Georgia's State Flags,
Home of Good Eats
Below are reports of Alton's Book Signing tour in May & June, 2002
|Los Angeles, CA (April 27): By rwucla
My fiancée Vivien (VeeTee) and I showed up at the UCLA Book Festival at around 11:00 am wearing our ‘I’m A Briner T-shirts’ and skipping around like children do at Disneyland. There was already a buzz forming and people gathering. I was impressed at the breadth of the event – stages and booths set up everywhere you looked, food stations and bathrooms conveniently situated, information and help at every corner.
Of course, we went (ran) immediately to the Cooking Stage to stake out our spot in the audience. Sure, AB wasn’t due until 2:00 pm, but we just wanted to check out the territory. Upon arrival, we gleefully noticed that the only people present were event staff and some media representatives. We quickly snatched the two front seats and sat brimming with the pride that only a 5 year old can feel. As I flipped through the program guide while Viv read the MikeMenn-AB interview script for the 4th time, we overheard AB’s PR rep bringing some media folk up to speed about Good Eats and Alton Brown. Then she said, “oh yeah… he’s here right now,” and pointed towards the back of the stage under a shaded tent. Needless to say, Viv and I quickly looked at each other at the same time.
“NO ... WAY!!!”
Apparently, AB was there early setting up for his cooking demonstration. I then introduced myself to Amy, his PR assistant who was very nice and we chatted about how great AB is and how loyal and intelligent his following had become. Suddenly, in the wink of an eye, AB came out from under the tent. There he was - dressed in a black button-down (I think bowling) shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. He checked over the stage set up, looked up at the sky for a hint of the unpredictable weather, then whisked back behind the stage but never made eye contact with either of the lonely two spectators in the audience. I became numb. Very surreal.
The next thing we knew, he came out again and was being interviewed by a media group. I approached to take some pictures, then as AB finished, he got up walked towards Amy and myself. He saw me and extended his hand out. I thanked him for the show and Amy pointed out my t-shirt to him. “Oh, my GAWD!” a stunned AB said. I turned around and he read the back then laughed out loud. I think he was more impressed and flattered than afraid, as you’ll soon read. But anyway, by this time, Vivien had almost passed out but managed to move herself over and introduce herself (I had forgotten my manners). AB was very cordial, very approachable and funny! He remarked at Viv’s engagement ring and made several other witty comments – none of which I can remember at this point. We took pictures as if we were long lost best friends and then he scooted off with his small entourage, I assume to have lunch somewhere else on campus.
Left in a daze, we sat semi-conscious through a restaurant critic panel and then Nobu’s cooking demo. Still 2 hours away from AB’s appearance, I started seeing people here and there cradling The Book in their hands. I wondered if any of them were GEFP regulars ...
At the end of Nobu’s demo at 1:00, the stage coordinator announced that AB would be presenting in one hour, and there was an unexpected cheer from the crowd. So, I thought, AB will be happy that there are other fans here to see him. But little did I know the extent of his fan turnout.
Okay, now before you read on, make sure you’re gripping your seat. Shortly thereafter, AB arrived wearing a gaudy Hawaiian black shirt, and the crowd had swelled to about 3 or 4 hundred. The crowd roared as he jumped down from the stage and immersed himself in the throngs of fans. He took a picture here, lifted a baby there, and cracked a joke everywhere. He seemed comfortable with the crowd and eager to talk to his admirers. For the next full hour, he mingled and took pictures with his fans. Some had him sign his book. Others had him talk to friends on cell phones. He complied no matter what. Pure charisma at work. A line about 20 strong formed to take pictures with him giving off the effect of Santa Claus shopping mall lines. During this happy clamoring, I was fortunate enough to meet some of his other fans (including klammy, DanC, and Jodie) who were all fun-loving GE addicts.
People LOVED the T-shirts – AB, Amy, the stage coordinator and 8 or 9 others asked where we got them. AB was definitely flattered by them and I highly recommend you wear and buy them, if you haven’t already. What surprised me the most was the huge undercurrent of fans that just watch his show and aren’t regularly on-line. They really represented the bulk of the turnout today.
Well, eventually, the great show began – on smoking ribs by use of a trash can, brine and braise. It was sooooooooo good that I guarantee that people will pay to see this guy someday. I swear to that because he is such a showman. He was witty, eloquent, and articulate but was also equally passionate about sharing his knowledge of the cooking methods in his recipe. He used the audience effectively and showed very good impromptu humor skills, slapstick, etc. Throughout the show, he made cracks about Emeril (his helicopter flying in) and Martha S. that were so hilarious I almost doubled over every time. He has the uncanny ability to read his audience and feed its energy into his presentation. I also learned that some upcoming shows will feature strawberries, yogurt, artichokes (whohoo! finally!), and tuna (where he dies at the beginning).
It was easy for me to see that his TV personality is a carry over of how he really is and that is what impressed me the most – he talked just like he talks on the show and he was quick and witty just like he is quick and witty on the show. It’s already hard being able to do that with a script, but even more rare in the form of a natural talent without a script. AB was by far the biggest draw of any demo I saw today. There was not an open seat to be found, so people started sitting on the grass, and standing on the sides.
