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From: USA Today, 2-28-2002

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Good Eats chef: Alton Brown

Thursday, Feb. 28, 6:00 p.m. ET

Food Network's Alton Brown, host of Good Eats and co-host of upcoming Couch Potato Stunt never considered a career in food until he realized he spent all of his free time watching cooking shows, reading cookbooks and, yes, eating. He attended the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt. Alton is currently producing the Food Network show Cooking Thin with Kathleen Daelemans. His first book, I'm Just Here for the Food (Stewart Tabori and Chang) will be hitting shelves in April 2002. Alton has also released a Good Eats home video series in which he explores the origins of ingredients, decodes culinary customs and presents food and equipment trends. The video trilogy can be purchased at foodtv.com.

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Herndon, VA : Love your show! Far funnier than those sweaty Iron Chefs battling it out. If you had to eat one food every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Alton Brown: A cheeseburger.

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Peoria AZ : Loved your garlic show - my daughter and I were in stiches. Will you be doing a Good Eats show on shrimp and the deveining as I always have trouble with that?

Alton Brown: We've already done a show on shrimp called Crustacean nation. The secret to cooking to cooking shrimp is to soak it in salt water for 30 min. Don't boil shrimp, broil them in the shell. You'll get a more concentrated flavor that way. You can get all of my recipes from foodtv.com

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Boston, Mass. : No question, just a comment- I love your show! I never knew there was so much to be known about garlic or potatoes or sugar! It's a great cooking/science/chemistry lesson all in one!! Keep it up!!

Alton Brown: Thank you. You guys keep watching them and I'll keep making them.

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Pocatello, Idaho : Is olive oil as good for you as I've been reading? Also, what type do you use? virgin, extra virgin...

Alton Brown: Yes, olive oil is pretty darn good for you. Especially when compared with other cooking fats. I use several different kinds, depending on what I'm going to do with them. Extra virgin shouldn't really be cooked with because it's fruit flavors and its aroma are lost in the cooking process. Virgin olive oil lacks the subtlies and because it lacks complexity. So I mix it with Canola oil. If you're looking for health benefits, use extra virgin oil, use it for final additions to things, use it for tips. Don't abuse it in heat.

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Dallas, TX : Why do virtually all the chef's on Foodtv use wooden cutting boards to prepare raw meats? Is there a cleaning process that allows this to be done safely?

Alton Brown: There's a large amount of debate about cutting board materials. Personally, I only use wooden cutting boards for foods that could be served raw. I cut meat, fish and poultry on plastic, but that's me. A thorough washing in soapy water and a rinsing in chlorine solution will render a wooden cutting board completely sanitary. However, once it becomes scratched and marred through use, it needs to be sanded down and retreated with a food-grade mineral oil in order to be safe. Pharmacies sell food-grade oil. Another reason wooden cutting boards are used on television so often is because they make the food look better than on plastic.

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Memphis, TN : In one of your shows you recommended "ageing" beef in the refrigerator. What is the correct procedure if I want to do this myself at home?

Alton Brown: 50-60% humidity, 38 degrees temperature. Air circulation is key. I often age beef roasts as often as 5 days but I often have to trim dry spots off before I cook it. I do believe that as little as 24 hours makes a difference in the flavor and the texture of meat. If it's the middle of summer, and you open and close your refrigerator door a lot - don't do it. It's too difficult to maintain the temperature.

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Irvine, California : i LOVE those measuring cups you use on the show! can you please tell me where i can get them?

Alton Brown: We use several different kinds. We use at least 3 different sets. If it's the metal cups, those came from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

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Dallas, TX : Are you going to have a book signing tour. I love your show - It is my favorite on Foodtv.

Alton Brown: I will be touring the entire month of June. I am going to Dallas, Houstin and Austin. My book tour schedule is at altonbrown.com. It's being updated constantly.

