Not Martha

Christopher Kimball

I got the chance to see Christopher Kimball speak at a small event at our public television station, KCTS, this week. He was touring to promote a new book, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, and the new show Cook’s Country TV. One of the things that made this a little more special than a book tour event is that they passed out three samples of dark chocolate and gave us the forms that America’s Test Kitchen taste testers get. Apparently I like Scharfenberger better than Ghirardelli. I kept some notes:

– He said the vodka pie dough recipe was the best recipe the magazine had ever produced.

– They really are focused on what readers are cooking at home. He read a letter from somebody describing how she tried to tenderize a tough pork loin using boots, then by running over it with her car. He said their most accessed and reviewed recipe is green bean casserole.

– He told us about the time he managed to burn rice krispies while making them on The Today Show. After that was a segment on how to make apple dumplings and he moved over to the other part of the counter only to discover that there was no food set out, so he just had to describe how to make them. The Today Show told him it was one of the best food segments they had ever done. Sadly, I couldn’t find it on YouTube.

– That is his own farmhouse on the logo and in the pictures for Cook’s Country TV. He rennovated it and after buying it discovered all the wood on the lower floor as rotten so it had to be raised and a new foundation poured before it could be used.

– During a tasting of bottled lemon juice he went on and on about how terrible one of the choices was, it was too sweet and he said it tasted like lemon aid. Turns out? That one was a freshly squeezed lemon.

– They film America’s Test Kitchen over three weeks They produce six segments a day, including taste testings so they managed to get about 2 and a half shows on film in a day. They start planning in November for an April shoot.

– They like to play practical jokes. One involved an animatronic rat under a producers desk, for another they replaced somebody’s finished osso bucco with a prop shrunken head for her to discover on camera. One played on him involved hiding chili pepper under some butter and replacing his nearby glass of water with vodka for a one two punch.

– The best way to cook an inexpensive steak is to cook in in a 250 degree oven until the interior is 180 degrees, then finish it in a skillet.

– Once while visiting a friend at The Food Network he was told he wasn’t Food Network material, which he took as a compliment.

– As he was signing books he added a stamp for Two Pigs Farm where Cook’s Country TV is filmed, you can rent the guest houses.

– He has a iPhone 3G.

– And yes, he was wearing a bowtie.

· comments [21] · 10-17-2008 · categories:food ·

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lecia // Oct 17, 2008 at 8:46 am

    This is great! – I love learning all this about him and Cook’s. I’m a devoted fan of Cook’s!

  • 2 Joanna // Oct 17, 2008 at 8:49 am

    I have “The New Best Recipe” cookbook from the same people, and I adore it!

    I never really got cooking before, but this cookbook appeals to the amateur scientist in me. It explains all the weird reasoning behind the methods and recipes in the book. Cooking makes so much more sense to me when it’s presented as science.

  • 3 amanda // Oct 17, 2008 at 8:57 am


  • 4 Kristin A // Oct 17, 2008 at 9:47 am

    I’m so jealous! Thanks for the notes. We DVR all the ATK episodes and we also own the DVDs from 2007 and 2008 shows. And we have the 2007 & 2008 cookbooks. But my fav book is the Baking Illustrated book. I love it.

    I wish they sold the back covers of Cooks Illustrated as artwork. I’d totally decorate my kitchen with those drawings.

  • 5 Marcy // Oct 17, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Thanks for sharing! I love Christopher Kimball.

  • 6 kelly // Oct 17, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Thanks so much for posting your notes! I love Christopher Kimball and these notes made me feel like I was right there too.

    It doesn’t surprise me that they’re practical jokers — they always seem to have a good time on the show (which is part of the charm, to me…)

  • 7 kirida // Oct 17, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Oh that’s just great! I wonder what his favorite iPhone app is.

  • 8 Katie // Oct 17, 2008 at 11:35 am

    What fun! Great notes! I think he is very enjoyable to watch. For some reason the boy tie is not pretentious at all. I totally agree with you that Scharfenberger is the best! If you are ever in Berkeley, Ca, you NEED to stop by and check out the chocolate factory and have the chocolate cake at the Cafe Cacao. They do a chocolate testing that is really yummy and interesting.

  • 9 thehungryengineer // Oct 17, 2008 at 11:52 am

    I’m a big fan of the Cook’s Illustrated magazines as well. Some of my best and most consistent recipes have come from those magazines. Their pot roast recipe in particular is just about perfect.

  • 10 pigtown*design // Oct 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I have two chef friends who are testers for them. I get the benefits!

  • 11 Dana McCauley // Oct 17, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Do you think his recco for the vodka pie dough is one of his practical jokes? It sounds odd.

  • 12 megan // Oct 17, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Dana – Nope, it’s a real thing and a recipe a lot of people love. It allows you to get the pie dough wet enough to work with but by using half water half vodka there isn’t too much gluten production in the flour, meaning the outcome is a very flaky dough. The alcohol evaporates while it’s baked.

  • 13 knitopia // Oct 17, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    I did the vodka pie dough last year and think it worked pretty well.

  • 14 jenney // Oct 18, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I have both the Baking book and the Family cookbook and they are my most used cookbooks. I’m all crazy about everything Christopher Kimball does.

    The vodka in pie dough works wonders for rolling ease without reducing flakiness of the finished product.

  • 15 amanda // Oct 19, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I made the vodka pie dough with the blueberry pie recipe in their magazine. It got rave reviews from all of my taste testers. The best dough I have ever made.

  • 16 pam // Oct 20, 2008 at 7:57 am

    awwww, i love that show! how cool that you got to see him live. i’d love to see a show with the jokes – esp the vodka one. hee hee!

  • 17 phillygirl64 // Oct 20, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    I got to see CK last year when he was promoting Best International Recipe…didn’t hear the pork story, but did hear the pepper/vodka one – rofl; I think about it everytime I see the tasting segment

    I hang out at the bulletin boards on their website…a group of us visited them in Boston last year…unfortunately, the people we see most on the show were away that day, but it was still a lot of fun…

    As a volunteer tester, I got the pie crust recipe before it went public…It’s not the absolute best pie crust, but it is pretty damn foolproof

  • 18 phillygirl64 // Oct 20, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    almost forgot…there is a blooper reel somewhere on YouTube

  • 19 plumpdumpling // Oct 22, 2008 at 8:31 am

    How lucky! I end up watching him on Sundays a lot simply because my roommate refuses to allow us to get cable, but don’t tell Christopher I said that.

  • 20 nell // Apr 15, 2010 at 7:50 am

    i love the show, it make me want to bake again.

  • 21 Don Sondergeld // Dec 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm


    Enjoyed the Editorial on “The Golden Rule” as I am a retired actuary and an amateur mathematician.

    I’d like to email some trivial info to Chris, but don’t have his email address.


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