Finally, after the show ended at 3:00, we left our seats and headed to the tent opposite the stage on the other side of the grass field where AB would be signing books. As fast as we managed to weave through the crowd to get there, however, there was already a huge line formed. This line doubled over 3 times and was at least 10 times longer than the next longest line. It felt like Disneyland again – waiting in line to ride Space Mountain. It got to the point where I started feeling sorry for the other cooks and authors. The Good Eats fans had made a statement.
40 minutes later, we met AB again. We gave him some Krispy Kreme donuts in case he was hungry and he hurriedly packed it away with a sly smile on his face. He graciously signed our salt cellar and book (even though Viv forgot to have him address my name as well as hers on the book title page) and shook our hands once more.
All in all – a VERY surreal experience. Mark your calendars for HIS arrival to your area. Bring your books and salt cellars. Bring your t-shirts and cameras. I don’t know if I can sleep tonight, but it’s been a comfortable dream all day long.
|Atlanta, GA (May 9): By chocoholly
Wow, what fun, and claustrophobic horror at the same time!!! Borders was quite a large store, and with a quick guestimation, my fun little group was at least 100 people back in the line, and it spanned for miles behind us. I would safely say there were 300 people crammed in there.
I got to meet GoldenChefBoy from our DFBN club, (he says he came from here, but I am not sure what his ID is here on the message board.) And I got to meet a gal who said she is an old timer in here, but basically a lurker now, so don't know here ID here either ... lol.
Darren was there, but I never got to see him. Sorry I missed you Sue. I had my Briner shirt in hand, so as not to get it all sweaty before asking AB to sign it.
As Sue said, he was late, because of the Rosie thing, but once he got there, was the ever quick-witted AB, answering questions, and had everyone laughing.
One thing that we got, (tho, those of you NOT at the exact perfect spot in line as I was may not be aware of this), that the rest of you WON'T get was ...
A kid in line right beside me got on his dads shoulders and AB selected him for a question, and the little kid said, "Your nephew is here!" but, of course for all the tall people AB couldn't even see me, much less the "nephew" the little one was talking about, so AB just kinda dealt with it ...
Then, I looked at the kid, and I said, "Hey, ARE you the
fella who played Elton?"
Then his "stage dad" (as opposed to those dreadful stage moms ...) began to talk ... and talk ... and talk ... ad infinitum.
Eventually, we made our way to the table. I think he thought I
was totally retarded!!!
"To Holly, Princess of the kitchen, AB"
And if that weren't enough, he was good enough to let everyone pose for a pic with him, so I told him to do the bunny ear thing behind my head!!!! LOL I guess he complied, (couldn't see behind my head.) And then he asked why do that, I said, "because you can!!!" Hopefully the Borders boy who took the pic can focus...I have a totally manual Nikon, and set the aperture and shutter speed, and told him to turn "this thing" till the pic was clear, then press "this button". LOL
And lastly, I made three new friends, and we swapped email addresses, (already heard from one of them), and they are going to come here, and to the DFBN club!!
Whew ... After the signing, I stopped by my local pub for a pitcher with me mates, as the GEFP people got all spread out and lost from each other.
Late development, the son just got back to his apartment at college, and Im-ed me, and said a guy in line right in front of him had AB do his answer machine message!! How cool!!
Anyway, got a few emails to take care of, I am sure I will think of a few more things to post tomorrow!!!
|Cleveland, OH (May 11): By Susan
I am still floating on air and was somewhat flustered around him. One young girl asked him if there was a poster of him and he said that there was (foodtv) and he got all flustered and didn't understand why anyone would want a poster of him. He doesn't see himself as a rock star. It was soooo cute! There were only two of us with t-shirts and he signed mine! And he remembered my friend Judy--after he gave it some thought. He may be back in Cleveland this summer for another cooking class. I have to stay up with that. There was no food demonstration. It was sro. I got there 3 hours ahead and was worried for him that there weren't going to be many people there. He took photos with everyone including me. I took lots of pictures (not sure they came out yet).
What I remember he said:
All my best, Susan "exhausted but happy" Greene
PS He is a little freaked out by those who know everything about him and the details within the episodes. He explained that there is often more than one way of doing something that accomplishes pretty much the same thing--at least that is how is explained some of the inconsistencies.
|New York, Macy's & Barnes and Noble (June 3-4):
I took a friend (Beth) – we left NM on Saturday to go to Philly first to try out Morimoto’s new place (figured since we were headed east, why not!) Arrived fairly late in the day, headed downtown to see if we could sneak in a day early. Unfortunately, they were booked. Ate at Buddakon – a trendy Asian food place that was pretty good.
On Sunday, we did the liberty bell/independence hall tour on bit, then the museum of art (where Rocky ran up the steps in the movie). That took all day until our 5:00 reservations at Morimoto. The restaurant is very cool. We sat at the sushi bar, had the omakase (chef’s choice) dinner. It was more than I had ever spent on food, and it was worth every penny. If you want more details on the meal, e-mail me and we’ll talk. Sadly, Morimoto had just returned from Japan the day before (filming an Iron Chef special) and had taken ill – they sent him home before we got there. So, we pushed back our train leaving Philly on Monday morning, and went back to Morimoto’s for lunch to see if we could catch him. Turned out that he was there and he spent a few minutes talking to us and took some pictures. He’s a nice guy, and an amazing chef. The sushi we had for lunch was unbelievable – it will be a very long time until I go back to my local sushi place because I’ve been completely spoiled now.
