Credit: America's Test Kitchen

The Smart Kitchen Summit is the first event to tackle the future of food, cooking and the kitchen with leaders across food, tech, commerce, design, delivery and appliances. This series will highlight panelists and partners for the 2017 event, being held on October 10-11 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. 

America’s Test Kitchen has been helping people learn to cook better food at home long before the word “smart” was attached to the kitchen or home. Originally a TV series started in 2001 by famous chef and editor-in-chief of Cook’s Illustrated Christopher Kimball, the brand has grown to include a digital empire of TV and web shows, online recipe content, cooking classes and kitchen equipment reviews.

Lisa McManus is the executive editor of equipment testing and ingredient tasting and the on-air “gadget guru” for ATK – which means her mission includes testing various types of kitchen tech and determine its worthiness as a tool for the home chef. As gear in the kitchen becomes more high-tech and connected, McManus and her team test “smart” cooking equipment alongside traditional versions. “It adds an extra challenge to assess how the technology enhances – or doesn’t – the experience of using that product,” she says.

McManus herself is a self-proclaimed obsessive researcher and hates the feeling of buyer’s remorse. When she bought her first car, she read exhaustively about the auto industry, studied different models and designs, watched crash-test dummy videos and even joined Zipcar for a year to be able to drive different cars without a salesperson sitting next to her. That dedication to finding the best solution spills over into her job at America’s Test Kitchen every day.

“I try to stand in for the home cook, and prevent other consumers from feeling stuck with sub-par products. I design and conduct tests, and share what I’ve learned, to help people find the most practical, functional gear.”

Interestingly, America’s Test Kitchen, which is owned by Boston Common Press, has built a powerful model for food media without resorting to heavy advertisements. There are no ads in the brand’s magazines and they have over a million paid subscribers between Cook’s Illustrated and Cook Country. McManus says the lack of advertisers allows the company to freely discuss products – the good, bad and the ugly – and be the strongest possible advocates for consumers, only recommending devices and gadgets that will really make cooking easier and food taste better.

As more startups look to capitalize on the digital craze around food videos and recipes, America’s Test Kitchen seems to have built a brand that’s adaptive to changing consumer demands and interests. Turning their eye to how technology is impacting the consumer kitchen is one way to do that.

“I’m really excited about the direction of the smart kitchen; right now I see a lot of creativity and energy in this field as it develops, not all of it practical, but that will happen over time,” McManus adds. “I’m sure tech is going to change how we all use our kitchens and prepare our meals, and what looks very futuristic and exclusive right now will become commonplace.”

The America’s Test Kitchen team might be excited about tech playing a bigger role in the kitchen, but there’s also a healthy dose of skepticism mixed in. McManus says she’s constantly looking how connectivity is going to solve a real problem instead of becoming a useless feature that renders the product more expensive but not more functional. Often, she says, things like the app might have been worked on for a while, but the actual cooking device is sub-par, or the database of recipes is limited and an afterthought. “How long before this product is no longer useful? Has the practical day-to-day usage been fully considered or does it make more work? Bottom line: Is the connectedness offering a real benefit that will become second nature, or is it just frills, bells and whistles?” 

Don’t miss Lisa McManus, executive editor at America’s Test Kitchen at the 2017 Smart Kitchen Summit. Check out the full list of speakers and to register for the Summit, use code ATK to get 25% off ticket prices.

The Smart Kitchen Summit takes place thanks to our sponsors; if you’re interested in sponsorship opportunities, reach out to the SKS team to discuss options. 

If you’d like to attend the Smart Kitchen Summit, you can still buy early bird tickets and get an additional 25% off by using the discount code SPOON here

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