Tara Bench, perhaps best known as Tara Teaspoon, was still a student at Utah State University when she flew out to New York City for a cooking interview with Martha Stewart Living. The interview didn’t go great and as Tara recalls she “messed up a lot.” But at the end of the day she assured those interviewing her that she was a fast learner. She got the internship and started at the bottom of the barrel in the Martha Stewart test kitchen running errands and going to the grocery store for last minute ingredients but when her internship was over, they offered her a position as “recipe developer.”
“I worked along with all of the editors to create the content in the magazine, and create the recipes, and then I learned food styling,” Tara recalls. “I learned how to take my own recipes and make them look good for photography, and work with world renowned photographers. And the rest of the staff was so talented from the art directors to the garden editor and the craft editors, and the, you know, all of these people that I was able to learn from and just—I don't want to say “just”— but, after years of work, I was promoted.”
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She would eventually become senior food editor, directing her own stories in the magazine, creating content and even cooking on camera with Stewart herself. Today, Tara has made a life in New York City for over two decades, immersed in the food culture of the Big Apple as a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On this week’s episode of the All In podcast, Tara opened up about what that experience has been like for her.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones: What is it like to be a member of the Church and to navigate a big city when you've come from Utah or Arizona? What have you learned from that experience?
Tara Bench: I have learned that you sometimes stand out a lot and I don't really like standing out. I don't like being that center of attention in any way. And because of my religion, and because of my beliefs, and because of the way I live my life, I do stand out in a big crazy city or some professional circumstances. And if you can imagine, I work in food. And so, in a city like New York, it's actually food and wine.
Morgan Jones: Right, right. I was actually just thinking that.
Tara Bench: Yes! It's food and wine. And I mean, I belong to a group of women here that's women in food and wine, and I don't drink wine. So, I have been asked many times if it's been hard to continue to choose to not drink or to live the values I've chosen to live because of the gospel. And for me, it has not been hard. I have just made that choice. It's a choice that I've made. . . it's easy for me, it's not easy for everyone. So for me, telling people that, “Oh, do you have, you know, anything without alcohol in it that I can drink?” Or “Hey, I'm just going to have seltzer water,” or “I just made this recipe with a lot of alcohol, I'm not going to eat it, do you want to taste this or eat it?” You know, that sort of thing. And I've had to learn and adapt. But I also am very aware of how much I stand out because of that.
AS A FORMER FOOD EDITOR AND STYLIST with Martha Stewart and food director of Ladies' Home Journal magazine, Tara knows how to create and showcase gorgeously themed meals for every lifestyle and occasion. In her first cookbook, she shares more than 120 delicious showstopping recipes that are designed to impress. From leisurely weekend brunches spent over burrata cheese with grilled peaches and orange zest chimichurri to easy weeknight rice bowls with carrot-ginger dressing to a mouthwatering Italian crostata baked tart, Tara explains how to put together and master several special go-to dishes from the culinary capitals of the world to add to your repertoire. The book also features a section where she provides a basic recipe which can then be easily transformed into two or three new recipes to make meal planning a breeze during busy weeknight schedules. Live Life Deliciously with Tara Teaspoon shows serious foodies how to present food as an interesting and beautiful culinary experience with dishes that taste as delicious as they look.