After Monday lunch, hopped the train to NYC to head to ALTON!!! Penn station happens to be just a few blocks from the Macys, so we ran there, and signed up on the list – even though we had tickets they had a list running for seating. We got pretty close to the top. Hung around in Macys for a few hours until it was time to get in line to go in. Alton came out while we were waiting and made small talk with the group for about 10 minutes. My brain for some reason shut off when he came by so I didn’t say anything to him at that point.
We head into class, had a lot of fun for a couple of hours. He taught us how to make Fire and Ice Salad, Ramen Radiator, Flower Pot Chicken, and a totally kick-ass grilled cheese sandwich using gorgonzola cheese, chocolate chips and marshmallows. I know, sounds weird, but it was REALLY good. Lizzy is going to be posting the recipes, so I won’t do it here.
There were lots of questions – Beth asked him about doing a show for lactose intolerant folks – he said he wasn’t a medical person and didn’t want to go there and that he’s not lactose intolerant – it’s an ugly rumor. I think in Mike’s interview with him he says something about getting punched by "lactose man" in an episode – I’m now reading that to mean he was portraying a lactose intolerant person to make a point. But I digress ...
Alton said he no longer puts the aromatics in the turkey cavity – it serves no purpose other than to nicely scent your kitchen (which isn’t a bad reason on it’s own, but does nothing for the bird) He also no longer puts anything under the skin of chicken. He was very relaxed, very funny and took his time explaining and answering questions. The hostess lady had to push him along towards the end to make the final recipe.
Afterwards, AB signed books for everyone. Beth and I got in line at the end, and we chatted with him for a few minutes. He was very attentive to each person in line and he asked us almost as many questions as we asked him. He looked shocked when we told him where we were from, and he asked why we didn’t just go to LA. We said we wanted to take a class, and couldn’t get in to the one there (or Chicago for that matter) I told him that I hadn’t cooked a thing for about two years until I started watching his show – he wanted to know why so I explained a bit about very late training hours and the fireball from my gas oven kind of scared me for a while (I lost a lot of hair and some skin). Beth was being helpful and chimed in that I didn’t have eyebrows for a month. We gave him a decorative tile from NM, and he looked really flattered that we had brought him a gift. He insisted we take a picture with him (more on pictures later). (We had brought cameras to take pictures of him, but B and I had an agreement of no pictures of us) Anyway, Alton won that debate, we told him we’d see him the next night at the Union Square signing and parted ways. We did ask him to try to come to Abq, he said he'd look into it and see if it was possible ( I just looked at his schedule, I'm not seeing any free space, darn it)
Went and rescued our luggage from lockup at the train station and headed for the hotel. What a friggin great day that was ...
Next morning, head for ground zero. While waiting after getting tickets, I take my film to a one hour photo place. After being thoroughly saddened at the trade center site, I go pick up my pictures. The guy tells me my film was either A) old – it wasn’t, B) exposed to radiation – it wasn’t, and C) exposed to light – not by me it wasn’t. They are all screwed up – yellow and blurry. I wasn’t sure it wasn’t my fault at that point, so I didn’t have much recourse. (after I got home and hubby checked the negative, turns out the photo shop guy had screwed them up – not me) Anyway, I’m mega bummed, but we figure that we can take Beth’s pictures in while we go do some shopping. We do a quick statue of liberty viewing, and soho run, then head back towards Macys to finish up there. Drop off her film, return 1.5 hours later to get it and the machine has spit out her negatives but won’t do anything else. After 30 minutes (we are getting close to missing Daily Show), we take the negatives, run for about a mile to find a cab at rush hour, get to the daily show and I get in line and she hunts for another place to finish the pics while we go to the taping. She finds a place on the corner, leaves the negs and we go to the Daily Show.
Daily Show was a lot of fun – the warm up guy was really funny and Jon Steward is a very funny, very small person. They knock the show out in one take, and Jon disappears. Mo Rocca was there, in this awful suit, and did a bit on backyard wrestlers. So, we get out of there at 7:10, go get Beth’s film. It’s blue. Yep, blue. And all the pictures she took during the class were missing. No time to sulk, had to catch a cab to union square. Our cabby gets into it with another guy (hit his bumper), our guy gets out, and spits a huge snot ball on the other. We get out of the cab because this guy is kind of freaky. We catch another, and finally get to union square about 7:30.
We caught the last half of AB’s talk, and just hang around for a while waiting for the line to go down. There were a lot of folks. About halfway through the line, AB look up and around the room, and sees me and Beth sitting there. His eyes got real big and he made this funky little grin. We finally got up there, he said "hey, it’s the Albuquerque girls" and I had him sign my book again, and Beth bought three more for siblings. We asked to retake the picture of the three of us from the night before, and he said "of course" . We had him sign the class menu (we had forgotten) and snagged two posters that he signed for us – Mine says "Hallie – go home!) . There were so many jokes about stalking him we were wondering if we had freaked him out but we’re pretty sure he was playing with us. We weren’t the only ones there from the class the night before. The tall guy (Barnes and Noble person?) was getting a little bent about AB taking so much time ...
Met Lizzy at the signing, went to dinner at the place with the rude waitress, and then headed for an all night staples to ship our posters home. Lizzy refers to puppy love with Mikey in her post – Mikey was a half border collie that came in the store with a customer and loved to be scratched. Didn’t want ya’ll to think we were doing anything weird.
