The kitchen as a laboratory

Thursday February 28, 2013

BENNINGTON -- "America's Test Kitchen," the public television cooking show, doesn't convey the feeling of a cooking show. While host Chris Kimball, who is speaking at the Bennington Museum tomorrow at 7 p.m., brings the warmth and charm you'd expect from culinary programing, that's where the similarities end.

Watching "America's Test Kitchen," is like peeking in on a food laboratory: Cleanly dressed professional chefs dot the background of each shot while Kimball discusses culinary ingenuity with chefs, fish mongers, confectioners and any other food professional one could imagine.

During the event, which will be followed by a dessert reception and book signing, Kimball will discuss primarily the science of cooking, not so much the extreme extent of cooking science: molecular gastronomy, but more of the whys and hows behind everyday cooking.

"We're just going to take some basic tenets of science and talk about how they relate to cooking," Kimball said.

The topic of discussion is also the subject of "The Science of Good Cooking," by Cook's Illustrated, one of the magazines associated with "America's Test Kitchen." "The Science of Good Cooking," along with "Slow Cooker Revolution," and the most recent "Cook's Illustrated Annual Cookbook" will be available for sale and signing.

"The Science of Good Cooking," was released in response to what Kimball and the editors at Cook's Illustrated saw an increased interest in the science of food.

"We were always interested (in science) 30 years ago. (But) in the last 10 years the science of cooking has really taken off I think there was a transition 10 years ago where people became interested in the whys," Kimball said. "They rediscover cooking in a very different way. There's a whole generation that skipped cooking Their way into it was to start asking questions Instead of making your mother's or your grandmother's recipe you're starting from scratch."

One example of the subjects Kimball will touch on is the difference between the types of heat: Convection, conduction, and radiation.

"Those are all very different types of heat transfer. We'll talk about how those relate to the kitchen and cooking," Kimball said.

A History in Vermont

Kimball now lives near Boston, where "America's Test Kitchen" is filmed. But he owns a farm in West Sandgate, in the same town where his mother's farm had been.

One part of the trip that Kimball, who has been hunting since he was a child, is particularly excited about, is participating in rabbit hunting season, which ends on March 10. He goes hunting in Rupert, not Sandgate.

Many active burners

When Kimball founded "Cook's Country," the magazine that spawned the "America's Test Kitchen" empire, there were fewer than 10 employees. The team is now made up of over 100 employees across the various properties.

In addition to the actual television show, there are the magazines Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country, an "America's Test Kitchen" public radio program, and an online cooking school. Not to mention the books produced by the group each year.

While many publications have suffered in the changing technological landscape, "America's Test Kitchen" has thrived with a vibrant social media presence on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest. The advent of the Internet has increased the audience, since all of their revenue comes from non-advertiser sources. Most of the content is only available to subscribers both online and in the print edition, so they haven't had to worry about free access to their content creating a drop in print sales.


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