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The following appeared in the free publication, Atlanta Home Improvement in the October, 2004 issue. It is reprinted here by permission. (bold formatting added by moi)
www.homeimprovementmag.com
Scans of the paper articles can be found at the end.

Food for Thought
At the table with Atlanta's food scientist, Alton Brown
by India Powell
October 2004

On his Food Network show, Good Eats, Alton Brown explores the scientific processes of fermentation, hydrolyzation, crystallization, preservation and tenderization—and that’s just the episode on sugar.

“Everything in the kitchen is either physics or chemistry,” he says. On Good Eats, he explains everything from the thermodynamics of ice cream to how wine becomes vinegar with the excitement and charisma of a passionate home ec teacher, which is exactly what he says he is.

A decade ago, Alton Brown, now 42, decided to leave his job with a production company to attend culinary school because he saw something lacking in how-to cooking shows—the why. “Nobody was giving us any explanation,” he says. “I complained to my wife about the fact that all these shows were boring and dull and she finally got tired of hearing me complain about it and said, ‘Well, why don’t you do something about it?’ and I said, ‘Fine, I will.’” Alton and his wife, DeAnna, left their home in Marietta and moved to Vermont, where Alton studied at New England Culinary Institute while DeAnna worked in the public relations department at the school. The two then moved back to the Atlanta area and got to work launching Good Eats, of which DeAnna is executive producer. The show now is in its fifth year and is produced by the couple’s Be Square Productions.

Among the trademark teaching devices Alton uses on his show are his bare-bones inventions, like the Custom Corrugated Vapor Colloid Applicator—or cardboard box smoker. On the episode, “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fish,” he demonstrates how to smoke salmon using no more than a cardboard box, a hot plate, a skillet, some sawdust, wooden dowels, an oven rack and thermometers.

Finding culinary applications for ordinary household items is Alton’s specialty. A few air filters bound together and placed over a fan make an ideal device for drying herbs or making jerky; empty tuna fish cans serve as excellent pastry rings for homemade English muffins.

The minimalistic resourcefulness the Browns live by on the set of Good Eats carries over into their home life—most clearly seen in the recent remodel of their kitchen.

Creating a basic, comfortable central gathering place for themselves and their 4-year-old daughter, Zoey, as well as their extended family and friends, was the Browns’ goal when they started remodeling their modest 1971 ranch home. A year later, they have a functional-but-stylish kitchen that maximizes every square inch of the space they have.

BEFORE

“Putting in some palatial, high-end, ‘gourmet’ kitchen wasn’t really an option. We were able to double our storage and counter space without changing the footprint of the kitchen at all,” Alton says. “We put our money into materials. We put in really nice tile floor and very good counters so that every surface you touch functions well and makes you feel good about being there. You really enjoy being in the space, even though there’s not a lot of it.”

AFTER

Built-in storage was key to maximizing the space available in the Browns’ small kitchen. Slide-out drawers and dividing slats were installed in the existing cabinets, with wine storage and a lazy Susan tucked behind cabinet doors. Inside the bar that separates the kitchen from the dining room, there is space for cocktail glasses and bar accessories displayed behind frosted glass doors.

Even the island the Browns added to their kitchen was built with storage in mind: spices are stowed inside, solving their past problem of having them stored high—just out of petite DeAnna’s easy reach. Alton’s favorite feature of the island is the wooden cutting board, which slides in and out of place on grooves. He can use the surface of the island to chop and remove the board when it’s time to clean.

Hanging above the island is another resourceful space-saver: a pot rack mounted to the rafters behind the ceiling with custom-made brackets to withstand the weight of several hundred pounds of cooking hardware. The old fluorescent light fixtures in the Browns’ kitchen were replaced with recessed lighting, strategically placed to light the surfaces where the most prep work and cooking is done.

BEFORE

The Browns chose Corian countertops because of their low maintenance and practicality—qualities they used to guide the selections of most of their materials. “We had the challenge of trying to design a kitchen for a serious cook, but we also have a family that’s in a constant state of flux,” Alton says. “Both my wife and I liked the challenge of having to do a kitchen that’s practical, relatively affordable and stylish.”

Another motivation for the Browns to stick with basic, neutral materials was to protect their investment. “We didn’t want to renovate beyond the return level of our neighborhood,” Alton says.

AFTER

Timeworn layers of linoleum in the kitchen were replaced with ceramic tile DeAnna found at Floor & Décor Outlets of America. The Browns used the tile to create continuity throughout the house by having it installed in the hall bath and using it to give the brick fireplace in the dining room a totally new look. The Browns turned tile into a focal point by using silver metallic tile for the backsplash around the perimeter of the kitchen. DeAnna discovered the distinctive tiles at The Home Depot Expo.

The metallic look is repeated throughout the kitchen with stainless-steel appliances. Alton has a consulting contract with General Electric, and all the Browns’ appliances are from GE’s Profile line except the crowning jewel of the kitchen: the powerful stainless-steel hood above the stove, which is a GE Monogram. “It’ll suck the life out of a kitten in the next room,” Alton laughs.

Another metallic touch is the “wall of art” DeAnna created to display Zoey’s colorful creations. It’s made using sheets of steel and magnets.

The work on the Browns’ kitchen was done by custom cabinetmaker Dennis Pangborn and Kelly Braun of Helping Hands Home Services Inc. Over the past year, the Browns have made several other improvements to their home, including renovating every room and bathroom, having hardwood floors installed, building new closets, installing a custom-built entertainment center created by Pangborn and turning their carport into a garage.

[text from the paper edition]
ALTON, DEANNA AND ZOEY BROWN sit at the table on their screened porch, where the family says they spend most of their time.

Most of the meals at the Brown household are eaten at the table on the screened porch built just off the kitchen and dining room, which, Alton says, “we really do live in.” The Browns added the porch onto the house soon after they moved in more than five years ago.

Despite his fascination with the nuts and bolts of cooking, Alton says the most important part of the kitchen is not his current technological obsession, nor is it his favorite spice (cumin). It’s not even the cutting-edge appliance he helped develop (the GE Profile Trivection oven).

“I believe the most important tool you can have in the kitchen is a good table—a place to sit down around and talk and share as a family. Where you serve the food is as important as where you cook it—maybe more so,” Alton says. “To me, eating is primarily a communal activity. There is no meal that can fix bad company, but I’ve seen great company fix meals.”

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010