Kenwood woman makes a career out of recipe testing
Amy Vogler of Kenwood didn’t set out to make a career out of recipe testing.
But the usual twists and turns of her life pointed her in that direction, starting with her first job at a bakery on the Jersey Shore when she was 16.
“My main job was making the sticky buns, and my brother-in-law made the goo,” she said. “It teaches you time management, when there’s a line of 20 people waiting for you.”
For the past 10 years, Vogler has used her culinary and time management skills to help write, develop and test recipes for a string of high-profile cookbooks, including nearly all of Thomas Keller’s cookbooks (“Bouchon,” “Ad Hoc,” “Under Pressure” and “The Bouchon Bakery”), “The Essence of Chocolate” by Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger, “Mourad: New Moroccan” by Mourad Lahlou, and “Della Fattoria Bread” by Kathleen Weber, among others.
“I grew up in a family where Mom and Grandma still cooked,” Vogler said. “We had dinner together and always sat down to the table.”
Vogler was a communications major at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., then launched her career in New York City at a post-production editing house. She moved to San Francisco in 2000 to work for the same company, but when the office closed in 2001, she left advertising and reinvented herself.
“I took the pastry program at Tante Marie’s (cooking school) and still kept a day job,” she said. “In the back of my head, I’m thinking the food TV world would be great.”
Her breakthrough came when she took a food-writing workshop with Tori Ritchie, a San Francisco writer who teaches cooking and works on TV shows. Ritchie introduced her to two sisters writing a cookbook, and Vogler got her start by shopping, prepping and doing dishes for the project.
She also worked part-time at the Williams-Sonoma store in Corte Madera to get to know the products, and took a job as pastry chef at Larkspur’s Lark Creek Inn for perspective.
“I was still figuring it out,” she said. “Being paid to test cookbooks … what does that mean?”
Her food TV dream came true in 2004 when she got a job with a KQED cooking series, working alongside culinary giants such as French chef Jacques Pepin.
“I thought to myself, ‘I have been standing next to Jacques Pepin. How did I get here?’ ” she said.
She and her husband, Rocky, a civil engineer, moved to Kenwood seven years ago, where they live with their 2-year-old daughter, Aurora. Juggling a baby and a busy career has been a challenge, but Vogler somehow manages, thanks to her well-honed time-management skills.
“The bread baking (for ‘Della Fattoria Bread’) was a great illustration of fitting things in,” she said. “The night before, I weighed everything out and had the starter ready. Then I got the dough going in the morning, had to fold and get it in the oven. Then I would take my daughter for a walk.”
We caught up with Vogler while she was working on her latest tome, “The Bien Cuit Cookbook” (the working title, which means “Well Done”), by Brooklyn baker Zach Golper and Peter Kaminsky.
Q: What was it like working on the Thomas Keller cookbooks?
A: They are perfectionists to a really great fault. When you get an opportunity like that, you put your head down and work really hard.