Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cook Bridget Lancaster Moves to Center Stage on 'America's Test Kitchen'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cook Bridget Lancaster Moves to Center Stage on 'America's Test Kitchen'

Article excerpt

When the news broke in November that host Christopher Kimball was leaving "America's Test Kitchen" after 16 seasons, fans were worried.

Would producers of the show, the most popular cooking series on public television with more than 2 million viewers a week, take this as a chance to reinvent it? Would the new host be, say, a "Real Housewife," or a retired member of some boy band turned amateur chef?

You could almost hear the loud sighs of relief this month when the show announced two new co-hosts who are familiar indeed. Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison, both original cast members, take over for Season 17, which begins shooting in May for a January premiere. (Kimball's last season is now airing on Channel 9.)

Kimball and Lancaster were already scheduled to be in St. Louis this week for two appearances at the Central Library downtown. In between the afternoon and evening sessions, Lancaster stopped by to chat about anything and everything, including her new role and what fans can expect.

"When it happened, when we found out Chris was leaving, I was very sad," she said. "Chris is my friend, and he has been for a long time. What people who watch the show might not know is that Chris is exactly as you see him, only he has this great, dry sense of humor that might not come out on television. But he is also so exacting. The whole idea of 'Test Kitchen' came from him; it wouldn't exist without him."

With fans feeling unsettled, bosses at America's Test Kitchen, the umbrella company for the TV series and more, quickly started doing test shows for focus groups. Some featured Lancaster as host; others starred Davison.

The focus groups let them know they wanted to see Lancaster and Davison (whom she affectionately calls Julie) together, and that they didn't want either to stop cooking.

"So we won't," Lancaster said. "The way episodes begin will have Julie and me discussing the recipe, so that's different. It will also be different that we're on camera together, which we never have been."

Then one or the other will be joined by a test cook, including most of those who are with the show now, and possibly some additions. …

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