When former America’s Test Kitchen former test kitchen director and educator, Christopher Kimball told the New York Times he wasn’t afraid to fail in May, he really meant it.
“They were will ‘Will he succeed?’ and I’m like, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ And I stand by that,” the 65-year-old Cambridge resident says about his new $6 million project called Milk Street Kitchen, a one-stop-shop cooking venture in downtown Boston, all done through its founder’s fresh set of eyes.
“We’ll be successful; I don’t know how successful, but it’s fun and it’s building out a loft and kitchen where people can hang out," he continues. "I’ve always wanted a real home, in a sense, where people can hang out.”
His abrupt November departure from America's Test Kitchen, the household recipe and media empire he co-built, was indeed shocking; but that was the catalyst of something new for Kimball.
And yes, there’s a shiny new kitchen and loft setup in the Flour & Grain Exchange building on Milk Street, where the new operation will oversee a range of cookbook development, multimedia productions and a culinary school using methods Kimball has learned from around the world.
He calls in after a visit to the Milk Street location (currently under construction) where he notes, "It's going to cost me a million dollars, but after the fact, I'll be really excited to move in."
How long has the idea for Milk Street Kitchen been in the back of your mind?
I'd say three or four years ago, I started cooking differently. I made a lot of [recipes from] Yotam Ottolenghi or Ana Sortun, and my cooking changed all of a sudden. I was thinking differently. I thought it was, at first, quote-unquote "ethnic food," a term I can't stand, but then I realized, I was just cooking.
If you lived in Mexico City, you wouldn't be making "Mexican food," you're cooking dinner. People all around the world are thinking differently about how food words. Heat and spices and fermented ingredients are how you get flavor. The stuff I've been doing for 20 years [as a cook], it's just a range. I didn't want to just replicate things, I wanted cook better.
Was there an A-ha moment for you, where you realized this was what you wanted to pursue?
I would say there were a few. Sizzling greens from Fuchsia Dunlop was one. You can take Swiss chard, blanch them for two or three minutes, and take the thick stems out. Heat a quarter cup of oil with grated ginger and scallions until it sizzles; then you add a quick dash of soy sauce and chili oil. It takes three minutes. Nobody blanches their greens anymore, but you can with this incredibly simple scallion sauce. It's a less universal technique, but it changed my entire way of thinking about greens.