Some short questions: Where did the dinosaur spray
bottle come from and can they get anymore? That's a lingering question on the
I think that came from Target. It was several years old
when I introduced it to the show, so I don't know. I could try to hunt that
down. I don't even know who made it. It has no distinguishing marks on it, but
I can try to find out. I think my wife bought that, actually. I'll have to
ask. I didn't buy it. I never would have been that whimsical.
The paintings in the new house, where did those come
Commissioned by a local artist from a local artist that
my prop guy knows.
Do you know their name?
Actually, I can't think of her name right now.
Terrible, but I can't. She also designed and constructed the caveman costumes
from Mussel Bound. She built Colonel Cookie from
Chips for Sister Marsha, the puppet. And she painted those paintings and the
cave wall painting from the roast show which is also up on the wall in the house,
were all done by this same person, local artist. That's a good idea. I'll
find out if she's got a website or something so that I can give to people to
get in contact with her. She's quite good.
One of the Good Eats fans asked this,
"In a recent
episode while bowl shopping, you mentioned the preference for stainless steel
over glass because glass breaks." However, he's seen you use glass bowls in
subsequent shows and was wondering if this was because it makes for good TV or
Yes. It's because it makes for good TV. There are
sometimes when I just need to do something in glass so you can see it. It's a
Do you do anything else that's …
Yeah. I would occasionally bake something in a glass
bowl although I haven't on the show yet. I didn't mean to dis glass bowls
quite as much as I did. There are certainly things that could be baked in a
Pyrex bowl because you could use it as a mould the way you would a casserole or
anything else. So I certainly didn't mean to... I only meant as far as
mixing. I would certainly cook in one. And I do have some glass bowls but when
it comes to actual mixing I use metal.
But on television it's really tough. My
prop guys and my culinary people often gripe at me about that decision.
They're like, "Why did you have to do that? This show would be a lot easier if
we just used glass." So, sometimes I do. And I'm glad you asked me that
because I do want to be clear about that.
Another fan asks, "What is your take on the great
female/male eggplant issue?"
One's got more seeds than the other.
But, is one really a female and another one a male?
Yes. Botanically, yes.
Hmm. There was some discussion that
I wish I had done some more research on it. They were saying that it is a
sexless plant, that it doesn't take another …
It is a sexless plant. It is not a sexless fruit.
It's offspring is not sexless. Sex is kind of a hard word to use in this
You see, I'm not sure that they're right although my botanical
knowledge is rather limited. I do believe in the nightshade family there are
such things as male and female fruits but not plants. The fruiting body, the
berry, would be the item in question.
I'm a little ignorant on the question so maybe I'm
misrepresenting the situation.
Hmm. I don't know. I'll probably check that.
I've always been interested in where The Big Book of
Culinary Lies came from. A lot of fans try to find that book on Amazon.com and I
assured them that it was made up.
I think that that's actually a cover that I printed
out and pasted on to an old cookbook. I mean, it's an old farmer's journal
cookbook or something like that.
But, wouldn't it make a good book though?
I don't know if there are enough culinary lies to
make up a whole book. I don't know. If there were, yes. But I don't know if
Do you know what the back of it says?
The back page? It's too small
type to see on the TV.
Oh, no I don't Mike. Um, but you know what? We have
it. I can certainly go look. It is actually, you know, it's a bunch of lies.
[chuckles] There are a bunch of lies.
Oh, I see what you're saying.
There is something that makes sense there. You could
read it. It's not just gibberish.
Like I said, I've got some personal questions,
relate kind of food-wise.
How much of the real Alton Brown do we see as the Good
I think I'm different on camera
than I am in person.
I'm a lot more articulate on camera than I am in person. [chuckles] I'm no
where near that glib. My persona is probably stolen from a few different places.
If you look close—especially in the early episodes—you'll see a lot of David
Letterman movements and phrasings in me.
I'll meet people in grocery stores
and places and they'll turn to their spouses and say, "He's just like he
is on TV" as if they are somehow surprised. The 'me' that's on TV is, I
guess, pretty close to 'me' although I use a different beat in my conversation
because it's written. I don't talk like that. I'm not that good, spur of
the moment. I'm not that fine tuned. So it takes on a slightly different
rhythm on television. But that's just me, otherwise.
