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Aug 26, 2011 11:18 AM

Americas Test Kitchen Online Cooking School (or, $500 for just ONE of several available courses. Are you kidding me???)

With the success of high quality online cooking lessons like Rouxbe, how can ATK ask these kinds of exorbitant prices?

$99 to learn how to make chicken stock in one hour with a "revolutionary" technique? (Uh, you mean the revolutionary technique that's available for $18/year on your website under "quick chicken stock"?)

I can see that they're positioning themselves as more of an online school than a series of video lessons, in which case their prices are more in line. But the point is, this is not a live cooking school. There are no ingredients provided, no pots and pans, nobody else to do the cleanup. I'd be very interested to enroll in ATK classes, but certainly not at this price point.

Mr Taster

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  1. They have officially jumped the shark. I'm glad I cancelled my subs and deleted my season pass to their show awhile back.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rasputina

      +1. I have both copies of their "Best" recipes books and occasionally get an issue passed to me from my mother, but I've lost interest.

      1. re: BubblyOne

        I have enough of their books to last a couple of lifetimes. I will probably only buy their annual (green covered) which is a compilation of their 6 magazines for that year.

        I won't order it from them though. I'll get it from another source.

    2. Although I tend to find their recipes as advertised - tasty, well-thought-out, nearly foolproof - I have a real problem with how they nickel and dime fans for everything. At their subscription prices, online access should be a given, not another $25. Separate fees and memberships for ATK, Cook's Illustrated, and Cook's Country add up quickly, before you even figure in the cost of the books or special issues like "Cooking for Two."

      I took a look at the intro lesson for the online cooking school on knife skills. Some handy tips, but nothing extraordinary. "Keep your knives sharp and curl your fingers under" is hardly the kind of teaching that will revolutionize your abilities in the kitchen. I imagine they feel the lesson casts the school in the best light; why offer it as the sample class if not?

      To then browse the "course catalog" and see the kind of prices they're charging - um, wow. Seriously? In this economy? Major turn-off. Either their sweet-spot demo is a rich, bored housewife with a whole lot of time and money on her hands or they've seriously miscalibrated the market. I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with Christopher Kimball. You can tell by the way the other cooks interact with him on the TV shows that they can barely stand him, and I have a feeling his attitude is essentially he knows everything and to hell with the rest of the world.

      Oh, and if I have to read one more misty-eyed letter from the editor written by him, I'm gonna lose it. It's the exact same premise every month: essentially, cooking is a homey art that takes us back to simpler times, when kids rans through tall fields of grass under endless blue skies, grandmas left pies to cool on windowsills, and everything - even presumably women's lack of status or voice, abject abuses of civil rights, and the Cold War - was just peachy.

      16 Replies
      1. re: mrkinla2

        That was a great read without the misty eyes.
        I have also noticed how other employees interact with him and thought to myself, he must be one of those...

        1. re: Monica

          >I have also noticed how other employees interact with him and thought to myself, he must >be one of those...

          I've thought the same thing ...

          1. re: Chocolatechipkt

            Hey guys, they're in Boston. As a former Bostonian, I can say that. They are smarter, richer, better looking and more self indulgent than any other major metro area in the country!

            I like the show and mag, but their marketing company is horrible, aggressive and greedy. It took me months to get rid of some kind of automatic renewal I never signed up for in the first place (don't recall the details now) but I swore I would never give them any of my hard earned money again. Chris Kimball's Yankee persona definitely needs a do-over. Come on, we're well into the 21st century.

            1. re: sandiasingh

              I read not too long ago that Kimball is a bear to work for and with. Not personable at all and cold as ice. I found that surprising, based on what I see on ATK, but what you see on tv isn't always the real world.

              I do find it annoying that they can't give long-time subscribers access to web content and I would have to pay extra for that. I don't. Ridiculous.

              1. re: breadchick

                You can tell that he must be a cold bear by the way his "underlings" look at him - pleadingly.

                I also have been a victim of their ultra-aggressive marketing and have received books I have not ordered. Maddening, because I really like the show. lol

                1. re: breadchick

                  "I read not too long ago that Kimball is a bear to work for and with. Not personable at all and cold as ice. I found that surprising, based on what I see on ATK, but what you see on tv isn't always the real world. "

                  Really? I've always found him a complete turn off to watching the show. Cold, snarky, know-it-all in attitude and just generally unpleasant and smug. Like Alton Brown without any of the personality. Julia is the only one who makes ATK occasionally tolerable for me.

                2. re: sandiasingh

                  Re the magazine, you speak for me -- and probably many others, too.