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Linwood, NC : I'm trying to replicate the flavor of spaghetti sauce that my former Italian neighbor consistently consumated. If there is any one (or two) "secrets to success" in making the authentic spaghetti sauce, what would be yours?

Alton Brown: I like to make spaghetti sauce with canned tomatoes. I like to strain out the tomatoes from the juice, and then reduce the juice by half before adding the tomatoes back in and cooking them. You get a better intensity of flavor that way. Also, I almost always use dry herbs, not fresh. But that's just me.

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San Francisco, CA : Alton, you come up with such inventive and quirky ways of presenting (seemingly) ordinary ingredients. Do you come up with the ideas yourself, or do you have a whole creative team helping you out for each episode? I think your show rocks! thanks!

Alton Brown: I have a massive creative team, the problem team is there all imaginary - it's just me. The best ideas come when I stop taking the medication.

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Powder Springs, GA : Alton, You live in the South. When will we see a show that features Southern cuisine?

Alton Brown: What do you call buttermilk bicuits, baby back ribs, and skillet cornbread?

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Crivitz, WI : Alton, Hi there. Will you be offering another Good Eats apron in the near future and how does one go about getting an autographed photo. Love your show. Take care. RogerW

Alton Brown: We're considering a line of textile-oriented products. AS for the photo, I think my mom still has a few but she won't let me give out her number. Seriously, you can send picture requests to the Food Network at www.foodtv.com.

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Nashua, NH : "Good Eats" is like "Bill Nye" meets "Emeril". Is "Good Eats" based on a previous concept? Where did it come from? Thanks!

Alton Brown: It came from my being bored to death with other cooking shows. When I first wrote the concept for Good Eats, I did not know who Bill Nye was although I admit I was a big Pee Wee Herman fan.

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Nashville, TN : What are your top 3 pics for restaurants in New York City with great food & atmosphere?

Alton Brown: I can't afford the great restaurants in New York City. Although if I had to pick 3, I'd pick Babo, Nabu, and Pastis.

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Oak Ridge, TN : Tell us about your scientific background. You are so knowledgeable about the chemical interactions when cooking, that I was sure you were a scientist turned chef!

Alton Brown: I took all my high school and college science classes twice because I flunked them the first time. Besides, what I got in culinary school I am self trained - and proud of it!

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Detroit, Michigan : How should I go about beginning a career in the culinary field? Regards, Rickey

Alton Brown: That depends a lot on how old you are. Although I worked in restaurants through high school and college, I didn't turn to food as a career until I was in my 30s. So for me, it made sense for me to go to culinary school. For younger folks, I'd suggest working in as many restaurants as you can before making any financial investments. For my part, I went to New England Culinary Institute and I'm darn glad that I did.

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Rochester Hills, MI : Hi Alton, love your show. When you do lasagna, do you use cooked or uncooked noodles? -Why? I currently used cooked and I am thinking of switching because of water in the bottom of the pan. Thanks!

Alton Brown: I use cooked noodles. I find that uncooked noodles are too starchy and tend to release starch into the surrounding liquid. My suggestion to get around the water in your pan is to only cook the noodles to al dente and make the rest of the mixture drier and mix your cheeses so you have higher percentages of drier, aged cheeses rather than processed mozzarella. I also dust the bottom of my pans with grated parmesan.

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Rochester Hills, MI : What is your favorite style of cheesecake? Thanks

Alton Brown: I tend toward lighter cheesecakes. I find N.Y. style too dry and too compact. I use a higher percentage of sour cream and I whip it more so I get a softer custard.

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Arden, NC : Hi, AB. What is your favorite Good Eats episode and what is your favorite recipe from the show so far?

Alton Brown: That is amazingly difficult. They're like my kids, I lovem all! Some of the better recipes I think, have been the simplest. I really like our french onion soup, microwave applesauce, our garlic chicken and the rib eye steak from the very first episode. And of course the salmon smoked in a cardboard box.

