Christopher Kimball: 11 Facts About The Chef And Why He Left America's Test Kitchen

Over the last few decades, Christopher Kimball has become widely recognized for his rigorous approach to testing and refining recipes as well as cooking techniques. As the host of "America's Test Kitchen" and "Cook's Country," the bow-tied chef devoted himself to delivering to his viewers reliable and tested recipes that they could confidently recreate at home. He was also the editor of Cook's Illustrated, a no-nonsense magazine devoted to the pursuit of culinary excellence through recipe testing and kitchen experiments.

In late 2015, Kimball sent shock waves through the culinary world when he announced that he would immediately be leaving Boston Common Press, the company behind "America's Test Kitchen" and several other popular culinary outlets. To many, the move was particularly shocking because Kimball wasn't just the face of both "America's Test Kitchen" and "Cook's Country," but also their co-founder.

While a lengthy legal dispute followed Kimball's departure from the company, he seems to have emerged from the battle with his passion for food intact. In 2016, he co-founded Christopher Kimball's Milk Street (CPK Media), a culinary enterprise that encompasses various media outlets. These include a television show, a radio show, and a magazine that see Kimball's team showcasing recipes and cooking tips inspired by various cultures and cooking techniques. CPK Media also features a cooking school that offers in-person and online cooking classes to help participants master new recipes from around the globe.

Christopher Kimball is the mastermind behind Cook's Illustrated and 'America's Test Kitchen'

Before he became a television personality, Christopher Kimball cut his teeth in publishing. In a world of fluff-heavy cookbooks, Kimball's first foray into culinary journalism was Cook's magazine, which offered a refreshing and innovative approach to cooking, rigorously examining recipes and showing cooking enthusiasts how they could replicate them at home. Released in 1980 with $100,000 Kimball managed to secure from investors, the publication was so successful that the chef managed to sell it to Condé Nast Publications in 1990. Kimball ended up buying his venture back from the publishing company for $175 in 1993 and relaunching it as Cook's Illustrated the same year.

Despite its black-and-white format and emphasis on subscriptions rather than advertisements, Cook's Illustrated did well. Standing testament to its popularity, the cooking magazine had attracted close to 900,000 paid subscribers by the time Kimball and the publication parted ways. Some of the renowned writers and culinary experts who have contributed to the publication include a former New York Times columnist, Mark Bittman, and the author of the book "The Food Lab," J. Kenji López-Alt.

The success and expansion of Cook's Illustrated gave rise to other projects, including the hit television cooking show, "America's Test Kitchen," which was hosted by Kimball until his replacement by Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster in 2017.

Christopher Kimball left 'America's Test Kitchen' after a dispute with Boston Common Press

Christopher Kimball relinquished control over Cook's Illustrated, "America's Test Kitchen," and a cooking show called "Cook's Country" after he says he was "fired" in 2015 by Boston Common Press, the parent company behind the ventures. At the time Boston Common Press stated that the split was amicable, but things certainly didn't appear that way.

Overseeing a workforce of 180 employees, the company's board made a strategic decision to shift its management trajectory. To execute this plan, it appointed David Nussbaum as the new CEO. Nussbaum — who held a higher position than Kimball — explained the split between Boston Common Press and the former face of the company, saying, "Quite frankly, the owners realized Chris is about 65, and they had to think of a long-term succession plan" (via

According to Nussbaum, the main reason behind the breakup was a contract disagreement. "He was asked to stay with the company and focus his talents on creativity, on-air presence, and in-person appearances. Despite our interest in having him stay and after negotiating with him in good faith for many months, he ultimately rejected that approach," Nussbaum wrote in an email to employees, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Even after his departure, Kimball continued to appear as the host of "America's Test Kitchen" in 2016, since the next season of the show had already been recorded.

Christopher Kimball founded his own company, CPK Media

After his exit from "America's Test Kitchen," Christopher Kimball wasted no time before embarking on a new project. Using $6 million from investors, Kimball founded CPK Media in 2016. The company's name is derived from the location of its headquarters, the iconic Flour & Grain Exchange building on Milk Street in Boston. Referred by Kimball as a start-up, CPK Media has allowed the chef to take a more hands-on approach than "America's Test Kitchen," which suits him just fine. "I like start-ups. I like being involved with everything. I don't love running a company with 200 people and just going to meetings all the time," he told The Washington Post.

