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‘Test Kitchen’ host serves it up

Chris Kimball of “America’s Test Kitchen” at Sanders Theatre.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Chris Kimball of “America’s Test Kitchen” at Sanders Theatre.

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“America’s Test Kitchen Live,” which came to Harvard’s Sanders Theatre on Wednesday, turned out to be a one-man show — part TED talk, part high-class Home Ec lecture. “ATK” founder Christopher Kimball, his signature bow-tie yellow for the occasion, stood in front of a screen, clicker in hand, and offered his bio (Vermont, agitator-mother who loved Adelle Davis, life-changing teen overland trip from London to Nairobi). He whirled through intros to top kitchen staff, including former Gourmet editor and author John “Doc” Willoughby, and attempted to answer, “What is good cooking all about?” Possibilities: entertainment, romance, technique, avocation, health, science, taste, celebrity. Here’s how Kimball, who is host of three
WGBH cooking shows describes his job: “I stand there. I watch people cook. Then I eat food.” Though his sarcasm meter was turned way down, his self-deprecation was not. We watched a “Today” segment in which he could have burned down the studio. We saw him dressed as a beet, mushroom, peach, and more, outfits he thinks suit other television stations. “We meet every five years with the Food Network and come away thinking, ‘We really don’t like those guys and they don’t like us.’ ” Kimball offered silly “fun facts” about food history that included KFC and TV dinners, and some kitchen advice. Never buy a knife set because manufacturers are getting rid of knifes by bundling them; electric drip-coffee makers don’t work because the water isn’t at the correct temperature; taste food for seasoning before you serve it, which can take it from plain to fabulous (add salt, sugar, lemon, or “if you live near Formaggio, pomegranate molasses”). He also gave a shout out to restaurateur Gordon Hamersley, in the audience with wife Fiona. Kimball has been dining at Hamersley’s Bistro for 20 years. “America’s Test Kitchen” is the highest-rated cooking show on PBS. Kimball credits the station with letting him find his way. “We were terrible at first,” he says. “Don’t watch the first 20 shows.”

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