At a Glance:
● Name: Jack Bishop
● Graduation Year: 1981
● Position: Chief Creative Officer
● Company: America’s Test Kitchen
● Website: www.americastestkitchen.com
● Industry: Publishing/Media
If there is anyone you would want to prepare your next meal, it’s Mountain Lakes High School alumnus Jack Bishop (‘81). A self-taught chef, Bishop has worked throughout the food industry in various roles such as magazine editor, chief creative officer, cookbook author, and celebrity chef. His family moved to Mountain Lakes in 1971, where he had an enjoyable adolescent and high school experience, playing outside and being active in school sports and activities. It was during his teenage years that he began to learn and excel at cooking.
Eventually, he turned his passion into a career, combining his cooking talents with television content. Currently, he leads a team of over 100 creative employees and serves as the Chief Creative Officer for America’s Test Kitchen. Recently, Bishop described to us his extensive career in the food, publishing and media industries.
MLAA: When did you come to Mountain Lakes?
MLAA: How was your experience growing up in town?
JB: As a kid, I wanted to be outdoors and Mountain Lakes was perfect for that. My best memories of Mountain Lakes are running in the woods behind Birchwood, sailing on Mountain Lake, playing tennis at the high school, skating on Crystal Lake, and riding my bike everywhere.
MLAA: What clubs, sports, or activities did you participate in during high school?
JB: I was active in student government, I played soccer, and edited the yearbook my senior year.
MLAA: How did you learn to become a skilled chef?
JB: I’m self-taught. I actually did a lot of cooking as a teenager. Cooking was a great way to balance all the studying I did in high school. It was both relaxing and rewarding.
MLAA: Your specialty is Italian cuisine. What would you say is your best dish?
JB: My polenta. Or maybe my grandmother’s lasagna.
MLAA: What is your favorite meal to make and why?
JB: My favorite meal is Thanksgiving. We usually have 15 or 20 people at our house (they know the food will be good) and it’s just a fun day. I always prepare a mix of the classics (my adult children still demand mashed potatoes) and something new.
MLAA: How did you end up combining your cooking career with television?
JB: I started working in publishing right out of college and ended up as an editor at a successful food magazine called Cook’s Illustrated. The editors of the magazine decided to make a pilot for a television show. It seemed like a long shot. Who would watch a bunch of geeky editors talk about their work? But the show as an immediate success. We’ve done almost 600 episodes of America’s Test Kitchen and its sister show, Cook’s Country, since 2001.
MLAA: What is your favorite aspect of being a celebrity chef?
JB: Getting people to realize that anyone, and I mean anyone, can cook at home is the reason I love my work. Cooking at home makes you healthier and happier. It’s as simple as that. Many of the health issues we face as a nation are related to letting food manufacturers, restaurants, and others prepare our food. And I know, first hand, that cooking brings the cook great personal satisfaction.
MLAA: You have written multiple cookbooks. What were these experiences like?
JB: Writing a cookbook is an amazing experience because you are creative in so many different ways—from figuring out new recipes (which often happens at the market when shopping) to translating kitchen work into written recipes and then putting it all together to tell a cohesive story. A typical cookbook takes 18 months to develop, write, edit, and photograph. It’s a long process.
MLAA: What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
JB: I lead a team of 100+ recipe developers, journalists, photographers, videographers, art directors, editors, writers, and producers. The most rewarding part of my job is hanging out with my colleagues. It’s an amazingly diverse group of creative people. The most challenging part of my job is organizing so many people to work together effectively.
MLAA: Is there any career advice, general or specific, that you can provide for the readers on how to be successful?
JB: Recognize opportunities and grab onto them—and don’t let go. Always do way more than is necessary. It’s not about getting the work done. It’s about what you learn from the work—and curious people can always learn something from any work or any experience.
MLAA: What are some of your other hobbies?
JB: I’m a voracious reader. Always have been. Always will be. I can’t emphasize how important reading is—you open your mind to new places and different points of view. But most of all, you’re singularly focused and thinking when you read. I’m also an exercise fanatic (helps with all the eating). I love to garden. And I travel a lot.
MLAA: Going forward, what is next for Jack Bishop?
JB: I have no idea and I like it that way. Many of the best things in my life have not been planned.
MLAA: If you could invite three people to dinner, alive or dead, fictional or real, who would they be? My four grandparents, all long gone. I’d be curious to know them in the prime of their lives and see what they thought of 2020.