Nov 20, 2019

David Nussbaum of America’s Test Kitchen on working with cooking superstars

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America's Test Kitchen figured out how to charge for something that many give away for free.

America’s Test Kitchen chief executive David Nussbaum is no chef, but since being hired to lead the company in 2015, that hasn’t been a problem for him.

The a media enterprise has grown to include TV shows, magazines, cookbooks, a subscription-based website and online cooking school, a podcast and a kids cooking club.

Shortly after Nussbaum’s arrival, one of the company’s co-founders and perhaps its most well-known host, Christopher Kimball, left to start his own company, Milk Street. Nussbaum says he wishes Kimball well but notes America’s Test Kitchen “has always been an ensemble.”

“The ratings of the two TV shows have grown, the revenue of the business has grown, the profits have grown. We’ve moved into new markets like podcasts,” he said. “So we wish him well but the company rocks on.”

Unlike most other food and recipe websites offering their content for free, America’s Test Kitchen uses a paywall. Roughly 420,000 subscribers pay a yearly fee between $39.95 and $74.95 to get access to recipes and videos.

What America’s Test Kitchen touts in exchange for that fee is extensive recipe development.

“We test every recipe between 40 and 60 times. We spend an average of $10,000 on every recipe,” Nussbaum said.

“So when you use our recipe, and you follow it carefully, the food will be perfect and the presentation will be magnificent. And no one else can make that claim.”

If the proof of ATK’s approach is in the pudding (sorry), Nussbaum said it can be seen in the excitement of its fans.

“I’ve been to events with Bridget [Lancaster] and Julia [Collin Davison] and as we walk up to the event, you’d think I was with Michelle Obama and the ex-president,” he said.

The team

Nancy Farghalli Executive Producer
Bridget Bodnar Producer
Daisy Palacios Producer
Sean McHenry Associate Producer
Maria Hollenhorst Associate Producer