CPK Media offers a range of culinary resources, including a television show, a magazine, a radio show, cooking classes, and live cooking demonstration events. Explaining the reasoning behind this multifaceted approach, Kimball emphasizes that relying on "single-minded" ventures is no longer sufficient in today's dynamic landscape. "You have to be present in whatever medium people are at. But if you have more outlets and formats you also become a more interesting brand that people will continue to come back to, and you're pushed to do new things: I've learned things doing the radio show that I later incorporated into the TV show or magazine," he said in an interview with WTTW.

'America's Test Kitchen' sued Christopher Kimball for breach of trust

Christopher Kimball's new venture prompted a legal dispute with Boston Common Press, which didn't like the fact that its former figurehead turned into a competitor. Boston Common Press officials sued Kimball in Massachusetts' Suffolk County Superior Court for breach of trust, alleging that he was developing the concept for CPK Media during his tenure at their company. The suit also named three former "America's Test Kitchen" employees, including Kimball's wife, Melissa Baldino, as co-defendants.

According to the lawsuit, Kimball, who was still a partial owner of Boston Common Press, appropriated its resources and used the relationships he made during his time at the company to come up with his own — competing — venture. "America's Test Kitchen" chief creative officer Jack Bishop explained that the parallels between the two companies were just too extreme, adding, "Seeing the physical magazine was the last straw" (via Boston Globe).

In the lawsuit, Boston Common Press sought compensation for Kimball's alleged "breach of fiduciary duties." This would have included a part of his 2015 salary and "all profits Kimball and CPK Media derived from the theft and misappropriation of ATK's confidential information, trade secrets, and business opportunities," as reported by The Washington Post.

Christopher Kimball countersued 'America's Test Kitchen' for financial loss and defamation

In late 2016, Christopher Kimball filed a countersuit, alleging that Boston Common Press' legal action resulted in the loss of potential investments for his company valued in the millions of dollars. In addition, Kimball alleged defamation, asserting that the website damaged his reputation. The site is no longer active.

The three-year legal dispute between the media giants was settled in 2019 after the two parties managed to reach an agreement, avoiding costly litigation. While not a great deal of details about the settlement were offered, both sides agreed to certain "business terms"  that would let them "coexist in the marketplace," according to a press release as reported by Current. One of the conditions of the settlement saw Kimball sell his "America's Test Kitchen" shares to Boston Common Press. A spokesperson for "America's Test Kitchen" later said in a statement via The Washington Post that the company is "thrilled with the settlement," adding, "Recouping Mr. Kimball's shares in ATK was very important for the growth and future of the company."

Christopher Kimball aims to demystify global cuisine

While "America's Test Kitchen" focused on classic recipes and cooking techniques, "Milk Street" takes a somewhat different approach. The company scours the globe in search of fresh flavors and cooking techniques that viewers can learn from and utilize from the comfort of their own kitchens. Christopher Kimball explains the philosophy behind the show in an interview with GBH, saying, "When traveling around the world, food writers used to have the approach of 'how exotic!' Everything was exotic and different. At 'Milk Street,' we're taking an opposite tact — how does the average home cook in Mumbai cook? Or Chiang Mai? Or in Tunisia, or Oaxaca? We're not looking for something exotic, we're looking for something everyday."

Focusing on different flavors and textures, "Milk Street" sees Kimball examine both the recipes and the stories behind them as well as how people around the world think about the food they eat. And rather than trying to replicate authentic recipes, "Milk Street" aims to make them — as well as the culinary ethos behind them — accessible to home cooks across the U.S.

Despite sourcing inspiration from far-flung locations, Kimball is adamant that his general approach to the culinary world hasn't changed from his days at "America's Test Kitchen." "I'm still curious, I'm still trying to understand recipes: how do they work, why do they work, what is the idea or technique behind them?" he says (via WTTW).

Christopher Kimball has cooked with Julia Child

Julia Child was a force of nature that won't be easily forgotten. The chef, author, and television personality revolutionized the culinary world with her unique approach to food and cooking. She was also among the first women to present her own cooking show. Airing between 1963 and 1973, "The French Chef" introduced Americans to classic French dishes and cooking techniques.

While Christopher Kimball has had the pleasure of cooking and sharing meals with countless celebrity chefs, meeting Child definitely stood out as one of his more memorable experiences. Calling her "the ultimate teacher," Kimball told GBH that he was particularly impressed with the way Child could take unusual cooking concepts and explain them in a way that made them accessible to the general public.

