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Evening With AB for Tsunami Relief

    On March 4, 2005, AB entertained xx of guests for a fund raiser for Unicef's 2004 Tsunami Relief. Tickets were sold in various locations including eBay and more than $10,000 was raised. The evening was held at Salud! Cooking & Lifestyle School located inside of Harry's Farmers Market at 1180 Upper Hembree Road, Roswell, Georgia.
     Grayson, one of our regular on-line posters, won a bid and wrote an excellent review of the event which follows ...

OK, Folks. First the review and then a big steaming pile of pics from last night.

The evening started for me with a 2+ hour Friday afternoon drive to get from one side of Atlanta (Duluth) to the other (Roswell) in time for the 6:30PM 'soft-start' of the class. Oh, I made it ... with almost 10 minutes to spare.

The group for the class (we waited for a while outside the room while AB and team prepared) was actually a fairly quiet and reserved bunch. I tried engaging a few folks in line in conversation without much success or comfort. To tell the truth, it was a little like being Ralphie from "A Christmas Story" waiting in line for Santa!

Oh ... and "Biscotti"? If you were there why the heck didn't ya introduce yourself?  It's sure not like you don't know what I look like!

So, on to the evening's festivities ...
They opened the doors and let the group in at 6:30PM on the dot. AB was already setting up, and left the kitchen area to greet us personally. The classroom itself was large, well-appointed, and staffed with 5-6 HWF folks and volunteers to assist the 25 attendees. They laid out a nice dinner spread for us (Spicy pork tenderloin, polenta w/manchego cheese, jicama slaw, and confetti corn) along with a choice of (a very nice) red or white wine. AB poured himself a glass of white (with a hilarious review commentary on it's aroma ... I can't quote it well) and made small talk with us while we scarfed.

At ~645PM we began (early). AB began with an informal Q&A session, and I got to pick up the following tidbits ...

  1. The coq-au-vin flaming up was intended!

  2. He is really ticked at the # of errors in IJHMF (esp. the baby aspirin instead of Vitamin C in the pizza dough). He recommended getting a replacement copy.

  3. The GE crew is moving to a new permanent Atlanta soundstage set (again, the transition should be invisible to viewers) when they begin shooting the new season in March.

  4. AB ran through a number of new show themes (including sushi and peas) ... but the biggest news? A GOOD EATS WINE SHOW (he thought the John Cleese "Wine for the Confused" special (in his words) SUCKED! He was surprised, as John Cleese is generally an excellent video educator (owns a biz training video company) and one of AB's role models ... but that show was NOT "John Cleese"! AB plans to treat the subject of wine correctly and with a healthy dose of humor, now that FN has finally given him a green-light.
    AB also introduced his assistant (Tammie Cook, a lovely woman who is AB's only full-time personal employee) and a sharp young GE intern named Hugh Amano who he's trying to talk into staying ... mainly cuz he cooks up some excellent set lunches! Oh ... and ALL 3 of them are NECI graduates!
    It's also important to note that EVERYONE who participated in providing the class (AB, Tammie, Hugh, and all the Harry's Whole Foods folks) was donating their time and resources ... no one got paid for their hard work that night, and that was the reason I was able to go and still make this event a tax-deductible donation!

  5. Related to #3, AB also plans  a number of shows titled " GOOD DRINKS". AB grew up in the 60's/early 70's cocktail culture of Southern CA, and really wants to help grown-ups find ways to have FUN again. He told us a great little story about being a little kid laying on the floor of his bedroom listening to his parents' cocktail parties ... they were in the TV/film business ... and hearing Zsa Zsa Gabor's laughter from downstairs!
    So expect the vision of AB in a Hef-inspired smoking jacket/ascot combo with a martini shaker sometime soon!

  6. So the cooking class itself gets under way at 7PM on the dot. The theme of the evening is one of AB's favorite foods ... ICE CREAM!

  7. He began (of course!) with the science of ice cream, and we conducted a group experiment. Everyone put clothes-pins on our noses and tried two very different vanilla ice creams - one was AB's ultra-premium concoction and the other was the nasty cheap stuff. He wanted us to ignore our tastebuds/noses and just sense the texture of the two foods. We talked about the chewiness/slow melt of the really good stuff ... and I got high marks for the analogy that the good ice cream was almost like eating frozen butter! Lots of whiteboard/visual aid time to explore the subject of ice cream chemistry (but alas ... no Shirley Corriher).

  8. AB then presented what he and the GE team came up with as the "Holy Grail" of ice cream recipes. This base (see pic of the whiteboard recipe) is used for all of his ice creams. There were a few audience gasps at the amount of egg yolks in the recipe, but AB asked us not to be frightened.
    I mentioned I wasn't frightened, as I had been through a Paula Deen class. He said, "Yeah ... except with her recipe it'd end with deep-frying!"