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Manchester, Massachusetts : Hi. Good Eats is the only cooking show my husband actually watches with me. It's the chemistry-related stuff you add to the show. My question is: Did you start liking science and move into cooking, or was it the other way around? Neither? I just find the science/chemistry behind cooking interesting.

Alton Brown: The other way around. I discovered science through cooking. I also discovered history, engineering, anthropology - my understanding of everything on the planet came through food. The food came first, the science came second. Which is why I call myself the home ec teacher.

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San Diego, California : Alton, I love your show, you are very witty and obviously very good at what you do. I was curious however you always seem to have a "retro element" in your programs. Do you have an affection for vintage things?

Alton Brown: Yes. I wish I had been alive to hang out with Frank Sinatra.

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fort mill, sc : who is your favorite cook? of you contemporaries at foodtv?

Alton Brown: That's a politically motivated question. They didn't get their by stinking, they're all very talented in their own way.

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Albuquerque NM : Are there any foods that you'd like to do a show on but can't quite figure out how to present?

Alton Brown: Yes. There are foods that I'm fascinated with, like sweet breads and variety meats. But there really outside the Good Eats spectrum because they're not readily available at most grocery stories.

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Fort Mill, SC : do you always recommend brining a bird before cooking regardless of cooking method?

Alton Brown: Yes.

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Plainsboro, NJ : Tell us about the new show you are producing

Alton Brown: I oversaw the production of one season called Cooking Sin which airs on Saturday mornings on Food Network. I'm no longer involved in the project.

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Bakersfield, CA : We miss you on the FoodTV message boards, AB! We've been having a debate on the boards: How tall are you?

Alton Brown: I am 5' 11 and a half. And the reason I haven't been showing up on the foodtv message boards is because I can't figure out how to get it to work.

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Plano, TX : I really appreciate the chemistry lessons in your shows. It is easier to remember the principles and apply them to specific foods than it is to try to remember all of the different ways to cook and combine ingredients. It is a unique approach, and I am glad that you do it since I don't have the spare time to go to a culinary institute.

Alton Brown: Thanks.

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Phoenix, AZ : How about a a show on cookware? Or did I miss it? What do you (and W) recommend for a gas stove?

Alton Brown: Here's the problem with doing an appliance show: I set out to do a 1 hour show. Its impossible to do this without doing brand names and we tried very hard to do it without endorsing brand names. So I found it impossible to do. I am, however, I am contemplating a book on tools and appliances.

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Rittman, OH : You once did a show on pizza, which you explained what type a stone should be used in the oven. Could you share that again?

Alton Brown: Soap stone.

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Edgewood, PA : What is the difference between cake and all-purpose flour?? Should I ever use cake flour when they just call for "flour"?

Alton Brown: The difference is 2-fold: Cake flour has a much lower protein content than all-purpose flour. Because of that, it produces a "softer tooth". It is often also milled finer so it's easier to sift. I cannot think of a time when one would replace all-purpose flour with cake flour unless you were trying to fox a recipe that was already bad. Or you were trying to produce something with a more cake-like result. For instance, adapting a recipe for a southern-style cornbread to a Texas-style cornbread.

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Fairfax, VA : Hi Alton - Your fast-paced, good-humored, no-nonsense format intrigues me. Your show and The Naked Chef are my favorites. However, I'm distraught that your network has already begun the descent into an all-Emeril-all-the-time channel ... with too much of that obnoxious Bam! and not enough real cookin'. What's your take on the direction of the food TV industry?

Alton Brown: None of us would be here if it weren't for Emeril Lagasse. I'm not sure the planet would exist for him. The reason he's on as often as he is is because there are a lot of people that don't agree with you. Not to mention that he's one of the best cooks alive.

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Monroe, LA : With the books you have out, do you ever or have you ever done book signings?

Alton Brown: My first book is coming out in April and I will doing a lot of book signings. You can see my book tour schedule at www.altonbrown.com.

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St. Paul, MN : What is a good book on food science? I have already read Cookwise.

