A Day in the Life: Vicky Wasik, Visual Editor

There I am!

This is most likely how I will appear in most photos you will see of me.

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]


"A Day in the Life" is our behind-the-scenes series exploring what SE staffers are working on, and, of course, eating. Up today: Visual Editor Vicky Wasik.

Friday, September 19, 2014

8:30 a.m.: I wake up and have my usual yogurt, banana, and granola breakfast. My dog Toby waits patiently until I'm done getting ready and then books it towards the door as soon as I pick up his leash. Today is the first day to go below 60 degrees, and it feels like fall. I think about how having a dog in the spring, summer, and fall is great. The winter? Not so much. We stop for my morning Americano at Greenpoint's Uro Café and I hop on the L train.

10:20 a.m.: I arrive at the office and realize it's Leang's birthday, so I start chatting with people on Slack (our intra-office instant messenger) about what we should do for him. If there's one thing we take seriously at Serious Eats, it's birthdays—the past few months have seen piles of prosciutto, buckets of fried chicken, and boxes of pizzas in the name of celebration. Luckily, Leang likes pretty much everything, so we know he'll like whatever we do. I'm feeling gung-ho and offer to make this punch. Who doesn't need a Friday afternoon cocktail?

10:45 a.m.: Daniel walks in with bags full of groceries and my heart soars and falls at the same time as I realize this can only mean one thing: more baked ziti tests. I've eaten a LOT of ziti this week.

I open up Lightroom—my photo editing software of choice—and start sorting through miscellaneous photos from the week for This Week at Serious Eats. After finding a few fun ones, I do a quick edit (mostly just a crop here, a color correction there) and upload them to our content management system, Movable Type (or MT as we folks in the biz call it). Taking pictures is the easy part for me; writing the captions, on the other hand, takes me longer than it should. I whip up some captions and send the post off to Niki for editing. Most of the time when you think I've said something funny or witty (probably never), it should really be attributed to Niki or Maggie.

I start Slacking with Maggie about what photos she needs from me for next week's content and get pulled away by Daniel to shoot a red sauce recipe. This means I get to stand over a pot of simmering garlic and tomatoes, which makes my nose happy. I get my camera and lights set up and watch the master at work. He'll need me again in a little while to shoot the next step in the process, but I have a little time to head back to my desk and get more editing out of the way.

11:30 a.m.: I realize that a return package to B&H Photo has to be postmarked today—ACK! I hate the mail. It stresses me out—which service to use? how to pay? where to drop it off? insure it or don't insure it? TOO MANY QUESTIONS.

Maybe we should crop it like this?

12:03 p.m.: Ok, for real, back to the computer. Next week is Italian-American Week, so 75% of the photos I'm prepping for the site are of pasta. Sigh. I've said it before and I'll say it again—spaghetti is my spirit food. I'm starting to get hungry, and it doesn't help that the office smells of garlic and onions and basil.

I take a break from pasta and call Niki over to look at the photos from a recent morning spent eating fish at Shelsky's. We spend a little while picking out the images we want to include in her introduction to appetizing post—once I get the gist of which sorts of photos she'd like to use, I make a final selection and take care of any cropping or color-correcting they might need. I love working on stories like this with the editors because it really feels like a collaboration. Speaking of which, Maggie and I are working on a huge guide to making cocktails at home and I need to get crackin' on those images. Michael Dietsch, the author, came by the office a few weeks ago for a massive photoshoot, and the piece requires a lot of images to illustrate the steps.

12:25 p.m.: Overheard from kitchen: "Oh, sh*t, I'm splattering!" —Daniel Gritzer

1:00 p.m.: Trying to be "healthy" and brought leftover salad in for lunch. But I know there will be bad things later today. And by bad, I mean carb-heavy and delicious.


1:10 p.m.: The tomato sauce is done and ready for its close-up. I don't have a ton of space to shoot in, so my photo studio consists of a corner of the office where I stuck an unused desk, put up a huge softbox, and keep a bunch of boards I can switch out for different tabletops. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III, and mostly use a fixed, 50mm 1.4 lens for food photography. My second go-to lens is a 24-70mm zoom—it's great for versatility on the go and I use it a lot for action shots in the kitchen. Stay tuned for an upcoming guide to food photography troubleshooting!

I look around the prop shelf for an appropriate vessel for the sauce and profess my need for a rustic-y looking stock pot that seems like it has been used in an Italian grandmother's kitchen for 40 years. I settle on a black bowl, and I think the photo comes out pretty nicely:

1:30 p.m.: White Castle arrives. The ad sales team picked it up for a brainstorming session, so I snap some pics for TWASE (yup, that's how we refer to This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters) and zoom back to my desk to add them to the post.


2:00 p.m.: Turns out Daniel has bigger and better plans for that red sauce: MORE BAKED ZITI. He requests my presence over at the stovetop to document the process. There is fresh mozzarella from Di Palo's sitting in front of me. That I can't eat. TORTURE.

2:30: I suddenly become very aware that I need my midday espresso kick, and run downstairs to Nolita Mart to pick up an Americano.

2:45 p.m.: Between Daniel's recipes and building this cocktail guide, today has been pretty busy for a Friday. And I still need to make the punch for Leang's birthday! I rummage around the offices liquor "cabinet" (a few plastic bins by Max's desk) and luckily we have most of what I need.

3:00 p.m.: Baked Ziti is ready! We set up a few shots for the whole baking dish while it sits, then Daniel spoons out a healthy portion for an individual serving photo. I don't like to fuss around too much with the food once it's plated, especially with dishes that have a melty, cheesy component like this one—the longer it sits, the less appetizing it looks. I spend about five minutes shooting while Daniel drizzles that ridiculous Parmesan cream sauce on top. And then the best part of my job happens: I get to eat it!

Niki Achitoff-Gray

3:30 p.m.: I start mixing the punch ingredients together, take a few sips and realize I may have overdone it. This stuff is STRONG. The answer is clear: pray it will dilute in time for our 4 p.m. gathering.

4:45 p.m.: Well, we're all drunk. Have a good weekend.

Just kidding. Still need to finish this cocktail techniques guide. Appropriate, no?

6:30 p.m.: Three cups of punch later and I'm ready to head out. This was a fairly typical day in the life of me since I started working at Serious Eats—lots of photos, lots of food, lots of editing.