America's Test Kitchen Says Ex-TV Host Took Trade Secrets

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

Nov. 2 — Culinary media company America's Test Kitchen is accusing founder and former TV cooking show host Christopher Kimball of misappropriating trade secrets to start his new cooking venture, according to a complaint filed in the Massachusetts Superior Court ( America's Test Kitchen Inc. v. Kimball, Mass. Super. Ct., No. 16-3325, complaint filed 10/31/16 ).

Kimball launched Cook's Illustrated magazine in 1993, serving as editor, and hosted the “America's Test Kitchen” TV show since it first aired in 2001. He left the company after the two sides couldn't agree on a contract, remaining as TV host for the 2016 season and starting his own cooking venture, Christopher Kimball's Milk Street, which operates a cooking school and publishes a magazine.

Boston-based Milk Street, according to the complaint, is based on the same recipe-testing concept that America's Test Kitchen is based on. For Kimball's final year, he used its resources, proprietary information and employees to launch his new company, it said.

America's Test Kitchen is seeking monetary damages and injunctions to prevent the use of information allegedly taken by Kimball, including customer e-mail addresses, lists and recipes. It also asked the court to bar Kimball from promoting Milk Street in a way that makes it look like a continuation of America's Test Kitchen.

Milk Street did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment for this story.

In addition to the claim of misappropriation of trade secrets, the complaint makes several other claims, including breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

The complaint alleges that Kimball tried to poach staff members, successfully taking 15 people with him and forcing America's Test Kitchen to pay millions of dollars in salary and bonuses to retain other employees. Kimball also caused America's Test Kitchen to halt production of its public radio program while he launched his own “Milk Street” radio program, it said.

Kimball is still a part owner of America's Test Kitchen, although he no longer holds an executive position, the complaint said.

Goulston & Storrs PC represented America's Test Kitchen.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at amazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

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