Christopher Kimball’s new multimedia company, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, will begin publishing cookbooks this fall. The cofounder of America’s Test Kitchen launched Milk Street last May after having a very public falling out with ATK’s board in November 2015.
Many of the elements of Kimball’s new company are similar to those of ATK. Milk Street has an eponymous cooking school and radio show distributed by PRX, a public television program that will air this fall, and a quarterly magazine that will publish its second issue in early March. But Kimball’s new venture, located at 177 Milk Street near Boston’s waterfront, has a much more international flavor than ATK.
At ATK, Kimball was part of an empire devoted to American cooking, which developed each recipe by cooking the dish in question 50 times to come up with the best method. By contrast, Milk Street is about putting dinner on the table, which Kimball believes is what every home cook wants, whether he or she is located in the U.S., China, or Mexico.
Milk Street is really about “translation or adaptation,” Kimball explained. “American cooking for the most part has been Northern European cooking. The world’s much bigger. How you cook, how you think about cooking is different.” Something a person at one of the Milk Street cooking classes said resonated with him: “I really like cooking; I’m always a beginner.” Kimball added, “That’s what we all are.” He has begun traveling the world in search of new dishes, from Chinese white-cooked chicken with ginger-soy dressing to French carrot salad.
Kimball began shopping a proposal for Milk Street’s first book last May, and The Milk Street Cookbook will be released in September. The 125-recipe book will serve as a companion to the Milk Street television series and includes 40 recipes from the inaugural 13-episode season. In many respects it will also serve as the flagship for the company’s book program. Kimball plans to do less than five titles per year at first, and for now he prefers to work with a publisher, even though he handled publishing at ATK.
The winning bidder for The Milk Street Cookbook was Michael Szczerban, editorial director at Little, Brown, who signed Kimball for a two-book deal. Szczerban said that as soon as he heard that Kimball was leaving ATK, he knew he wanted to be part of his next venture. Kimball has a history with Little, Brown—it reissued two of his earlier cookbooks in 2015, The Cook’s Bible (originally released in 1996) and The Dessert Bible (2000)—and Szczerban regards him as “a genius.”
By signing Kimball, Szczerban said, “I really believe that we’re building the next juggernaut of American cooking.” He added: “From a publishing perspective these could be transformative for Little, Brown’s cookbook program. We don’t do that many—six to eight a year. So you can expect pretty robust publishing plans.”
Given the interest in the inaugural issue of Kimball’s Milk Street magazine, Szczerban could be on to something. Milk Street had more than 300,000 requests for the charter issue, mostly through Facebook. The charter issue was free with a subscription for six more issues. For the second issue, Milk Street has 100,000 paid readers.