The Boston Globe reports:
Christopher Kimball, the bow-tied cooking guru who started the popular Cook’s Illustrated magazine and created a foodie media empire, is leaving the Brookline company amid a management shake-up, raising questions about the future of a venture so closely tied to its star founder.
If the board members of the controlling company, Boston Common Press, know what's best for them, they won't change a thing.
Cook's is a publishing anomaly. There are no advertisements in its pages and yet it has a paid circulation of at least 900,000 readers. It is wildly successful, and America's Test Kitchen, which stars Kimball, is PBS's most highly rated cooking show. So how did Kimball's exit come to pass?
In September, David Nussbaum was announced to be the new chief executive at Boston Common Press. Globe reporter Beth Healy writes, "The board has been negotiating with Kimball since then on a future role for him at the company, but talks fell apart in recent weeks, according to people briefed on the conversations." (The official note to staffers, which explains "while [Kimball] will remain a minority owner of the company, he will no longer play a role at ATK," can be found here.)
Although the board's suggestion that Kimball "stay with the company and focus his talents on creativity, on-air presence and in-person appearances" sounds like an easy gig, having interviewed Chris Kimball on a few occasions, an easy gig is not something he wants. He'd rather have a say.
In 2009, I visited Kimball in Brookline Village, Mass., where I sat in on a taping of America's Test Kitchen. During the lunch hour I interviewed him in his office for a profile in THE WEEKLY STANDARD. His thoughts behind the magazine and the show are worth keeping in mind.
On the lack of ads:
"I was goddamn sick and tired of trying to sell advertising up against Gourmet, Food & Wine, and Bon Appétit. I thought it was a really awful business formula.... I decided that I was going to publish the magazine I wanted to publish, and if it worked, great; if it didn't, fine."
As for the point of this enterprise:
"Our rule as publisher has been, Are you selling something to people that they can't get somewhere else? That's your hurdle. In our case, because of the test kitchen methodology, we are giving something to people they can't get somewhere else."
I have no interest, zero interest in talking about things our readers are not going to actually do. What's the point? Unless we give people stuff they really want to use, we wouldn't be in business. What I've said to the people here is, my theory is, when it comes to renewal time, if someone will remember two or three recipes they made over the course of the year that were really great, you get the renewal. And if they haven't made anything from the magazine or it didn't turn out okay or wasn't really something they wanted, you won't. So, no. I have no interest in playing with new ingredients or new recipes unless they make sense in the typical kitchen. I don't care. What's the point? This is not a hobby magazine. This is about cooking. So let's talk about what people really do at home.