Alton Brown: All of us in the food science biz owe homage to Herald McGee whose book on food and cooking is the food science bible.

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Birmingham, AL : Congrats on the success of Good Eats. Its a great show Alton...keep up the good work! Do you have any plans on getting into the restaurant business (if you haven't done so already)?

Alton Brown: If the right pile of money came along, sure. Once you work in restaurants you never get them out of your system. But it's just about the most dangerous business to engage in financially. That said, I'm always lookin!

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Fort Mill, SC : you mentioned babo, do you work on any of the Mario Batali shows?

Alton Brown: Nope.

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St. Louis, MO : Alton, My husband suggested I ask you, "What's the freezing point of liquid propane?" But what I really want to know is, how do you get a good volume out of egg whites? Some recipes suggest fully whipping before adding the cream of tartar or you'll never get full volume??? LOVE your show!

Alton Brown: I add the cream of tartar half way. Froth the egg whites until they're foaming before adding the cream of tartar. But remember to add some sugar, that always helps too. As I can only assume your husband works in the propane industry - ask him. I assume that it has to do with not only temperature but with ambien temperature. I can tell you the boiling temperature of Butane is right around 45 degrees which is why disposable lighters won't light when they're cool.

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Comment from Alton Brown: The freezing point of freezing point of propane is minus 187.7 degrees Celsius.

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Allston MA : Alton, why are the recipes on the foodtv.com website so often very different from the procedures you use on the show? For example, the cheesecake recipe on the website is nothing like the one you walked through on the show!

Alton Brown: That means that I've made a mistake. Very often, I change a recipe at the last minute before shooting and I forget to change it on the web site. I will amend it immediately. I am sending my kitchen staff an e-mail about this as we speak.

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Reston, Virginia : Coconuts, plantains, ugly fruit... a few things I see in the stores and have no idea what to do with. Will you be doing any kind of show dealing with "oddball" type foods?

Alton Brown: Watch your television closely for a 1 hours Good Eats special called Down and Out in Paradise, in which I am ship-wrecked on a tropical island in which I must fend for myself in many-a-strange food.

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Rochester NY : How do you deal with Rooney being on both shows? Does Mario Eats Italy film in the summer? Or is Rooney just given slack in his "French Chef"-ing duties?

Alton Brown: He went from one show to the other. He has not been on Good Eats, he only does Mario now. You only see him on Good Eats reruns. He has upgraded.

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Southern California : Are you a Mac computer type of guy?

Alton Brown: Oh yes. I currently write all my shows on a G-4 titanium Powerbook. But I really want one of the new iMacs.

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Rochester, NY : Does your wife choose your wardrobe or someone at the bowling alley?

Alton Brown: My wife works at a bowling alley.

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Comment from Alton Brown: My wife actually produced the first 2 seasons of Good Eats and is now the executive producer of Good Eats.

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San Diego, California : What is the weirdest dish you've ever eaten?

Alton Brown: Eyeballs. Curried lamb eyes. Wacky and disgusting.

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Comment from Alton Brown: And thanks for reminding me, I almost got it out of my head!

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San Diego, California : What is the best cookware made of? Aluminum, stainless steel..?

Alton Brown: A combination of aluminum and stainless steel. The best all purpose cookware involves copper or aluminum sandwiched between outer layers of stainless steel.

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Arden, NC : I loved the eggplant show with Mr. Macgregor. Will you feature him in an upcoming rabbit show? LOL

Alton Brown: If he doesn't die first, he's very old.

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Rochester NY : What do you read in your leisure time? Any author recommendations?

Alton Brown: Sure. I'm walking to my bed side table right now...I have 4 books going at the moment. One is a children's book, A World But Only By Fire, an examination of the transition from the Medieval Age to the Renaissance. I'm reading Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, and I'm re-reading the entire Dr. Seuss cannon which has nothing to do with the fact that I have a 2-year-old daughter. I also read Scientific American along with every other magazine published in English.

