“Just a second, I’m going to turn off the oven.” It’s a typical workday for Jenny Koniuk — she’s in the middle of testing a batch of recipes for a national magazine.
While many of us follow recipes on a regular basis, Koniuk, 53, gets paid to cook from them for her family, and the food is included.
Early on, Koniuk developed a passion for cooking and loved to read cookbooks and food magazines. Her entire family had a sweet tooth, so there was a lot of demand for her cookies and brownies and her mother’s amazing pies.
Toronto-born Koniuk studied English literature at the University of Western Ontario, and began working in publishing. She stopped to have three kids.
Twelve years ago, a friend of hers became editor of a grocery store food magazine. She came in the door one day while Koniuk was making sushi and asked her to test recipes for the magazine.
Her very first recipe, a pie, was a disaster. She made it three times, but it just wouldn’t work. Eventually, the recipe developer realized he’d made a fundamental measurement error. As the years passed, Koniuk got more contacts in the food industry and now tests recipes for magazines such as Today’s Parent, Chatelaine and Homemakers. She also develops recipes and does product development for a grocery store chain. Testing makes up about a quarter of her work week.
When she tests, she starts by sitting down with a cup of tea and reading the recipe in close detail. Koniuk sometimes uses a technique a colleague created and mimes out the act of making the dish as she reads. Then, she makes a shopping list and heads out to her local grocery story before returning to cook, following the recipe to the letter.
“Persnickety attention to detail is really important.” She writes on the recipe as she cooks, noting things like the clarity of instructions, the accuracy of the measurements (she keeps a scale in her kitchen), whether it needs less seasoning or more and if she gets as many servings as promised.