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A Challenge -- and a Response

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Chris KimballFood52

Amanda and Merrill

Yesterday on his blog, Chris Kimball (editor and founder of Cook's Illustrated) proposed a recipe challenge to "any supporter of the WIKI or similar concept," specifically mentioning Amanda and food52 as potential opponents. (This morning, the reference miraculously disappeared -- perhaps Chris got nervous we'd actually accept?)

  • "The current rage is the WIKI recipe notion — a community of on-line foodies who can select and tweak recipes to come up with the best possible version. Then there is the opposite contention — I think that only a professional test kitchen with substantial resources, strict testing protocol, and lots of time can develop the very “best” recipes, all things being equal. So, I am willing to put my money, and my reputation, where my big mouth is. I offer a challenge to any supporter of the WIKI or similar concept to jump in and go head to head with our test kitchen. We will jointly agree on a recipe, on the rules, on a time frame, etc. At the end, we will ask a panel of impartial judges to make and test the recipes and declare a winner. Should be fun! Who is interested?"

We're intrigued by the invitation, and we have some thoughts on the matter. So do some others on the internet.

What Chris sees as mutually exclusive approaches to recipe-sourcing we view as complementary ones that can peacefully co-exist. (And by the way, we're not a WIKI in a traditional sense.) That's one of the things that makes the internet so great. We didn't set out to compete with Cook's to come up with the most reliable panzanella. At food52, our mission is to inspire home cooks to share their best original recipes and most noteworthy cooking techniques with our online community -- we're more interested in a panzanella with panache. We hope that at food52, everyone (including us) learns a little something, sees the site as a resource for memorable, vetted recipes and and finds a community of like-minded cooks.

Cook's objective is admirable and always has been. (In fact, Merrill cut her own recipe testing teeth working in America's Test Kitchen years ago.) But while Chris's aim is to create "dependable" versions of familiar, tried-and-true recipes using scientific methods and relying on a team of professionals, ours is to celebrate the individuals behind great recipes. Cook's is about a foolproof test kitchen apple pie, while food52 is about going to the kitchens of great home cooks to taste the apple pie they've been making for 30 years -- or the one they modeled after a fantastic restaurant version they ate last week.

Since any food52 challenge includes you, our users, we would like to hear from you. Let us know: do you think we should take Chris on? If this challenge goes ahead, we promise to work with Chris to set some fair terms.