Anyway, I went being a great fan (enthusiast) of the show, and now I’m also a great fan of the man. He was an excellent presenter and speaker. I had been worried about Beth acting all goofy around him, turns out I was the one what had trouble keeping my sentences straight. AB was so nice to everyone who came to see him, talked to people, took his time and didn’t rush anyone away. He didn’t have to be so sweet to us, I doubt many other folks would have been. And Lizzy is right, the man does have one hell of a smile…:)
Anyway, that’s the trip. If any of you see him, tell him Hallie from the Albuquerque girls says "Hello".
|Freehold, NJ (June 5): By Jennifer A. W.
On June 5th at 6:30, my husband, 2-year old son and I made the 45 minute trek to Freehold. I was so excited. I brought my "I'm Just Here For The Food" book and my salt cellar. I was expecting about 10 - 20 people to be there.
When we finally arrived at 7:15, 15 minutes before the book signing, we about fell over when we saw about 200 people already there! I was so happy for Alton Brown, but disappointed for me!
When he appeared and one of the book reps was introducing him, it was so exciting to see him live chatting with some fans. For some strange reason, I always thought he was about 6'1", so when I saw him to be about 5'10", I was a bit surprised! (Every time I meet a celebrity, usually their height is something I notice. Don't ask me why, I have no clue.)
The book rep made a mistake when introducing him and said the name of the show was "Good Eating". You should have seen Alton's face. He was so shocked that they got the name wrong, but it was TOO funny when EVERYONE yelled out "Good Eats" at the exact same time. I am sure that book rep was so embarrassed.
Alton was so funny. He explained why he decided to write his book and what he hoped it would do for the general public. Basically, increase our knowledge of food so we can enjoy our food better.
Then, he did a Q&A period for 30 minutes. He did say that the woman that plays his sister is an actress (some of my audience thought she was really family). He made a comment that if she was his real sister, she would have been dead already. Everybody laughed! He did say that his web site should be getting more salt cellars in as well as some clothes, like aprons!
You could tell he had a great sense of humor, and that he is indeed the writer of the show. The same humor on the show was there at this book signing!
After that, he started the actual autographs. I, unfortunately, never stayed long enough to get an autograph. I waited in line for 30 minutes and he signed MAYBE 20 books. I was disappointed for me, but it made me see what a great guy he was. Taking time with each fan to answer questions, sign whatever they had and posing for pictures. Just to clarify, I didn't leave because I am not a die hard fan, but rather I am pregnant and have suffered 4 miscarriages. I was getting dizzy, so I felt that I needed to leave. Plus, everyone standing near me felt that we had another good 90 minutes to wait before he got to us!
It was very exciting to see him, and I do hope I actually can meet him next time!
|Paramus, NJ (June 6): By Michele
Well, I was at the signing tonight and it was so much fun! Alton
was SUCH a NICE PERSON! I really didn't think he was going to be sooo much
like he is on the show. He is so funny, witty, and shockingly easy to talk
to. My lord, he acted just like a good old fashion human being instead of
a tv show personality :o) (not that I've met many of them, except the Iron
Chefs... and they didn't speak English for the most part :o)
|Richmond, VA (June 7): By Kyle
I drove the hour and a half from Williamsburg and got there a couple of hours early. After lunch, I too almost ran into AB as I was heading to the line--I came out of a pub and he came out of the next (Italian) restaurant with his publicist and almost ran into me (what a thrill!) As he first caught sight of the line, he said to his handler "Oh my God! Look at the size of that line!" It seems he still doesn't get how popular he is. The line eventually ran clear down the street and wrapped around to the other block.
I was number 150 or so and waited about an hour and twenty minutes to get called up to the signing room. There were at least that many people behind me and many without numbers. I chatted to many folks in line--at least three groups I talked to had driven up from North Carolina (3 hours +) to be there.
Once in "the room" we could hear AB talking and joking with everyone there. He even got up on his knees on top of the signing table so a woman in crutches would not have to maneuver around the table to get to him (What a guy! And yes, there were some pictures taken of this. If mine come out and I can find someone with a scanner, I'll post them.)
He greeted everyone with "Hi, I'm Alton!" and offered up his hand to shake (I may never "Wash that Altony hand again"). He was very nice (His publicist--a very friendly young women who is escorting him on the tour said, while she worked the line, that he was one of the nicest people she had EVER worked with on a book tour). I brought him a colonial cookbook from Williamsburg and he was very grateful. He signed my salt cellar, (he asked- "Can I sign this the way I like to? to which I answered "Yes, of course. It's for me, not ebay." He was astounded at the market on ebay for Good Eats stuff (He called it "outrageous"). He wanted to know a little something about all the people I was having books signed for and he signed them all differently. He thanked me again for the gift and looked in the book to make sure I signed it (I did and also put in my email address--I'll let you all know if he emails me a thank you). He said "I hate it when people give me a book and don't sign it themselves--especially at a book signing."
I then took pictures of AB and the next gentlemen in line, who had been nice enough to take a picture of my signing. He brought AQ a box of fresh Krispy Kreams from North Carolina (AB smelled them right away) and a necklace for AB's wife because he didn't want AB to get in trouble with her by returning home empty handed from his trip. AB was VERY grateful of this and when the crowd laughed, he said, "No, I was worried about that. You have to take care of that stuff. It's important!"
Then it was time to go. I got out around 1:40PM and the line outside still snaked down the street. I was so impressed with him-he is extremely personable and approachable. All in all, it was a great signing.