Kimball told GBH about the time Child invited him to her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a friendly cookoff. Reflecting on the experience, he recalled her competitive spirit and how she challenged him to prove his culinary prowess. "She gave me a whole plate of oysters to open. At the time I was a terrible oyster shucker. She came over in her inimitable voice and said, 'Do you need some help, deary?' And I said, 'no, I don't need help, I need a glass of wine! You shuck the oysters, I'm going to drink the wine, everything will be fine.' And after that, we got along great."

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street was sued by the Milk Street Cafe for trademark infringement

The naming of Christopher Kimball's Milk Street media empire after the location of its Boston headquarters initially stirred up trouble for the venture. In 2016, Marc Epstein, the owner of the nearby Milk Street Cafe situated at 50 Milk Street, filed a lawsuit against Kimball when his request to change the name of the new cooking endeavor was turned down. The Milk Street Cafe had been an established business for over 35 years, while CPK Media, located at 177 Milk Street, was a relatively new player in the area.

According to Epstein, the public was likely to confuse the two businesses due to the similarity in their names. In fact, the restaurant owner said that he had even received job applications from individuals thinking that he was associated with Kimball's venture. At the end of the day, Epstein ended up losing his trademark suit, with the judge concluding that there was no reasonable chance of confusion between the names. The judge also stated that there was no direct competition between the two companies since Milk Street Cafe was a local business while CPK Media was a national enterprise that wasn't in the restaurant business. Although the judge ruled in favor of Kimball, she refused his plea to revoke the trademark that Milk Street Cafe had obtained in 2011.

Cook's Country was filmed at Christopher Kimball's Vermont farmhouse

The first 10 seasons of "Cook's Country" weren't just hosted by Christopher Kimball. They were also filmed in the fully equipped kitchen at his 200-year-old restored home in the small town of Rupert, Vermont. Each year, an entire season of the show was shot at what was affectionately referred to as Carver House over a period of just two weeks. Following Kimball's departure from the company, the running of the show was taken over by hosts Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison. Its filming location also moved to a set inside the Boston headquarters of "America's Test Kitchen."

While Kimball was on the show, the team behind "Cook's Country" transformed his quaint dwelling each season into a hub of culinary exploration, where chefs whipped up delectable recipes and shared their passion for cooking with viewers. Kimball explained the decision to film the show at the stately home in an interview with Edible Vermont, saying, "I felt that if the show were here — if you had a real place with its own feeling, instead of just being a TV set — viewers would respond."

Today, the entire Carver House, or its commercial kitchen, can be rented on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. For those interested, the 1,000-square-foot kitchen is composed of more than 100 linear feet of prep space, eight gas ovens, two six-burner cooktops, three dishwashers, three microwaves, and a walk-in refrigerator.

Christopher Kimball's CPK Media champions charitable work

In an effort to make a positive contribution to the society, CPK Media works with several food and non-food-related charitable organizations. These partnerships are supported by income generated by the company's cooking school and online store. The three nonprofits that CPK Media actively cooperates with are FoodCorps, Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester, and Big Sister Association of Greater Boston.

CPK Media has been working with FoodCorps to promote better nutrition through healthy eating habits since 2021. To help FoodCorps achieve its goals, the company provides training in areas such as cooking and education as well as food-related media production and marketing. In 2016, CPK Media partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester to offer cooking classes and leadership development programs for the teenagers involved in the organization's Keystone program. Since 2016, CPK Media has also been involved in the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston. The organization, which works with girls from the Boston area and youth from across the country, offers both cooking classes and career coaching.

Christopher Kimball married the executive producer of 'America's Test Kitchen,' Melissa Baldino

When Christopher Kimball interviewed Melissa Baldino for the job of his assistant in 2002, little did he know that he was meeting his future wife. After more than a decade as co-workers, the duo tied the knot at the Memorial Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2013. Notably, Kimball wasn't over the moon about Baldino's talents when they first met, and he gave the job to somebody else. It was only after his first prospect resigned two months into the job that Kimball backtracked and offered Baldino the position. Things worked out, and in 2006 Kimball promoted Baldino to be executive producer of "America's Test Kitchen" and "Cook's Country." In an interview with The New York Times, Kimball explains why he offered Baldino the gig, saying, "When she makes up her mind to do something, she does it."

The relationship between Kimball and Baldino was strictly platonic until the former "America's Test Kitchen" frontman separated from his second wife in 2010. It was sometime in early 2011 when Baldino arranged a meeting with Kimball to tell him of her feelings (apparently some people have very busy schedules). These, of course, were reciprocated. Today, the couple has two children — Oliver Kimball, who was born in 2014, and Rike Kimball, who came along in 2019. Baldino is also the co-founder of CPK Media where she works as a producer.