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The Wine Report, 2002

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WineReport1.jpg (10744 bytes) The Secret of Good Eats ... Exposed

Alton Brown—Food Network's "mad food scientist"—demonstrates to a growing flock of fans just what turns food into Good Eats

By Maureen Petrosky

    Alton Brown has never met a food he doesn't like. Well, at least one he doesn't like to examine, dissect and perfect. WineReport2.jpg (10933 bytes)

    Atlanta resident and star of The Food Network's Good Eats show single handedly orchestrated the great cookie giveaway. He once tried more than 40 recipes in search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The greater Atlanta area benefited from this quest as many free cookies were dispersed to known and unknown cookie lovers who chomped down the rejected batches.

    There is no limit to his exploration, inquisition or creation of Good Eats (Wednesday nights at 9 on The Food Network with reruns appearing periodically throughout the day.) Good Eats playfully gets to the core of food and the techniques of food preparation. After 45 tries Alton isn't ashamed to poke his nose into the camera to say Nestle had it right all along. In fact he knew it from the start, but the experiment wasn't to create a perfect cookie. It was to find out what makes the cookie perfect. In other words: What makes it Good Eats.

"Wine is like women. It tempts you; it comforts you; it confuses you and can even turn on you when you least expect it. It can be your friend one day and your enemy the next." — Alton Brown

    The numerous variables involved in cooking are what keep Alton Brown in the game. And he's not afraid to explore the simplest questions.

    At the conception of Good Eats more than five years ago, Alton had a master list of subjects he wanted to investigate. he is chipping away at the list one show at a time. The list is anything but high-minded. "I don't wake up craving foie gras, I want meatloaf," says Alton. And like most Americans he wants it to taste like meatloaf. So what sets a dynamite meatloaf apart from one you'd rather feed the dog? This puts Alton on a quest to find out.

Girls Dig Guys Who Cook

    The reasons Alton started cooking and the reason he started a cooking show are actually very different. "I started cooking to get girls," Alton proudly states. At the University of Georgia, a plethora of rejected romantic rendezvous forced this drama major to change tactics. He decided he might have a better chance of women saying yes if he offered to cook them dinner as opposed to taking them out to dinner.

    Whether this dating technique was a success is debatable. What's important is that Alton discovered a love of the kitchen.

    Too bad his wife of eight years, DeAnna, doesn't reap the same benefits of Alton's college sweethearts. With Alton currently creating and starring in several Food Network programs, DeAnna is more likely to get a theoretical meal than a home-cooked one.

    After leaving UGA, Alton pursued his penchant for cooking. He isn't one who enjoys slavish adherence to cookbooks and he definitely wasn't getting answers by watching chefs "dump and stir" on TV. He wanted to truly understand food. So he packed up DeAnna, his two hound dogs and headed north to the New England Culinary Institute.

    With these two institutes of learning behind him, he felt ready to develop his twin passions— filmmaking and cooking. And Voila! Good Eats.

    Cooking and filmmaking comprise the foundation for Alton's Atlanta-based Be Square Productions. "I wanted to develop other projects, continue to develop my creativity and chart my own destiny," he says.

Good Eats With Good Wine

    The Los Angeles native not only appreciates good eats, he is also quite fond of good beverage. He loves a good beer and cherishes his wine. As he slurps, sniffs and swishes his wine, Alton makes it known he is quite fickle about his drink. A favorite of his is Avieto Classico in the jug. Why? It reminds him of a sweltering hot day on the lawn of a grand cathedral in Avieto, Italy, and friends he shared this wine with. "Wine is a bookmark. It's my diary or like opening an old photo album," says Alton. Wine is more than a drink for him. It creates and frames memories for this sensualist. He doesn't care if it's a grand cru or a box wine. It's the feeling, not the label, which counts.

    Like many of the culinary codes cracked by Alton, the mystery of wine has taunted him long enough. Next year Alton will break wine down to its bare essence in a one-hour Food Network special.

    As if he were writing the introduction to his wine special, Alton explains his view on wine: "Wine is like women. It tempts you; it comforts you; it confuses you and can even turn on you when you least expect it. It can be your friend one day and your enemy the next."

    Alton's inquisitive and iconoclastic nature often takes him where no chef/TV producer has gone before. As his star rises on the national stage, the lore of this "mad food scientist" will continue to grow. With ratings that threaten Emeril Lagasse, Alton Brown is sure to be a major player whenever food and media are combined. He's bringing all sorts of goodies to the table in season five of Good Eats, and promises to entertain and expose the secrets of just what makes good eats.

Maureen C. Petrosky cooks, writes, teaches and produces food television shows in the Atlanta metro area.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010