I took the remainder of the afternoon to go to two restaurant supply stores (a very Good Eats thing to do) looking for bargains. I went out with my wife for a great dinner at the Trellis in Williamsburg to celebrate the day. All in all, a GREAT day!
Sorry for the length of this, but I'm still all pumped up from the event.
PS--Unlike Harvey, the bookstore people were great to me and they were even serving Root Beer from a local micro-brewery to people in line. A class act--Fountain Books in Richmond!
(My apologies up front about the length of this…)
I went to the Richmond signing Friday, driving 3+ hours from
Raleigh to get there. Once there I had to make good on my promise from The
Washington Post online chat. Some of you may have remembered my earlier
postings on (a) the melt-in-your-mouth goodness that is a hot Krispy Kreme glazed donut straight off the conveyor belt and (b) my many messages
with questions and thanks to all the fellow turkey briners who helped this
vegetarian make his way through his first turkey brining.
Driving down Cary Street in Richmond and hitting the cobblestone road that led to the Fountain Bookstore I checked my watch and found that it was an hour after the signing had started. The line by that point was out the door and all the way up the block. I parked and hoped that I'd make it through the line in the remaining two hours.
Luckily I had followed the advice on Mikemenn's site and called Fountain Books to pre-order AB's book and get a "preferred" spot in line. Turned out my number block had already been called but the person overseeing the signing whisked me into the store and into the line to see The Man himself.
(mikemenn – anytime you're in the Raleigh area, the Krispy Kremes are on me. I really owe you one!)
The signing was held on the second floor of the bookstore, a section not usually opened to the public. AB was seated at a table talking with everyone and signing whatever had been requested of him. The thing that impressed me the most was that AB really was taking the time to speak to each person in line as they came up to the table. He usually started off the conversation by extending his hand and saying, "Hi, I'm Alton." From that point on until he finished signing the book and whatever pictures were taken, he gave each person his undivided attention.
That is, until I was third in line. The woman at the table with him looked at the plastic bag in my hand with the two boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts and said, "Oooh, the Krispy Kreme guy. You made it!" At which point Alton jerked his head away from the people he was talking to and said "Krispy Kreme?!?!" He apologized to the people at the front of the line and continued their conversation.
I had come prepared with a number of different things. (My wife
thinks I was a bit excessive, but, what the heck.) I started by pulling
out a bottle of Root66 root beer and said that it was the best root beer
in Richmond. AB grabbed the bottle and pulled it to
He thanked me and then turned to sign my copy of the book. Reading the inscription I had requested ("To Tom, the Vegetarian Turkey Briner") he paused and looked at me quizzically.
"You mean you'll make the turkey but you won't eat
it?" he asked.
That completely satisfied his curiosity and he nodded with sincere understanding.
"You know, you can also brine vegetables," he said.
I shook his hand, said thanks and left. Total driving time: around seven hours. Total time in line and in the bookstore (thanks to mikemenn): about 15 – 20 minutes.
Other bits of AB trivia gleaned from my (and other's) conversations with him:
One additional point: I submitted a total of four questions to the Washington Post online chat. They were, IMHO, intelligent questions about the show and some of the finer, more specific points of things. All of these questions were passed over by the screener (in favor of ridiculous, redundant questions about Steely Dan and the salt containers…). Finally, in desperation, I submitted the Krispy Kreme question. I had intended on doing it anyways, but I figured I might as well try to get AB something he liked. I guess it all worked out well enough in the end.
Good luck to everyone else out there standing (or soon to be) standing in lines!
|Washington, DC, Olsson's (June 7): By Jarrett
Hoo-wee, what a night!
san2dee2's post isn't far off from the number of folks that came to our little store for the AB event last night. All told, we estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of about 250 (give or take) people came to see Alton at Olsson's.
I came down to the store at around 5:45 and already around half of the seating was occupied. I started to work on my intro in the back room, and, thankfully, we had the sense to have set up some wine for AB and his crew. I imbibed a a wee bit for the ol' nerves as I scribbled some thoughts about AB and his show.
AB arrived at around quarter to 7. Not being a super duper rock star bookstore, there is no back entrance for him to slip quietly through, and by this time the store resembled a gargantuan sardine tin more than the pleasant, serene bookstore it normally is. I heard the crowd laugh quite a bit and we knew AB had arrived to the store, attempting to squeeze his way through the masses. He and his publicist Amy made it to the back room and we addressed the most important issue first: Wine, anyone? "Now *this* is a bookstore!" said Amy.
I also had brought Alton a box off goodies from *my* job (music buyer): a bunch of CDs i thought he might like, a good smattering of the music we sell at Olsson's (Tom Waits' new ones, Nick Drake, some good old Jazz, Classical, World Music, a Bob The Builder CD for his daughter). I gave him the box and he was blown away. We talked music for a bit (turns out he was looking for Waits' "Alice" CD) and somehow that turned to our shared affinity for Macintosh. He raved about his iPod and we both shared our amazement at the technology that allows a CD's track names to be magically lifted from the ether and automatically entered into iTunes.
He pre-signed some books for our staff in the back while chatted. When 7 rolled around he said "Shall we?" and I went out to do my intro. I was a bit less nervous than before, owing no doubt to Alton being such a personable, down to earth man. I was asked by Olsson's to mention a few of our upcoming events, and I could feel the animosity for my non-AB related talking ooze from the crowd. I finally did my spiel on AB, keeping it short and, hopefully, sweet, and AB came out.
