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A Day in the Life: Niki Achitoff-Gray, Associate Editor

Deviled Eggs, Also for Breakfast

Makin' some egg stuffs. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Welcome to "A Day in the Life," our new behind-the-scenes series exploring what SE staffers are working on, and, of course, eating. Up today: Associate Editor Niki Achitoff-Gray.

Friday, November 8, 2013

8 a.m. Wake up, feeling...not great. This is likely due to the severalish winter cocktails I drank last night at Maria and Yvonne's joint book party. I shower off the hangover and check in on the site—I have occasional nightmares involving sleep-publishing strange and humiliating personal narratives—schedule a couple of Facebook and Twitter posts to go out while I'm in transit, and head on into the office.

10:15 a.m. I get in, drop my bag, and head straight for the coffee pot. For reasons I cannot fathom, I have a steady and unyielding expectation that the refrigerator will spontaneously generate cartons of milk. On this particular morning, it does not; I sip my coffee black.

10:17 a.m. I discover that black coffee does not sit exceedingly well in an empty, slightly hungover stomach. Luckily, Max triumphantly locates an enormous leftover turchetta sandwich in Kenji's special fridge. It is a thing of beauty.

I eat it at my desk while editing a post about said turchetta. I think to myself, Kenji is a genius.

10:40 a.m. I am still hungry. I look inside the fridge again. Still no milk, but I spot a big bowl of eggs, leftover from a video shoot we'd done in the office the day before. I decide it's a ten-deviled-eggs kinda morning and get to work. Luckily, Kenji is out of the office for the day, so I don't have to worry about looking like a complete idiot—even though I just finished a year of culinary school, there's nothing like a master chef in the office to make you terrified of f*cking sh*t up.

Pie for Breakfast

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

10:58 a.m. I am in the midst of deviling my horde of eggs, envisioning the appreciative exclamations I'll receive from my famished coworkers, when my arch nemesis kick-ass boss Ed Levine arrives with his daily armload of sweets. Today, it's two giant cardboard boxes shipped from Michigan's Sweetie-licious in tow. Once again, his superior food acquisition and dissemination powers have bested me. Also, I'm beginning to suspect that he is trying to make us all very, very fat. The office gathers for pie. I begrudgingly, and then not-so-begrudgingly, nibble on the caramel-apple. It is sticky and rich, like a delicious pie-shaped candy bar.

11:05 a.m. My masterpiece is complete! My secret everything-but-the-kitchen-sink deviled eggs recipe involves a touch of raw garlic, Tabasco sauce, mustard, pimentón, and some sharp cheddar in addition to the requisite mayo, salt, and pepper. They look beautiful until I accidentally dump way too much paprika on one half of the plate.

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

11:20 a.m. I relinquish my desperate campaign to convince Max to eat an egg (is anyone else confused by people who don't like deviled eggs?) and nag our awesome interns Cleo and Ben to eat them instead. They are very good at their jobs (I should know—I'm the one who trains them in force-feeding, HTML and the likes).

11:22 a.m. I panic because I've just spent the last forty minutes making eggs and eating pie and I have a million things on my plate (ha!). First up, I need to finish editing a post for Slice. The author, Matthew Lyons, was hired to consult on the menu and opening of a Neapolitan-style pizzeria in Kenya. He's living in Nairobi for 100 days, and he's been writing a series for us about his experiences; it's my job to format and copy-edit his text, touch up his photos, and help him structure his story in a way that's accessible and meaningful to our readers. Luckily, he's a good writer and I finish up pretty quickly.

12:30 p.m. With my edits for Matt's story taken care of, I do a quick survey of our social media. I manage the Twitter and Facebook accounts for the main site; every time we have a story go up, I share it through those networks to make you all read it. I use a special platform that lets me keep track of which social media posts get the most clicks and, more importantly, lets me schedule those posts ahead of time. I plan a bunch at a time so that I can kick into hyper-focused writing or editing mode without worrying that I'll forget something important.

1:02 p.m. I shift gears and spend some time on a few different projects I have in the works. Fridays are definitely my most low-key day—we run a few stories over the weekend, but the volume of time-sensitive editing and scheduling is a lot lower. Which means that I actually have time to work on some of my own stories! Right now, there's a roundup of especially fun Brooklyn bars, a story about raw milk and cheeses, a guide to Senegalese food in Harlem, a pizza review, and a handful of half-baked ideas (mumble mumble noodle meat thingy). I do a little research here, some photo-editing there—ideally, I'll revisit a post at least a couple times before it goes live. If it sounds a little schizophrenic to jump from one thing to another all day long, that's because it is. You just gotta embrace it!

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A peek at what the "inside" of our site looks like!

3:15 p.m. Time for a phone call with a new writer. Whenever we take on a contributor, it's the hiring editor's job to show them the ropes. Every post that runs on the site gets built in our content management system, or CMS. You can think of it as a fancy Wordpress or Tumblr account, only it usually looks a lot...older and more complicated. Industry folks call it "the back-end" (classy, I know), and most every back-end looks a little different. Ours has plenty of idiosyncrasies, and it's the editor's job to know them inside and out. Even though we have loads of instructional documents, it can be a daunting process, so I usually talk authors through uploading images, using HTML, and getting to know some of our basic formatting procedures—policies that range from titling posts and photographs to learning our secret list of banned words. For the less internet-literate, it can be a steep learning curve, but we've managed to find some amazingly resourceful, tenacious writers who are willing to stick it out.

4 p.m. Jamie's mom comes to the office. Parental visits are always very exciting and ideally involve humiliating stories about coworkers' childhoods. Unfortunately, Andrea seems disinclined to shame her daughter whom, for elusive reasons, she seems to love. She also clearly knows what's up because she brings me Jamie a box of homemade millionaire's cookies. They have adorable mother-daughter times:

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Jamie force-feeds her mom, Andrea. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

5:30 p.m. It's officially time for Growler Friday! That's what we call it when Ben Fishner rolls into the office with a growler or two of beer and everyone gives up on doing any more work. We wind down the week responsibly: with booze, any and all YouTube videos featuring dogs, Katy Perry on full blast, and, if we're lucky, some excellent words of wisdom from Ed.

6:15 p.m. A few of us, including Ed and Jamie's mom, head out of the office to our new favorite hangout, Tropical. Yes, it is a tiki bar. No, I'm not sure where any of this falls on the irony scale. Yes, they have beer bongs and nachos smothered in cheese which, worry not, we have been assured are cooked to order. No, we have not tried them. And, yes, of course we shared a scorpion bowl (no, it was not our first time):

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Ed sips on an oh-so-sweet scorpion bowl. FIRE! [Photograph: Jamie Feldmar]

8:30 p.m. I part ways with Ed and the Feldmars and head home for a quick drop-off-my-stuff-watch-some-tv-shower-and-change and then I'm off again, into the night! I'd elaborate, but let's just say the details are on the hazy side (house party, Williamsburg, whiskey) and I have a good sleep-in the following day.

And that, my friends, is a (Fri)day in the life of me.

About the author: Niki Achitoff-Gray is the associate editor of Serious Eats and a recent graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She's pretty big into oysters, offal, and most edible things. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatandcry.

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