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Christopher Kimball out at America’s Test Kitchen

Christopher Kimball is out at Cook's Illustrated, the magazine he co-founded, and the company America's Test Kitchen.

Christopher Kimball is out at Cook’s Illustrated, the magazine he co-founded, and the company America’s Test Kitchen.

(Rick Eglinton / Toronto Star)

Christopher Kimball, whose slightly geeky, bespectacled and bow-tied presence personified Cook’s Illustrated magazine and its “America’s Test Kitchen” television show, is out at the company he helped found.

Boston Common Press announced the move in an email to its employees and Kimball confirmed it in a phone call, though he refused comment. He remains a minority owner in the company that produces the magazines and television show, which is referred to by its umbrella title America’s Test Kitchen. But he will “no longer play a role” at the company, the email said.

The 64-year-old Kimball helped found Cook’s Illustrated in 1993 and oversaw its rise to a publishing powerhouse, with nearly 900,000 paid subscribers. A companion magazine, Cooks Country, boasts another 300,000 subscribers.

There had been rumors of trouble in the Boston-based company since September, when David Nussbaum was installed as CEO above Kimball. It was Nussbaum who wrote the email to employees relaying the news.

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FOR THE RECORD
Nov. 16, 3:24 p.m.: An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of America’s Test Kitchen Chief Executive David Nussbaum as Nusbaum.
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The core issue, Nussbaum said, was a contract dispute. “He was asked to stay with the company and focus his talents on creativity, on-air presence and in-person appearances,” Nussbaum wrote. “Despite our interest in having him stay and after negotiating with him in good faith for many months, he ultimately rejected that approach. We are disappointed that he has chosen a new path, but we respect his choice.”

The next season of the “America’s Test Kitchen” television show has already been filmed, with Kimball at the helm, prodding, poking and arguing with his workers as viewers have come to expect.

Kimball, who in the 1980s had been a co-founder of Cooks magazine before selling it to Condé Nast, used several former Cooks staff members as his core group in helping to found Cook’s Illustrated. He vowed that the magazine would make its money on circulation alone and rejected any advertising on the grounds that it might appear to affect the magazine’s many reviews of products.

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The product was deliberately down-market, printed in black and white, eschewing the glossy color photographs that typify most food publications. It concentrated instead on nuts-and-bolts cooking — testing and re-testing recipes until they had reached what the editors deemed perfection. Plain-spoken, thoroughly tested reviews of ingredients and equipment were also key features.

The most recent issue includes a story on the “Best Ground Beef Chili” and a tasting of supermarket olive oils.

Starting from a base of 25,000 readers in 1993, the magazine’s circulation topped 1 million in 2007. The growth prompted many spinoffs. In addition to the America’s Test Kitchen television show and Cook’s Country magazine, Boston Common Press regularly publishes cookbooks collecting recipes from the magazines and television show.

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In his email to employees, Nussbaum said that approach will remain central to the America’s Test Kitchen brand’s identity, which is “a rigorous research and development process that has set the gold standard in this industry, embedded in our DNA. That development process is the backbone of our business.”

Are you a food geek? Follow me on Twitter @russ_parsons1

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