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COOKS ILLUSTRATED - "thanks, and don't let the door hit you on the way out ..."

I have been a recipe-tester for CI for several years. Until today, it has been a mutually beneficial relationship. Imagine my surprise at receiving the following e-mail this AM, the "So Long, Sucker" brushoff. There was some excited buzz about this topic not long ago and I thought I'd pass along what is in store for you after your service, not to mention, expense.

"Dear Friend,

Thank you for the contributions you have made as a recipe tester for America’s Test Kitchen. The information we receive through the recipe testing surveys is an invaluable asset in the development of recipes and the improvement of our publications. In an effort to continue to expand our understanding of the landscape our readers face while preparing recipes, we will be refreshing our list of testers and looking for input from new cooks.

As we update our lists, our veteran recipe testers will no longer receive new requests, as a way to allow newer members a chance to participate.

We appreciate your ongoing dedication to helping our publication's continued success.

Happy Cooking!

The Editors of Cook’s Illustrated"

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  1. I don't get it. The email seems polite and the logic of refreshing their recipe testers makes sense. And while you are doing them a service, hopefully you're having fun doing it. Otherwise, what's the point?

    Also, there's not really a cost to participate. Is there? They don't require you to make all (or any of) the recipes so something that stretched your budget could be skipped, and either way, you're going to cook something for dinner right?

    1. I agree with mikefoody. The contents of the email were not mean spirited in the least. I can understand being disappointed, but what's with the obvious sour grapes? Think of all the great things you've learned in the experience and try and move on. Doesn't sound like the end of the world.

      1. Jfood is with you Sherri. This is dispicable, like firing someone and saying thanks for playing. There are so many other ways to handle an over-supply of testers, for example increase the time span between recipe tests, or slowly bring new testers into the fray slowly.

        Now jfood feels badly because he just signed up and received his first recipe to test, creamy tomato soup.

        although jfood has defended ATK in the past from other posters who called them totally self focussed, maybe jfood was wrong. This is an atrocious way to handle their popularity.

        Shame on ATK. BTW - No chance jfood would ever serve that tomato soup concoction in his house and he has no plans on wasting his time and money onthat one.

        13 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          Don't know about despicable, but I certain sympathize and think it was poorly worded and rather dismissive and there were better ways to handle this, as jfood suggested.

          Not actually a big fan of AFK in the first place.

          1. re: MMRuth

            Let's change "dispicable" to "unprofessional" .

            1. re: jfood

              jfood, I wrote a response to you that must have been deleted. Thanks for the support, you too MMRuth. I do feel that years of service could have been better handled and I only posted to save others from the same fate. I appreciate your understanding.

              1. re: Sherri

                Jfood wrote there as well, oh well.

                He suggested that instead of the dismissive letter they should have asked if there was a particular type of cuisine or course that you wanted to focus on. Their totally dismissive letter was wrong.

                Likewise jfood, a longtome subscriber resents not having access to their on line recipes w/o an additional charge. he pays for the recipes inthe monthly magazine and should have online access as well.

                But it's their business model.

                Have fun cooking and feeding your family that's what it's all about.

          2. re: jfood

            jfood I usually agree with your posts but this time I'll have to stand on the other side of the aisle. I don't see much wrong with it. It's a bit cold and is certainly a form letter but to expect a personal letter to each would probably be unreasonable.

            You changed despicable to unprofessional but I also disagree with that word. I think that it's too professional. It's the same to everyone with no real empathy for those who have participated for however long.

            It sucks I'm sure. You don't have to like it but there is someone out there for everyone who's upset that's happy for the chance to participate. Perhaps someone is upset because you've taken their place.

            Anyway, enjoy it while it lasts. Seems that "All good things must come to an end" is the case here.

            DT

            1. re: Davwud

              jfood understands the other side of the argument and that's cool. But until you are forced to look into the eyes of someone who has done a good job and had to let them go, it is not easy to understand.

              Jfood believes you never fire a volunteer, always unprofessional. You find a place where they can contribute. That's just jfood's philosophy. When someone makes the decision to volunteer and they have been a long time volunteer, you NEVER fire them you find a way to use them in a limited role.

              In this case jfood thinks a good idea would have been for ATK to lighten the load either by asking the OP to choose a course or a increase the timespan between recipes. That would have been the professional way to handle this.

              By sending this "Thanks for Playing" letter CI has basically reinforced many posters comments in other thread that CI is a very self-important magazine. Jfood has lost respect for them for this.

              So we can agree to disagree but firing a long time volunteer is very unprofessional in jfood opinion. It seems the OP is handling better than many of us, jfood included.

              1. re: jfood

                'Scuze me, guys, and that's both jfood and davwud, but she wasn't a volunteer. She was unpaid, but she was also RECRUITED! And she's not a home cook, she's a professional! That puts a whole different light on things, don't you think?

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Yes. I'm not sure how though. Perhaps they want less "Professionals" testing and more "John/Jane Q" types.

                  DT

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Nope. Unpaid service = Volunteer.

                    Jfood has been "recruited" by many organizations to use his professional abilites to assist the organization. In each case he considered himself a volunteer to that organization.

                    1. re: jfood

                      actually, I would liken testing recipes for CI to the peer review system used in academia. Peer reviewers are not paid. They are recruited. and they are not volunteers. They provide a service to the profession as a part of their responsibilities to their universities, departments, and the academic community.

                      i.e. unpaid service does not always equal volunteer

                      1. re: nc213

                        nope, not equal at all. and you agree by stating they perform these tasks "as a part of their responsibilities to their universities, departments, and the academic community." There is no such responsibility to ATK. Jfood has been/is both. As a tester he can decide whether to test the recipe or not, as seen in the low response rate for ATK. It is quite a different process in academia. You better have one heck of a good reason to tell the head of the department you will not sit on a peer review.

                        1. re: nc213

                          I disagree completely. Peer review is a job requirement in academia. If your research doesn't stand up to peer review, no reputable journal will touch it and your hopes for tenure or promotion will be toast.

                          If you refuse to do peer reviews when invited and aren't at the pinnacle of your field, you'll likely have a hell of a time getting your own research published. And if your department head, someone on your tenure committee, or a big shot in your field does the asking, you ain't gonna say no.

                          You must have appropriate credentials and, if the research is important, an established reputation, to be recruited at all. The CI recipe testing discussed here is as far from peer review as it gets. There is no requirement for demonstrated competence and no responsibility to CI. And if you slam the recipe, CI has no obligation to take your criticisms into account.

                          1. re: embee

                            Also, the peer review system implies reciprocity. You don't just review others' work; they review yours. CI doesn't do that -- it's a one-way transaction.

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. I enjoy the magazine itself but I find CI's business practices to be highly annoying. I think it's inappropriate to be bombarded by all the inserts and blow-out cards in the magazine itself, not to mention all the promotional emails. I find the same kind of arrogance to this Dear John letter.

                  A friend of mine just started working at Consumer's Union as a part-time sensory taster. Decent pay and a seriousness of purpose. Any for-profit organization that enlists volunteers to enhance its work product has a certain obligation to treat the volunteers well, IMO.