, and a bouquet of fresh flowers. After spending a couple days sprucing up the office and organizing the cookbook library in preparation for the party, we were able to relax and enjoy the event, replete with an impressive spread of appetizers prepared by Kenji, a cooler full of beer provided by Brooklyn Brewery, and freshly made watermelon-lime juice with pitchers of vodka, rum, and basil simple syrup on the side for personal spiking pleasure. I could say that I had the amazing opportunity to schmooze with our agency guests and discuss Wes Anderson movies with Kenji and Web Developer Paul, but let’s get real here. That was fun, but I was enjoying the most delicious slider I had ever had, down to its last salty, meaty, oniony bite; I was dunking tender white asparagus in miso-based sauce and crisp endive in creamy dill sauce; I was slathering water crackers with honey and topping them with buttery, hard cheeses; I was popping gherkins and nicoise olives. Talking was secondary.

Peter Pan Bakery doughnut tasting - Meena in middleThe day of the party was one of my best at Serious Eats, but in an environment full of interesting people who love to eat and cook, almost every day is memorable. I’ll never forget the time that Max, Associate Editor Niki, and Hamburger Today Editor Robyn took us out to Greenpoint to try every doughnut at Peter Pan Bakery, or the day that Wylie Dufresne of wd~50 casually called the office wanting to chat with Ed Levine, Serious Eats’s founder and publisher, or when another intern and I attended a movie screening and Q&A with Michael Cera, accompanied by a bag stuffed full of snacks from the grocery store. Of course, not every day is fun—sometimes I spend hours sifting through Serious Eats-hosted Twitter parties about deli meat in order to collect data for a client—but when I look back on it all, I can see that I’m pretty lucky to be going to work in such an amazing office everyday, even though I have lost my chance at a perfect summer figure.

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Magnolia Bakery

several locations in NYC


Golden Steamer

143A Mott St.

(212) 226-1886


several locations in NYC

(212) 691-1287

Brooklyn Brewery

Peter Pan Bakery

727 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn

(718) 389-3676


50 Clinton St.

(212) 477-2900

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To learn more about the “Keep in Touch” online issue, click here.  To see the rest of the articles in the “Keep in Touch” online issue, click here.

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