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Aug 21, 2010 12:55 PM

Cooks Illustrated's Pursuit of Blogger [Split from Home Cooking]

[NOTE: We've split this discussion from the following thread about Cooks Illustrated on the Home Cooking board:].

I used to really love America's Test Kitchen. I even "joined up" on their website.

But gradually I've come to the conclusion that there's a real problem with the way they run things, mostly centering around the concept of the One True Holy Recipe that they subscribe to.

They actually threatened a fairly well-known food blogger because she modified one of their Sacred Recipes. She posted about it on her blog but has since taken it down. I was incensed when I read about it and am no longer a member of CI, nor do I bother to go to their website and look for anything.

However, it's true that once somethings been posted on the internet, it never dies. If you would like to see an account of the original exchange, just check out the wayback machine:

The idea that a recipe can be "owned" and never modified is ludicrous. ALL recipes are based on modifications of some other recipe stretching back into the mists of time.

There is no holy grail. Just damn good eats! And what I think is damn good might turn someone else green. So pooh on you, CI and Chris Kimball. Your recipe for Pad Thai stank anyway, LOL! BTW, you owe credit to whoever you stole the original recipe from, so take it down off your website right now! Or else! LOL!

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  1. That is pretty amazing. And disappointing. Thanks for sharing that.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      Yep. I don't need to ever hand over another dime to them, either.

    2. Wow, that lady at CC has a potato up her, ahem. Thanks for sharing that poor blogger's experience. I've been a fan of CI for a long time, and use several recipes, some of them highly modified. I find them a good jumping off point, no more.

      BTW, Chris Kimball irritates me more than Martha Stewart, because though she uses the word "perfect" way too much, he's takes himself and the whole perfectionism ethic dead seriously. She at least has a sense of humor about her whole "perfect" persona.

      11 Replies
      1. re: amyzan

        And his monthly column makes me want to puke. All that (what seems like) faux folksiness :) And lose the bowtie.

          1. re: c oliver

            Yes, the damn column, as if the recipes aren't text-heavy enough. I don't buy it either. I doubt he's sitting around the hearth listening to the victrola while the children play mumbley-peg (okay, I've run out of old-timey words but he never will), given that he's probably a millionaire, being the founder of CI.

          2. re: amyzan

            I don't much care for Cook's Illustrated and all it's ilk anymore, but when it comes to Martha Stewart . . .

            Well, this is how I feel about Martha Stewart:



            1. re: ZenSojourner

              Oh, she's crazy alright, crazy like a fox. But, seriously, I understand your urge. Completely. It's particularly difficult to watch her interact with children on tv. While I can't really deal with her, I have to admit I admire her on some bizarro level. Her magazine used to actually be useful, years and years ago. In fact, I learned to knit from it well enough to go take classes at the local yarn shop without humiliating myself.

              But, yeah, I get it. You are in good company, I'm sure.

            2. re: amyzan

              Uggh..agreed. And if you ever watch the PBS show, he seems like such a condescending jerk to all the other show personalities. Definitely not someone I think I'd enjoy working with.

              1. re: erin_grogan

                I don't get that at all. The other people on the show seem to enjoy taking jabs at Kimball. The two women do it, the tasting guy does it. The equipment guy seems to not take jabs at his boss though.

                On further thought, I've always thought he treats the two women (is it Bridgette and Julia?) with respect for their work. He compliments them on the recipes, in fact usually raves about them. I can't say I can recall any condescending comments from him, unless you include a bit of humor. I've always thought the staff seems to like putting him 'in his place' chopping vegetables or stirring a pot while they continue on with the recipe.

                1. re: John E.

                  John E. I've always thought that the whole show is made up of "characters" rather than real people. All of the people on the show work for Chris K. The mag. is his, the show is his. Any insults or jibes are there to make it more interesting and perky. Once you know of his cooking background it seems even more lame to hear him act lame and inept.

                  The whole Cooks Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen, etc. is a staged show.

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    I have to disagree. I think the people that are on those shows appear relaxed and genuine. You can't fake the exchanges they have on-camera. His 'lame' act is the only part of the show that might be an act.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      That was my reaction, too; scripted "jabs" to make him seem even folksier.

                      1. re: Parrotgal

                        I don't even think they're scripted. If they were, they would be more clever.

              2. That explains why you can't find the recipes online, outside of their sources. I think it's crazy that they don't allow modifications and yet they come up with several variations of what is the "best" for everything. If the "best" is in the "Best Recipe" cookbook, then why do they publish a different "best" in Cooks Illustrated? I think you can publish the recipe they have, just not credit it to them, as did the blogger in the end. The credit given was funny.

                1. I was blogging back when that happened and we were all appalled at the attitude that they thought they owned a recipe and no one could modify it. I have not used any of my money to support that group since, nor do I look at their website. The very gall of them!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: decolady

                    Prehistoric Cooking School

                    1) Find mastadon.
                    2) stab with spear.
                    3) stab with many many spear.
                    4) stab stab stabbity stab!
                    5) when mastadon fall down, use sharp black rock to cut off pelt.
                    6) cut cut cut.
                    7) cut cut cut
                    8) this boring, make womans do.
                    9) when womans done cutting pelt, take meat.
                    10) stick meat on sharp stick.
                    11) NOT MY GOOD SPEAR!!
                    12) Use other sharp stick, that one there.
                    13) stick meat in Red Flower That Bites.
                    14) Turn stick over so other side meat in Red Flower That Bites.
                    15) pull out of Red Flower That Bites.
                    16) CAREFUL! HOT!
                    17) let cool little bit.
                    18) eat.

                    This first recipe ever. All recipe descend from this. Therefore me, Og, own all recipe. Og wake up from big sleep in glacier and find out everybody steal Og recipe! Make Changes! Not give Og credit! Not even link to Og Blog!

                    Og no like! Og no like at all! You all take recipe down, pay Og royalty! Og own all!

                    MWAH HA HA HA! OG OWN ALL RECIPE!

                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                      Have you had your meds regulated recently?!? LOL, ZS.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Watch Og Blog. Next week do sharp stick comparison. Which sharp stick best for stab meat? Which sharp stick best for stab mastadon?

                        We find out, use Scientific Method, next week, in Og's Pleistocene Test Cook Pit!

                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          Og make his own maple syrup. Og know better how to cook masatadon. Og make cave painting to show how, then charge admission to see.

                      2. re: decolady

                        Ok, I'm confused. I just had 2 postings disappear, and someone else's posting also disappeared, from this thread.

                        What's the deal?

                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          Mods sometimes delete posts if they deem them inappropriate or inflammatory or if someone's complained about them. Happens to all of us at some time. BTW, I was appalled at the behavior of the CI lady--thanks for posting that info!

                          Oh, and I've NEVER considered CI to be THE authority on anything. And I'm sure it's that stupid bowtie that turned me off!

                          1. re: nofunlatte

                            Seriously? Poor Og! Not allowed to post a mastodon recipe! LOL!

                            I don't even care about the bow tie, but the attitude and the inundation of junk mail really turned me off. I got more junk mail from that site than any other I've ever had the misfortune to get spammed by.

                      3. I had recorded America's Test Kitchen recently and when I started to watch the episode (Thanksgiving slow roast turkey) I thought of this situation and found their intro ironically funny. First Chris does a cheesy knock off of the song "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof. Then they segue to a photo-shopped image of Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving dinner illustration where ATK has switched the roast turkey for an image of the dish they are about to prepare!

                        Sort of pot calling the kettle....