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St. Louis, MO : Love your show! In the recent cocoa episode, you said to cut the brownies before they cool. The recipe on foodtv says the opposite. Which is better and why?

Alton Brown: Cut them before they cool. The reason is because once the crust sets, it's very difficult to get a clean cut.

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San Diego, California : What is your impression of those "Turbo" cookware they show on infomercials. Is it a scam, or does it really have a place in the kitchen?

Alton Brown: Fearing large legal teams, I will only tell you that I choose not to own such things because I like food too much. Anything called Turbo that doesn't belong on a racetrack, there's a problem with.

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Comment from Alton Brown: Be leery of anything called Turbo that doesn't move!

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Comment from Alton Brown: But that doesn't mean that all good cookware has to be expensive. My favorite pan for cooking eggs is Teflon-coated aluminum and costs $13 at a restaurant supply shop. The trick is to not ask a tool to do something that it is not designed to do.

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Bakersfield, CA : I loved seeing Zoey on the honey episode! Any chance she'll be doing more guest spots? P.S. I'm so sorry about the passing of your grandmother. You were very kind to share her wisdom on the biscuit show.

Alton Brown: Thank you. I miss my grandmother especially because she owed me money. I'm in negotiations with my daughter's agents but they're holding out for big bucks. So whose to say what'll happen...

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Baker, Louisiana : I love your show, Good Eats, nice to see a Southern Boy show them how its done. I really enjoy tomato season, but my success with grilling and cooking them is often hit or miss. Why don't you do a show on tomatoes, especially heirlooms and ways to cook them besides in a sauce? Here in Louisiana we pickle them, fry them, grill them, saute them and yes, sometimes even make sauces (when they make in from the garden without being eaten). When I grill them, I usually coat with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings. I am sure the differences are due to variety in the fire, what can I do to regulate the conditions without giving up the flavor from the grill? - Doug

Alton Brown: Slow down. Slow down the heat. The best flavor I've ever gotten out of cooking tomatoes is making my own oven-dried. I put them on a rack on a sheet pan, I sprinkle them with olive oil, salt, sugar, pepper and thyme and cooked them on the my lowest oven setting for 24 hours. Grilling tomatoes requires a firm variety at excruciatingly high heat. I suggest doing this on a grill that has large cast iron grates rather than thin iron grates - and if you cook on gas, forget about it. And by the way, look for a fresh tomato show on Good Eats. My favorite is friend green tomatoes.

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Boston, MA : I am doing the Adkins diet. My wife & I really like your show. (the chocolate show was our favorite) Can you help give me advice on how not to overcook chicken? I am ok on roasters, but boneless breasts always come out rubbery or dry.

Alton Brown: High heat for a shorter period of time. I never cook chicken past 160 degrees ever. But too many people tend to cook it slowly which only serves to dry our the meat. Chicken is pretty resilient - the faster you get it to temperature, the better. I find that brining makes a huge difference and don't be afraid spices. My favorite chicken spice is cumin.

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Batavia, IL : You have the most creative, informative cooking show I've seen. And it is fun too. Love it. Thanks for all the hard work.

Alton Brown: Your welcome.

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Southern California : A new generation of Doctors like Weil think food is therapeutic, do you agree?

Alton Brown: Yes. Absolutely. Food is the first medicine as well as being fuel. In fact, with my own diet, I've actually gotten into the habit (because I tend toward chubbiness), I have a list of foods that I have to have including: fatty fish, sweet potatoes and dark greens - and oatmeal. Oatmeal is full of those soluble fibers which are great. I've known cancer patients who have turned themselves around just on diet. I'm also a believer in red wine.

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Southern California : Have you ever noticed the first psychologist question people always ask is "If you could be any food what would you be?"

Alton Brown: A tuna. They swim 50 miles per hour. Who wouldn't want to do that? They're the Porsches of the sea.

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Washington, DC : How do you feel about being the sexiest food host on TV?

Alton Brown: Getting more comfortable with it every day.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010