  9. AB did a riff on the ice cream recipe being unintentionally "South Beach friendly". He then (get this Shawn and Ghost!) shared his own SB experience from last year.
    He asked who in the class had tried it. I raised my hand. He asked me how much I lost. Then he said ..."You know what I lost on South Beach? MY WILL TO LIVE!" Evidently AB went through H-E-double hockeysticks on SB (and so did his staff). The opportunity to taste breads, cobblers, and the like was just torture for him, so he gave up on it. Tammie concurred that the experience was rough on everybody at GE!

  10. AB called a couple folks out of the audience to help him in the kitchen. He really stayed in the front and taught while they worked in the back with his assistants. Though not much interaction with them ... he did manage to find a little red-haired cutie from the group (again pics below)!

  11. We talked about alternative sugars (maple syrup and honey are problematic in ice cream due to the different chemical structure) ... we talked about essential oils as the best flavor source ... we talked about 'chunkies' and when to add them (he likes to add half as churning starts, and the other half at the end... he also likes to paddle 'smush-ins' of whatever you like as good entertainment for the kids!) ... we talked about using cocoa to make chocolate ice cream due to the problems using whole chocolate (the cocoa butter doesn't melt at the same time as the ice cream, resulting in a waxy taste) ... and we talked about cooling/setting the ice cream mixture in the fridge BEFORE churning (thus making sure the thermal trip from liquid to ice cream is as short as possible).
    We also went off-topic on the subject of getting your kids cooking ... something very close to his heart. AB feels the lack of cooking expertise and poor knowledge of good food is at the root of our national obesity epidemic. He also bristles at people who say something to the effect of "I don't have time for that ... I gotta take them to soccer practice." He offers that "MAKE TIME! Unless you got the second coming of Pele, soccer ain't gonna feed them when they grow up!". AB said that cooking with your kids is perhaps the single most important piece of life-education you can give to them them (and I heartily agree).

  12. AB's favorite ice cream? Mint Chocolate Chip! He makes his with peppermint oil and Andes mints (half stirred into the cooled liquid and churned; half at the end). I had some ... AMAZING!

  13. About 8:30 PM the cooking was done and the ice cream was churning. AB adjourned to the back of the room for photo opps and autographs without a break.

  14. The groups made their way through over the next hour, and he took time with each of us. Denise had stopped by the store, and they let her in to the class so we could take the photo together (a very classy move). AB was funny and engaging 1-on-1 as well, and we had a great conversation about his 'fandom'.
    We talked about some of the scary folks he's encountered ... including a lady at a book-signing with his image tattooed on herself (uncharacteristically, I didn't ask where)! He saw my printout from the GEFP-submitted Q&A questions, and asked if he should check it out. He then said, "No, I better not. It's kind of 'crossing the beams'!" He is kind of uncomfortable when he hears people drive cross-country to see him ... something I think proves him to be an enthusiastic teacher, but a reluctant celebrity.
    AB thanked me for the questions (I think he thought I might be in the food trade ... how cool is that?) and bantered/flirted with Denise. I thanked HIM for giving his time and making this happen on behalf of UNICEF (the final total for the evening was over $10K raised!) and he kind of misted up. And I think our photo together turned out great!
    Oh ... and he apparently REALLY likes wristwatches. He complimented mine (an Omega Speedmaster) and offered his own HUGE "Wolfgang Puck-sized" Montblanc for inspection. Again, serious coolness!

  15. By the time we closed down (almost 10 o'clock), the store itself was over an hour past closing! AB was a gracious and attentive host, and Harry's Whole Foods (thank you Ashley and team!) made sure it was worth every penny. For those of you in ATL, I highly recommend the Salud cooking schools held at that location. I know Denise and I will be returning.

Supplementary Edit: A couple of folks in the class did 'recognize' me from the GEFP and passed on their compliments. It appears the recipes and show transcripts are quite popular in the "lurker" community. So a round of applause for Mike and the GEFP permanent residents!

Now, I hope all y'all enjoy the pics! [click on a picture to enlarge]

AB greets the class and starts a Q&A session

 

The class dutifully installs our clothes-pins for ice cream tasting (kinda does looks like someone just 'ripped one', yanno?)

The science of ice cream! This is serious business, folks!
The one true and Holy Grail of Ice Cream Base Recipes (no killer rabbit spotted)!
AB comments on the sad little wilted bunch of visual-aid mint
The Master at work
AB puts the class to work (esp. the redheaded cutie!)
"At no time will my hands leave my wrists!"
The vanity-serving photos begin! Yours truly with Tamie and Hugh
Me with two hard-working Salud Cooking School volunteers
The Payoff - Our AB Photo Opp!
Advertisement at Salud! website ...

Friday, March 4th

An Evening with Alton Brown
Alton Brown
7:009:00 p.m.    tickets available by auction on ebay or at Salud!
Join us for what will be a memorable, informative and delightful evening with Alton Brown. Alton will demonstrate recipes from his books and you'll have time to ask questions and chat with Alton! You'll also go home with signed copies of not one, but two of his books: I'm Just Here for the Food and I'm Just Here for More Food. Best of all, all proceeds will benefit UNICEF's Tsunami Disaster Relief. Auction opens on February 22nd and closes on March 1st. Purchasers are welcome to bring their cameras for a picture with Alton.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010