A night out on the town. It’s when many people take culi­nary adven­tures and feast on unique dishes that offer a variety of tastes and textures.

But there’s one person who’s working to bring those expe­ri­ences directly into your kitchen: Chris Kim­ball, the food media mogul and cre­ator of America’s Test Kitchen.

There are a lot of (cooking) tech­niques around the world and all of those will get unhinged from their local cul­ture and come together in dif­ferent ways,” Kim­ball said Thursday after­noon before a capacity crowd that con­vened in the event space on the 17th floor of Northeastern’s East Vil­lage. “You see that in restau­rants, you see that in super­mar­kets, but you have not seen that at home much. Home is the last place to change. There are so many ways of cooking out there that are not part of our stan­dard Amer­ican repertoire.”

Kimball’s talk marked the latest install­ment of Northeastern’s pres­i­den­tial speaker series “The Future of…,” which explores what’s on the horizon for topics that shape our lives, like food, dating, and journalism.

Tastes have gone from the melting pot con­cept to dishes where the indi­vidual fla­vors standout more.”
—Chris Kim­ball, cre­ator of America’s Test Kitchen

Kim­ball launched his media empire in 1993 with the pub­li­ca­tion of Cook’s Illus­trated, a mag­a­zine that fea­tures recipes proven to work through rig­orous trial-​​and-​​error. From there he cre­ated America’s Test Kitchen, a half-​​hour cooking show that encour­ages viewers to “make bad recipes the right way.”

My job is to figure out what you are going to do with a recipe that we create in the kitchen,” Kim­ball said. “My job is to make you not fear failure. Because if I can do it, you can do it. I stand there for 25 sea­sons of our show and I rep­re­sent that audience.”

Here are some of the high­lights from Kimball’s talk and his Q&A with North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun.

Future of Food

Chris Kim­ball with North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun during “The Future of…” Thursday after­noon. Photo by Adam Glanzman/​Northeastern University

Music and food

Kim­ball com­pared fol­lowing a recipe to reading music. If you under­stand the var­ious com­po­nents that make up a song—the key, the chords, the melodies—then you can can see what goes into making it sound the way it does. The same goes for recipes.

Instead of just fol­lowing a recipe, if you can read a recipe in terms of what is going on, you get to be a really good cook,” Kim­ball said. “Then you get to under­stand how to impro­vise in the kitchen by yourself.”

Sample your cooking

When asked by Aoun how one can become a better cook, Kim­ball said people should take small steps, such as tasting their dish before they serve it.

Most people don’t (taste),” Kim­ball said. “If you just do that your cooking will improve 50 per­cent. Most people just make the recipes, they don’t even taste it, and serve it.”

Dif­ferent tastes

Aoun also asked Kim­ball what is dri­ving changes in the way people want their dishes to taste. Kim­ball responded by noting that most cul­tures are preparing dishes in a way that each taste and flavor is more prominent.

Tastes have gone from the melting pot con­cept to dishes where the indi­vidual fla­vors standout more,” he explained. “So you get a lot more con­trast, tex­tural changes, and flavor changes.”

Fol­lowing the Q&A, Kim­ball, Aoun, and event atten­dees feasted on empanadas made by campus exec­u­tive chef Tom Barton and his culi­nary team at North­eastern Dining. But these weren’t your tra­di­tional empanadas. These con­tained fill­ings such as Bon Mei, gyros ingre­di­ents, and Northeastern’s famous mac­a­roni and cheese.

The hors d’oeuvers and other foods were served during a recep­tion that show­cased stu­dent and alumni food entre­pre­neurs, such as 88 acres, which cre­ates healthy snacks that are free of common food aller­gens, and Meal­time, a free app that helps people shop with meals in mind, not ingredients.

The next “The Future of…” event will take place on March 31 and fea­ture Wash­ington Post editor Marty Baron.