I’m Elana Karp, Chef at Plated, and This Is How I Work
At How I Work, we like to find people with particularly challenging jobs. Cooking recipes in a mail-order kit delivery service seems like a daunting task: each recipe should be enjoyable for the public, easy to understand, and use ingredients that can be shipped across the country in huge quantities, divided into tiny portions. At Plated (acquired last year by grocery company Albertsons), the job is owned by Elana Karp. We spoke to her about creating and testing recipes, filming video tutorials, and her evolving culinary career.
Location : New York Current Job : Chef & Co-Founder Plated One word that best describes how you work : Multitasking Current mobile device : iPhone X Current computer : Macbook Pro
First of all, tell us a little about your past and how you got where you are now.
I have almost always been interested in food, from cooking at home to dining out at local restaurants and trying new dishes as I travel the world. I started cooking when I was about 6 years old. I helped mom or dad in the kitchen, and it soon became one of my favorite hobbies.
After college, I taught the second grade in the Teach for America program. I learned from my own experience how little my students understand about health and nutrition, and it became clear to me that I want my career to be focused on changing the way people eat. To do this, I knew that I needed a professional culinary education, so I moved to Paris and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu to learn from some of the best chefs. After graduation, I started a small business teaching families and children to cook and ran an after-school meal program for local primary schools in New York City.
I learned about Plated shortly after it launched and joined the company to create a cooking program from scratch. I was so excited to be part of something that helped people cook more and eat better. The idea that I could be a part of making change and impacting people’s lives nationwide was incredible!
Tell us about a recent work day.
My day always starts with coffee. And I love breakfast, so I usually make myself scrambled eggs and sprouted toast before heading to the office. What I love most about my job is that it allows me to spend time both in and out of the kitchen doing a variety of things – different every day!
For example, I could start at my desk researching and thinking through recipes for upcoming menus, or meeting with colleagues from our BAWS team to plan some of our upcoming employee events. (BAWS stands for Bad Women Society and is our internal support system aimed at fostering ongoing dialogue about the problems women face in the workplace.) I always spend time in the test kitchen and studio – on a recent day I did a late morning tape for a demo video of a plate of beef noodles.
I can then dine in the test kitchen, combining lunch with tasting recipes with the cooking team. In the afternoons, I often attend meetings on a variety of topics, from menu planning and marketing campaigns to analyzing customer reviews and what comes next with our in-store offerings. At the end of the day, I usually end up at my desk, sorting through emails and meeting any deadlines.
What apps, gadgets or tools can’t you live without?
Coffee maker (using French press Bodum, large), Instagram, Google Maps.
I use Resy, to make reservations for dinner in the city. I especially love their notification feature. When I try to find a table at a popular new restaurant, Resy will notify me when the tables pop up. Thanks to this feature, I got to places that were impossible to get to!
How is your workplace arranged?
We have a really open workspace and I sit with different people from the cooking and studio teams. I always have my laptop with me, and there is a large screen on my desk as I study recipes, go through drafts, and view photos and videos from our last shoots. I also love spending time in our test kitchen, and I have a little table there that I love to work on occasionally to get closer to the cooking.
What’s your best shortcut or life hack?
When cooking chicken or other proteins, removing the frosting in the pan is one of my favorite methods. It has a dual purpose: it’s a simple method for creating a delicious sauce that makes it easy and quick to peel off after a meal! To do this, you add a liquid, such as wine, water, or broth, to a heated skillet after you’ve cooked and removed the protein. This will loosen small browning residues that stick to the bottom of the pan. Then you stir and scrape off the pieces to create a flavorful sauce. In doing so, you’ve also cleaned up what’s left in the pan and prepared it for an ultra-quick clean.
Tell us about an interesting, unusual, or challenging process you have at work.
We are serious about testing our recipes. After a recipe is written and tested for the first time in a test kitchen, all the chefs get together for a formal tasting of the dish. We provide customized food reviews covering a wide variety of characteristics, from flavor to composition. We will give frank feedback to the tester and writer. For me, these tastings are critical. Even if I’m in the middle of another meeting, I leave to make sure I’m here to try a dish straight from the oven or fresh from the stove!
How do you keep track of what you need to do?
I’m a calendar-focused organizer. I use my Google calendar for work, personal, and more. I like to collect all my plans in one place. And, good or bad, if something isn’t on my calendar, chances are I’ll miss it.
How to recharge or relax?
For me, a great spa is the perfect place to relax and unwind. They are not suitable for use with a phone, which is really good – it makes you disconnect from your daily life. Plus, a great massage or facial will make you feel like a new person!
What’s your favorite side project?
I just moved into a new apartment and I really do renovating and decorating everything, especially the kitchen!
What are you reading now or what do you recommend?
I recommend Ed Catmull’s book Creativity Inc. “. I read it a few years ago when Plated was just getting started and was growing rapidly. His ideas for unleashing creativity while scaling a business resonated with me and allowed me to draw smart conclusions that I could apply to my approach to work.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Several years ago, I made a mistake that seemed enormous to me at the time. It was one of the things that caused me to lose sleep. After going through this test, I got a simple but valuable piece of advice: Sometimes it’s okay to be wrong, as long as you don’t repeat the same mistake twice. What’s more, sometimes mistakes can actually help you grow and learn in unexpected ways.