When Hearst launched its fun food brand, Delish, in 2015, the small team was churning out social videos and photos in the corner of a discarded office, sometimes taking photos of things with their phones on the floor.
From the start, "the Delish brand has been all about making food fun and accessible," said Joanna Saltz, Editorial Director for Hearst's Delish as well as House Beautiful. "You don't have to know how to cook; you just have to love to eat. It's about getting into the kitchen with people you love -- it's more about the action of bringing people together to eat rather than about the food being perfect."
While the food didn't necessarily need to be perfect, it was hard to create the brand of their dreams on an office floor. The team was upgraded to a 350-square-foot kitchen that Hearst's Good Housekeeping was no longer using. While that was certainly better, the space had a gigantic island in the middle that left very little room to maneuver around, which becomes challenging once you realize you need lights, cameras, microphones and actual people to produce high-quality video.
Even in that limited space, the Delish team was garnering 1.9 million uniques a month, and that traffic has continued to grow over the years to as high as 40 to 50 million a month during the pandemic. “We really pushed that kitchen to the limits,” said Saltz, sometimes shooting two videos at the same time in the same space.
Eventually, the team was granted the use of another 350-square-foot kitchen next door, but that still wasn't enough.
In early 2020, Saltz approached the executive management team and said, “‘if we can build this brand with 350 square feet, imagine what we could do if you gave us 3,000 square feet? It was really very brass tacks.”
After nearly five years of producing content in less-than-optimal spaces, Saltz and her team had time to dream about what they would want if they could design a space from the ground up.
“What we really wanted was a space that allowed for ‘yes’ moments of collaboration but also allowed for us to create custom content in a well-curated space,” Saltz said. “What we conceptualized were individual studios that had specific attributes for the types of content we wanted to create.”
More than three years later, Saltz's dream for the Delish brand came true with the opening of Delish Kitchen Studios, a 3,000-foot production space that includes a test kitchen, event space, bar and three studios all designed specifically to produce different types of content, whether it's for the website, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram or Facebook.
"We want the space to feel friendly and approachable first -- we don't want it to feel clinical or sterile but clean, bright and beautiful. It's very textural with lots of patterns, beautiful photography and fun murals. It reflects how we want people to feel when they are around delicious things," said Saltz.
While the space looks like somewhere a person could live comfortably, it's ultimately built for production.
"Each of the studios is closed and sound proofed. They each have windows so you can peer in and feel engaged but they also have giant black-out curtains that can be drawn," Saltz said. "You can be doing a photoshoot in one kitchen and a video in another."
There are also light grids in the ceilings so that lighting can be customized for every piece of content, whether it's a close-up "hands-and-pans" piece, a video providing instructions on how to make a certain recipe or a celebrity talking about their last great meal.
To create the space, Delish worked with several partners. Kitchen designers Jacobs Doland Beer helped the Delish squad really think through the space, partnering with architects Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel DPC.
"Jacobs Doland Beer came back with such an incredibly brilliant plan," said Saltz. "What they were able to really do for us is to make us think about how a kitchen should function and function well."
That included a space for "back of house," where the basic needs of a kitchen -- dish washing, freezing, dry-storing -- could take place off camera. "You have to be able to clear the chaos so you can think about the content," Saltz said.
While the new space is functional, it's also beautiful and colorful. Most of the space is done in neutrals -- stainless steel appliances, white quartz countertops, blond wood and light gray cabinets. But each room includes pops of color that lend elements of surprise and delight, with interior designer Betsy Wentz guiding the team's selections.
"The test kitchen is filled with so much bright fun color, while the studio spaces are more pared down but feel soft. We used a lot of muted woods and soft grays," said Saltz, who describes the accent palette as "poppy jewel tones," such as teal and coral.
There are also other details throughout the space that allows the team to customize it on the fly – for example, they can remove parts of the countertops and the large center island.
Delish Kitchen Studios incorporates three key brand partners. All of the appliances from the refrigerators to the gas and induction ranges to the microwave ovens in the three content-production studios are by GE Profile.
"I wanted us to be working on not just appliances that worked well but that didn't look overwhelming in pictures," said Saltz. "They needed to be the right mix of getting it done and fun."
Beverage partner TheBar.com by Diageo helped Delish stock its bar with such liquors as Ketel One vodka, Captain Morgan rum, Tanqueray gin, Don Julio tequila, and Bulleit bourbon. And Goodcook provided an array of kitchen gadgets, from rubber spatulas to vegetable peelers to whisks and handheld juicers.
With Delish Kitchen Studios ready to cook, Saltz and her team look forward to putting out all sorts of new content.
"Everybody is creating content right now. We live in a world in which content is fun and faster than ever. I want us to be able to function with a level of speed and curiosity that the TikToks and the Reels have brought to the world but with a really defined and curated eye. We are experts for a reason -- we know this content really well."
Photographs by Christian Harder.
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