Chris Kimball to launch Milk Street Kitchen cooking venture
Can Christopher Kimball serve up a new dish as successful as his last?
Six months after leaving “America’s Test Kitchen,” the Brookline cooking giant he built to cater to foodies pursuing the perfect roasted chicken, Kimball is starting a new venture less shackled to technique, he said Tuesday, and more devoted to ingredients and bold flavors.
Kimball is launching Milk Street Kitchen, a multimedia company that would seem to be going head-to-head with his old operation. It will include a cooking school in downtown Boston and a new public television cooking show, as well as magazines, cookbooks, and digital offerings.
This is not a repeat of “America’s Test Kitchen,” Kimball insists: “It would be kind of lame to do the same thing again.”
At nearly 65, Kimball said he’s cooking differently now — and better — than just three years ago.
“It’s a different way of thinking about food and cooking,’’ Kimball said in an interview. American cooking “relies on flavor development through heat and technique. In the rest of world, it’s less about heat and how you put the ingredients together.”
“Test Kitchen” loyalists have been speculating about Kimball’s plans since November, when he announced he would leave the company amid a management shake-up.
Known for his perfectionist take on classic cooking, Kimball built a large following for his Cook’s Illustrated magazine and two top-rated cooking shows, “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Cook’s Country.” He’ll remain the host of both shows through 2016.
He is still a minority owner in the Brookline company, where his departure came after contract negotiations collapsed.
“I have a very strong financial and emotional attachment to them doing well,’’ Kimball said. He declined to say who his business partners are in the new company, calling them “major investors.”
David Nussbaum, ATK’s chief executive since last fall, confirmed that Kimball will continue to do his current “America’s Test Kitchen” radio show.
“Chris told me that his new business will not compete with ATK, nor does he want it to,’’ Nussbaum said in an e-mail.
Meanwhile, Kimball is moving forward. He’s filming parts of the new TV show, which is backed by WGBH and American Public Television, in London late this week. The magazine and a live-event tour will kick off in September, he said. The Milk Street cooking school opens in October.
The new venture gets its name from its address, at 177 Milk St., which once housed Boston’s Flour & Grain Exchange. Over the next year, the company, with the umbrella name CPK Media, will roll out the new business. Kimball said there will be 30 employees by the end of the year.
Whether kitchen aficionados want one more cooking show remains to be seen. Kimball’s followers think he can still draw a crowd.
Mark Bittman, the best-selling cookbook author and former New York Times food columnist, said Kimball was well positioned to take on a new risk.
“Chris is smart, talented, actually fun to work for — at least if he likes you — knows how to find good people and inspire them to do great things,” Bittman, who worked alongside Kimball at Cook’s Illustrated, said in an e-mail. “If I were looking for a job, I’d be calling him.”
Kimball is calling his latest approach the “new home cooking.” While declaring his enduring fondness for apple pie (“I love it so much that I hope it’s my last meal”), one of the first recipes on the Milk Street website is for fresh orange slices bathed in caramel sauce.
There are just three ingredients in addition to oranges: sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Yes, he still suggests flourishes like lightly crushed cardamom pods and toasted nuts. And he’ll still insist on trying out recipes repeatedly to get them right.
But he’s not going for hard-to-find ingredients or meals that take all day, he said. “I’m hoping to do simpler — not more complicated.”
Overall, Kimball seems to be trying to telegraph a shift to teaching people about food, instead of simply about following recipes.
“I’ve dramatically changed the way I cook. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, crunchy, creamy — these are my new passions,’’ he said in Milk Street’s launch press release.
“I’ve fallen in love with cooking again.”