                  I see from your profile that you are from or living in New Mexico. I once lived in New Mexico, loved it there; and for that very reason I have respect for your Boston information :-))

                  1. re: Rella

                    Boston is the reason I'm living in New Mexico! Could not take the fast track any longer. Every time I see ATK, I imagine all those on-air folks stuck in traffic in Brookline or at Fenway and thank the lord once again I had a choice.

                    I do think they have an excellent product and their reinvention of many dishes is welcomed. I just wish they would drop the down-East, backwoods facade because they are not that. They do, however, perpetuate the Yankee stinginess in their marketing and that is still alive and well in Boston and New England.

              2. re: mrkinla2

                As much as I truly like ATK's shows, I despise the marketing so much. LOL--I also have a sneaky suspicion this is Kimball's doing as well. It's kind of a shame b/c Kimball is going to spite his nose to spite his face with all his greed. It'lll come back to bite him. That online school concept is just wrong on so many levels--wrong and greedy.

                1. re: jarona

                  You are so right. Kimball's background is marketing ... I learned this from someone who knows him fairly well. I was told by someone close to him and the business that the entire idea for CI, ATK, and CK was born with marketing in mind. Too bad they've gone so far overboard with it. I love ATK, but I can't figure out the need for CK. They need to get rid of that dour Erin McMurrer; better yet, scrap CK with its corny music and audience, and just tape more episodes of ATK. On a final note, maybe there's a website where people share their ATK recipes. Wouldn't that be nice?

                    1. re: John E.

                      Cook's Country ... more or less the same cast ... one addition is extremely annoying (Erin McMurrer ... I change the channel whenever she's on) ... and there's a studio audience.

                      1. re: MartiniLover

                        I was confused by this too. I kept thinking CK was for Chris Kimball, and had to read twice to realize that's not right. Why the inaccurate acronym for Cooks Country?

                        Mr Taster

                2. re: mrkinla2

                  Agreed. Their magazine is great, but Chris Kimball -- not so much! I think I'm going to wait until the end of the year (when my subscription has expired) and get the entire year from any other source than America's Test Kitchen

                3. WHOA! where's the love for ATK? I think you all must be right about their marketing dept. as I have received cookbooks galore without being asked if I wanted them. I do enjoy the magazine, but have decided to buy it on the newsstand rather than wait for the subscription delivery. I have far too often bought it(thinking my subscription had run out) only to get it in the mail a week later. I kind of think if your a subscriber you should have yours BEFORE it shows up on the stand.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jillcooks

                    I might have said this before - I have seasons 2 thru 10 of their books and corresponding DVD's, annuals with their magazines, most of their Best Of books.
                    I am just through with them and their marketing. Of course, I can say that, since I have more books and DVD's that I'll ever use. I'll continue to get their Annuals, buying them elsewhere than thru ATK. Too bad, but they are just an annoyance to me.

                  2. They've revamped the ridiculous pricing structure with a much more manageable $19.99/month, but this does not include access to the instructors.


                    Don't have time to look into it now, so I don't have any more details.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. The original comment has been removed
                      1. Yes, paying the "full price" of $25/yr for a magazine, $35/yr for website (if you choose) and more for additional features is *exactly* what not taking advertising means. That's part of what you're paying for--no corporate bias. If you don't want to pay that much or you prefer paying your own money to receive magazines full of advertisements, fine, that's your call, but don't whine about it because you're used to getting combo deals at every turn. Combo deals are usually a much bigger scam anyway--companies just jacked-up the initial selling prices of the individual items, and then they "lower" them with combo deals to sucker you into buying more than you wanted to "get the better deal".

                        The cooking school was substantially more expensive and had personal instructors. Now it's ~$20/month, which is less than taking just one of my in-town, in-person classes.

                        As for the other "shady" practices... well, I've never experienced them myself, and I've been subbed to about half of their services for many years. I've never heard of these things happening from people I actually know, but see them a lot online, so I tend to take it with a grain of salt. I did one time get my panties all in a bunch because they were sending me past-due notices on a subscription I hadn't asked for.... until my husband reminded me that yes indeed I had subscribed and requested the "bill me" service.

                        1. re: Robynkrm

                          In the early days, I signed up for the free trial and Bridget was my instructor. She replied to my questions with wonderful detail (I could count on her to reply once every couple of days). But ultimately, I just couldn't justify the huge expense of the $500 per-course option.

                          Later on, I noticed that they released a monthly pay two tier system where you could access the lessons with or without the live instructors. Obviously, accessing with instructors cost a great deal more.

                          Now, it appears they've dropped the instructors entirely. I'm sure Bridget is breathing a huge sigh of relief now that that burden has been lifted from her shoulders. But the live access to ATK instructors was really a wonderful, if unsustainable, perk.

                          Mr Taster