He was amazing. Funny, witty, irreverent, kind, political, socio-political, and in control. Everyone asked great questions and his answers were thoughtful and thorough. He did the Q&A for about 30-40 minutes (more?), and then the book signing/photo sessions began.
The man has the patience of a saint. I think the signing started somewhere around 8PM, and the line extended, like a great, winding snake, all throughout our store's shelves, and quite possibly out the door. Dammit if he didn't spend as much time with every person as they wanted. I was designated the line expediter, the person to ease and aid the speed of the flow of people to Alton, so I had a front row seat (in standing formation) to every encounter. There were so many people. So. Many. People.
AB signed his last book sometime after 10 or so.
Me and the Olsson's crew said goodbye and thanked him profusely (though I'm working his Press Club dinner tonight) and it looked like Amy (a former DC resident) had some good ol' DC plans in store for them for the night. I hope they enjoy our fair city and find some solace in being in the same city for 3 days. It must be a welcome respite while on the kind of whirlwind book tour he's on.
Thanks to all you board regulars for coming out (and especially the ones who introduced yourselves). We had a great time and are still in a tizzy that we were able to get Alton Brown to come and visit our store and our customers.
P.S. I didn't take many pictures (my girlfriend snapped one of me doing my intro and when I shake AB's hand as he's coming to take the mic), but I'll try and share them with you somehow, soon.
I got to Olsson's by about 6:10 (signing started at 7),and by that time, all the seats were already taken. Olsson's isn't a very big store, and it filled up -- and heated up --fast. By 6:45, it was packed, and everybody cheered when Alton came in. He looked haggard, but smiled and ducked into a side room. As soon as he did, everybody booed. He came out, looking faux cross and said, "Hey! Be nice! I've gotta go to the bathroom!" which got a big laugh.
He came out right at 7, looking much perkier and pretty much went straight into questions. By now, I'd guess there were close to 250 people in the place, and it seemed like everyone wanted to ask about something. Oddly, some of them seemed almost as if they'd never seen the show before. One person asked about W, but didn't even know her name. Alton said the actress hated him right from the start, and that he liked that. Then he asked if there were any other characters people wanted to know about, and at least a quarter of the crowd yelled "Marsha!" What do you want to know? AB asked. "Is she really your sister," someone shouted. He grinned and said, "No, there'd have been a homicide by now if she was." More laughs.
He's a *really* funny guy. I'm sure he'd worked on some of his one-liners, but he delivered them well. For instance, talking about the DVDs, he said he was proud to be the only FTV host to have any so far, but said he wasn't going to make any jokes. Which he followed immediately by saying, "Well, there's the Martha Stewart video -- nobody can get it out of the box because it's so uptight." Big laughs. He also talked about using her kitchen on "Early Show;" repeated some of the rant from his site about it being super organized and all the drawers being locked, then added, "except one, which had a lot of handcuffs and stuff in it." I especially liked that, because it matched my favorite description of her: "decoratrix."
What else? He said:
Anyhow, he answered questions for about 40 minutes, and then the line formed. Luckily, I was along the wall where it was forming, but most of the people in seats -- about 50 -- got in line in front of me. But we all waited patiently, and after about 30 minutes, it was close to my turn. One of the Olsson's people asked who we were having books signed for, so she could print the names on a card that AB could read more easily. She didn't blink when I said "Starwind" (d***! I wanted to say, "She's a witch!") but she paused on "Carolyn, the Flowerchick." "Flowerchick?" she said? "Like bread flour?" I explained that she was a florist, and someone behind me said they lurk at Mike's board and recognized those names, which was cool. I met Jarrett, who was a very nice guy. Then it was on to AB.
I said hi, and he said hi back, and asked if I was Eric (he saw my name on the card). I said I was. I told him two of the books were for people from Mike's board, and he said, "Cool.! (I forgot, during the talk he also at one point used the word "Jeepers," with a straight face.) As he was signing mine, I said, "So, does this all feel surreal?" He said, sarcastically, "Uh, *yeah.* When you're working in the middle of nowhere, in Atlanta, you don't have any idea if anybody's watching." I assured him that they were, shook his hand and thanked him. It was amazing -- he was warm and gracious with everybody. When I left, the line was snaking all over the store; I'm guessing he had to sign for at least two hours.
|Washington, DC, Borders (June 8): By Zelda
My husband and I went to the Borders signing on Saturday, June 8. We had a wonderful time and of course I was speechless with awe (some people would say "struck dumb!") when I finally did get to meet Alton. He is the most down to earth "celeb" I think I've ever run across, and I've had my share of "brushes with greatness." I wish he had been able to talk more, but he was on a tight schedule, with the National Press Club dinner that night. Maybe Jarrett can tell us more about that.
Anyway, we got there about noon, and got in line to get numbers to get in the book signing line after the talk. By the way, they also gave out a huge poster of the book cover (if you bought a book), and buttons that said "I'm just here for Alton Brown". Cool! They didn't start giving the numbers out until 1:00! I was number 17 in line at noon! You can imagine what the place looked like by 2:00, when Alton finally began. As soon as we got our numbers, we promptly found seats. Of course by 2:00 it was standing room only, and I sooooo crowded! Everyone was great, as his fans are.
