The executives behind “America’s Test Kitchen” have turned to a couple of familiar faces to replace Chris Kimball, the popular host who presided over the TV show since its inception in 2001.
Parent company Boston Common Press plans on Thursday to unveil the new hosts of the public television show: longtime cast members Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster. The executive food editors are regulars as test cooks on the show but have only appeared together once.
Fans of “America’s Test Kitchen” won’t notice big changes anytime soon. That’s because the 2016 season was already shot when the company revealed in November that Kimball and public television’s top-rated cooking show would part ways, ostensibly because of a contract dispute. Kimball will continue to appear throughout the season that’s airing this year.
Davison and Lancaster will start filming the 17th season of the show at its Brookline studio in May, but those episodes won’t air until 2017.
Kimball also hosts “Cook’s Country,” but executives haven’t yet said who will replace him after this year’s season. The next round of filming for that program isn’t scheduled to start until the fall.
Davison and Lancaster said that they were picked after a variety of screen tests, including some that involved single-host and dual-host combinations. Focus groups consisting of fans in Boston, New York, and Chicago were also consulted.
“We got a lot of great feedback from fans as to what they liked, what they didn’t, things about the show we should change, and things about the show that we should never change,” Davison said.
They want to show more of the vast kitchen that powers the show, along with the 30 or so cooks who are a part of the team.
“We have a very diverse audience and we would like to reflect that on television,” Lancaster said.
These promotions represent the latest of several changes at the company in recent months. Last September, David Nussbaum was appointed as its first chief executive, and longtime editor Jack Bishop was later put in the role of chief creative officer. Kimball remains an equity partner in Boston Common Press, which a spokesman said will officially change its name to America’s Test Kitchen later this year.
The company can be traced back to Kimball’s launch of the Cook’s Illustrated magazine in 1992.
In December, the organization hired veteran TV producer Mary Mullaney to coordinate its video efforts. Davison and Lancaster will report to Mullaney.
To get the job, one of the tasks the pair were required to complete involved making shrimp scampi several times for screen tests.
“We did have two days of eating shrimp scampi nonstop,” Davison said. “There’s a lot of seafood in the house but I still can’t do shrimp yet. ... I’m shrimped out.”