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Cooking shows aren’t what they used to be

Christopher Kimball used to be the host of “America’s Test Kitchen.”
Christopher Kimball used to be the host of “America’s Test Kitchen.” America’s Test Kitchen

What is happening to all the great cooking shows?

I watch little food-based television anymore. Recently, I saw the Food Network’s “Chopped!” for the first time in years, and it reminded me why I haven’t been watching it (also, I try to avoid anything that has an exclamation point in the title).

It also reminded me why I haven’t watched the Food Network for a long time. All that false drama. All that hyperkinetic camera work. All that percussive music.

All that lipstick on a whole-roasted suckling pig.

But there are a couple of shows that are still worth watching. Or were. Because both are now in turmoil.

Until recently, Christopher Kimball was the host of “America’s Test Kitchen,” both on television and on the radio. He also was the publisher of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, and wrote a well-regarded, folksy column for it.

Then he left “America’s Test Kitchen,” which he co-founded, and started a new venture called Milk Street Kitchen, named for the location of its headquarters in Boston. But then a nearby restaurant called Milk Street Cafe sued, claiming that his new company’s name was too similar and might cause confusion.

So now his company is called Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, which does not have the same panache. But if the story stopped there, I would not be talking about it.

In October, “America’s Test Kitchen” sued Kimball and Milk Street, claiming that Kimball copied the “America’s Test Kitchen” concept and format, that he stole proprietary information (and some actual property) from “America’s Test Kitchen,” that he poached staff from “America’s Test Kitchen,” and that he created Milk Street when he was on the clock for “America’s Test Kitchen” — which at the time was paying him more than $1 million a year.

It is an ugly story and may only get uglier if the case makes it to trial.

The “America’s Test Kitchen” television show will soldier on without Kimball, with co-hosts Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster now front and center. The show will go on, but it won’t be the same.

And that is also true of my favorite cooking show, “The Great British Baking Show,” known in England as “The Great British Bake-Off.”

The producers of the show decided to leave the BBC, which had presented the show for seven years, for the greener pastures of Channel 4.

Channel 4 offered to pay more than $31 million per year for three years, which is more than four times what the commercial-free BBC could pay.

The show left, but three of the four hosts did not. Mary Berry announced that she was going to stay with the BBC. In short order, presenters Mel Geidroyc and Sue Perkins (who were friends in college) announced that they, too, were staying with the BBC.

Only co-host Paul Hollywood will be accompanying the show to Channel 4. The 81-year-old Berry encouraged Hollywood to follow the show, saying that she would have done the same if she were his age, which is 50.

The production company is looking for people to replace Berry, Geidroyc and Perkins. The company hasn’t found anyone suitable yet, but no doubt it will. The money is certainly there.

But the show won’t be the same without them. And once it has commercials? It’s just one more show I won’t be watching.

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