The Q&A session went like the others that have been discussed here. One lady did ask about gas vs. electric cooking. Alton mentioned that there were some new (albeit expensive) electric ranges in the market place now that are "groovy". Someone else asked about the rocket ship teapot. He said that he would have a link to a maker of that teapot on his website in the future. He also mentioned that they made a train teapot, but "why anyone would want trains when there are ROCKET SHIPS! available, well he just didn't know!" They were playing Steely Dan at the book signing.
My hubby gave Alton a fine cigar which he promptly snatched up! He told those folks in line behind that "more people should follow our example, that gifts are good". I had thought about bringing him one of my world famous crab cakes, but, well I'm not sure whether he would really eat anything brought by strangers. I know the books were gone by the time I left, which was about 3:45. I'm sure there were at least 250+ as the woman from Borders said. Wow! I'm so glad we drove down from Baltimore to attend the event. We met other nice GE fans too!
Well, since no one has (yet) posted about AB's visit to the Borders Books in Falls Church / Bailey's Crossroads, VA, I'll take a crack at it.
Not to be redundant, but all of the previous posters are right on: AB is the most humble, down-to-earth guy you can imagine. He seems truly overwhelmed by his own popularity (as he recently "ranted" on his own website).
My wife and I drove down to Northern VA from Baltimore and arrived at Borders Books a little after 12 noon (about two hours prior to the 2PM start for AB's appearance). Well, there were people lining up already to get "numbers" for the book-signing part of the appearance (that's just the way Borders does things—organized to a fault). We were lucky enough to get a pretty high (low?) number: 17. We were in line for a while, but the upside was that we got to meet and talk with several other very friendly GE fanatics!
By the time AB arrived a little before 2PM, there HAD to be over 300 people there. Again, he did seem blown away by the response (he'd better get used to it!). He spoke for about ten minutes and then did a Q&A with the audience for the rest of the hour.
I needn't tell you what a funny dude AB is! Just let me say that in "real life" he is EXACTLY the way he appears to be on GE. You can't ask for more than that!
The questions he fielded ran the gamut from "What was your favorite episode?" to "How can I inspire my two teenagers to learn to cook?" (AB's reply to the latter was basically, "Unplug the phone and stop cooking FOR them. They'll develop an interest in cooking in a BIG hurry.")
After the Q&A was the book signing portion, and as I said, we were fortunate to not have that long of a wait (although I know for a fact that some people had numbers over 250!). AB took time to chat for a minute or two with each and every person as he signed their book (or poster, or weasel, or whatever).
I must admit that I went prepared; when we got to the signing table, I handed AB a cigar from my home humidor and said, "Here's a little something for after the Press Club Dinner tonight." AB surreptitiously "palmed" it and then slipped it in to a little "goodie bag" full of other fan gifts. The folks behind us in line sort of laughed, and AB said, "No, no ... don't laugh. Follow this man's example. Gifts are a GOOD thing!!"
All in all, we had a great day, and for those who had any doubts, let my wife and I assure you that AB is a real, very accessible guy.
|Dallas, TX (June 10): By Nick
The title will be explained later. Oh and you might want to get that cup of coffee/hit the restroom/stock up on chocolate/whatever before starting to read this it might tend toward the lengthy side. I took notes and I will be commenting on whatever I want to since I'm the author. Plus I tend to be a bit verbose if you haven't noticed. One more thing I didn't record things so this isn't an exact transcript except for the few things I have quotes around that I specifically wrote down to get what he said correct.
The signing was scheduled to begin at 7pm, but knowing traffic and where it was relative to my job and house I just went straight to Borders after work. I got there and met up with my wife then finally purchased the book. We grabbed some food at their cafe and a color coded slip of paper to let me know when to get in line. While purchasing the food I noticed that the slip of paper listed 5pm as the starting time. Which I thought was cool since I would get home earlier, but it was 5:13 at the time so I went to look for Alton. I did ask an employee about this and they said he was supposed to be early since he had to be somewhere at 9pm (more on this later). No luck. So I sat down to wait while my wife and son wandered around the store.
I started reading through the book and found it very amusing. The group that was there waited for a while and then were informed at about 5:40 that Alton should be there any minute. At around 6:15 they said he would be right out. During this time I mainly concentrated on the book, but a bit later I got into a discussion with a lady about biscuits. She was asking about soda biscuits and while I had heard the term I wasn't familiar with something that would be specifically a soda biscuit. It was also at this time I had the urge to stand up and tell everyone that yes the salt cellar is on its way from China so don't waste your time asking about it. Anyway at 7pm Alton showed up (which made me wonder why the Borders people had indicated he would be earlier, oh well).
Alton seemed a little shy and reserved before he started speaking. Almost like he wanted to fade into the background. He loosened up immediately when he started talking though. I must concur with everyone who has commented on his demeanor. He seems to be the same person he is on the show. Alton was witty, funny, and personable. He was not shy about contradicting people who asked questions if he felt they were wrong, but he did it in a kind manner and with a few jokes thrown in.
In response to someone saying "I'm just here for the food" Alton replied "I'm just here for the royalties". Then Alton started off with some items he said he almost always gets asked. These were things most of us already know, but I will include them here for posterity's sake. First W is not his wife, she is a chiropractor in the Atlanta area and doesn't really like him (which I think is why those segments work so well). Marsha isn't his sister and if she was he would have killed her when they were teens. The kid who played his nephew isn't his nephew and if he was Alton would have killed him in about a day and a half. Alton wrote the book for the fans and for people who ask why. The kitchen on the show isn't his kitchen his is much smaller.
Now the questions which I'm going to list by number with the answer after them in order to make this easier to read, and from his perspective (just in case you thought the pronoun choices were strange).
That was it for questions and then the signing started. I'm guessing there were 200 people there. Since I was in the first group I was fairly quick to get my book signed. I didn't stick around since my wife had already left and I wanted to get home to her. He probably signed my book around 7:45 with just a To Nick AB on it. I'm thinking Alton did have somewhere to get because although he was friendly and did take pictures he worked with the bookstore to get people through. Which is fine since he probably wanted to make sure no one got left out if he had to leave suddenly. I did ask him what his favorite single malt was and he replied that it was Oban, a coastal, you wanted me to go highland. To which I said hey I was thinking Ardbeg and then Alton said: "You are the man" where I got my title for this incredibly lengthy post from. As a point of fact Oban is a highland malt because there are only four traditional malt regions....umm I don't think I want to double the length of this post so I'll stop.
I did see the gentleman who had written about Alton's and Martha Stewart's problems with Kroger and K-Mart respectively. He was directly in front of me in line. Alton pointed out upon seeing the article that he never said it was Kroger and that he thought it was "pretty d*** funny". I also gave him an article I printed out which was on the biodiversity of Andean potatoes and efforts to preserve it. I admit I snatched it from National Geographic. They have it on their website in the news section if you want to check it out. I wrote my email address on top, but I'm not holding out any hope.
|AUSTIN, TX (June 11): By Bear
I just got back from the Austin book-signing and thought I'd drop a short report.
My buddy, Jay, and I headed out at 4:00 for the 7:00 PM signing. Anyone who thinks that's obsessive -- oh, I forgot where I was posting! We're all obsessed!
Seriously, anyone familiar with Austin traffic and downtown parking would not question that decision in the least. As it turned out we were there in plenty of time. We each purchased a copy of the book (my second as I have one of the FoodTV book-plated copies), and then went next door to Whole Foods to grab a bite to eat since they weren't going to start handing out "signing order" numbers until 6 PM.
Shortly before 6, we started hanging around the area where they were going to give out the tickets and when they brought out the dispenser, the bookstore worker set it down right in front of me. First number! Cool!
Shortly after that they started bring out about 2 dozen or so chairs and set them before a raised dias with a table where Alton would be speaking and signing.
Once the first (left) section had filled out, they set out another small section on the right where Jay and I were standing and so we got front row seats. Also cool! The decision to arrive super-early was paying off!
The bookstore must have woefully under-estimated AB's appeal since the area they set up was miserably small for the crowd that showed up. As we sat there watching people come up the stairs (the signing was on the 2nd floor) I was amazed how the crowds kept coming and coming. In a town like Austin I was expected a big turn-out, but the area filled up and started overflowing long before 7:00 PM rolled along.
I think the bookstore (Book People) also under-estimated how many books they would sell and ran out. They began handing out bookplates that could get signed and put in a book ("or whatever else the heck you want" as Alton said later) to be bought at a later date.
I'm really lousy at estimating crowds so I won't even try -- I'll leave it to say that the floor was packed. People were spread out as far as I could see in either direction, they were lined up on the back side of the open staircase, and lined up down the stairs.
The man is going to have to realize sooner or later that he has A Following!
Just after 7, AB himself came down from the 3rd floor and I can attest that everything other posters from previous signings have reported are right on. The man was warm and personable, witty, quick and above all, highly entertaining.
Questions were many and varied. Some, all readers and posters to this board would have known the answers to by heart. Others were new. For example, I always thought that fiber optics were employed to get those inside-the-oven, inside-the-fridge, inside-the-grill and other unusual angles. The actual answer is really small cameras. Alton pointed out that it's important to take the camera out before turning on the oven: "Sony doesn't make anything that's edible".
He had the crowd in stitches describing Vicki Eng's (W) audition.
As DanC reported, Alton had great things to say about this site.
In fact, he said something along the lines of "When the Food Network
wants to know what was in the show, that's where they go."
I was too busy enjoying the show to take notes -- and I have the memory of a gnat -- so I can't post all the question that were asked. But he answered questions for just under an hour before the signings began.
Having gotten the first ticket, I was in the first group called up for signing and just happened to end up first in line! (No I wasn't rude or pushy or anything like that -- it just worked out that way).
My few moments with AB were very enjoyable. I gave him his first Austin gift, which he very much appreciated: a Hoyo De Monterey 1066 Excalibur I (the cigar smokers in the audience are no doubt cooing "ooooh, ahhh!" at this point).
He signed my book, signed my GEFP baseball jersey (which I
didn't wear but brought along), and we chatted briefly about what I
thought of the book (he asked, since I told him I already had a copy that
I had read). Then I had my picture taken (to be posted at some point). I
hung around "back stage" for a few minutes since my buddy ended
up back a few in line. The bookstore employee was very cool about that
since I explained I
Jay also got his book and GEFP t-shirt signed -- and since he was wearing his 1984 Macintosh t-shirt, he and Alton starting talking Macs. "Macs rule!"
We really enjoyed the evening and hope everyone who has signings yet-to-come has an equally enjoyable time!
May the food be with you.
Last Edited on 08/27/2010