What chef or chefs do you admire the most, in the
public eye or not?
That's a really good question. Wow. Wow. [long
Living or dead.
Well, you admire different chefs for different things.
It's like, I admire Escoffier because he tried to apply order. I admire Careme because
Careme was a poor street boy that finally got to eat all he
wanted to. You know a lot of French food came from appetite. A lot
of the French cooks during Grand Cuisine were hungry. They were 14 years old when
they were put into apprenticeships and they never had enough to eat so they
cooked their whole lives from the memory of hunger. We don't cook from the
memory of hunger anymore. We cook from sensation which is why I probably
don't have that many chefs that I just say, "Ooo."
I don't go to many
famous restaurants. I get very uptight paying more than $100 for a meal—and
that's two people—because I expect so much of it that
it makes me uptight. And I don't go out much. I eat in more places like
this than I eat in fine restaurants. I have to say the first time that I
was aware—I'm going to divert the question a little bit—the first time
that I was aware of the greatness of a chef was in 1988 and I had just moved to
Chicago to direct commercials and I went to Charlie Trotter's …
Charlie Trotter. I don't know if you're familiar
with Charlie Trotter. He's got a bunch of books now which I don't like. And
I don't like his show. But Charlie Trotter's is an artist. And I ate that meal and it was like, "I didn't know food
could do that." So as far as, like, big chefs, it's the people that everybody
else looks up to. When I occasionally go to great restaurants in New York,
places like Nobu and like
Bolud and places like that, I appreciate that
food for what it is. When I start having problems with chefs, though, when they
start writing books making the rest of us feel bad that we can't do what they
do. I can't cook like those guys.
It's kind of like, I'd love to own a
Picasso. I like Picasso. If I could own a Picasso one day, that would be swell.
But I don't want to paint like Picasso. It's like the really great chefs are
artists and it's like, I'm going to go to the restaurants and enjoy it. I
don't want to cook like that at home and I don't want them to publish books
that tell me how because you know what? You can't! You can't. You can not do
it. They can write that stuff down, you're still not going to be able to do
it. That's why, I think Joseph? [sic, Thomas?] Heller, amazing chef, French
Laundry, out in Napa, amazing guy. I can't cook any of the stuff in his book
because it's not enough to have it written down. It isn't enough. No more
than it would be enough for Picasso to have written How To Paint A Picasso book.
That's what we're talking about.
There's a level... It's like, I
don't call myself a chef. I'm not a chef. I don't have the creative chops
to call myself a chef. Can I hack out a decent meatloaf? Well, yeah, because I
understand the meatloaf and yackety-yak. But I am I going to create a great
dish? No? I'm not going to create a great dish. Those guys have that artistry
and I wish they'd just do it and sell it and let those of us that want to eat
it and enjoy it and stop writing cookbooks. Because I know more people that have
given up on cooking because they couldn't make Charlie Trotter's friggin'
Rabbit Reduction sauce. It's so intimidating. It infuriates me that those guys
feel like they don't make enough money already that they have to make the rest
of us feel bad with their cookbooks. So, I don't buy them. I don't buy those
cookbooks. I very rarely buy cookbooks, to be frank.
Well, let me rephrase the question.
Yeah, do. Because I don't know how to answer that
What cooks do you admire the most?
I admire any cook. I admire anybody that goes into a
kitchen... You know who I admire? I admire the cooks that'll walk into a
kitchen without a recipe looking at what's in the refrigerator and make
dinner. And I admire anyone that will cook and invite you into their home
and be gracious enough to serve you food. We have forgotten what an act of generosity that is, to simply be fed. Any cook that does that is to be admired.
Otherwise, I am as happy with a hamburger as I am foie gras. Actually happier.
I'd rather have the hamburger. A good cheeseburger is by far superior. A
decent pizza beats the pants off a cassoulet in my book. That's where I'm
from. I'm not French.
Yeah, your French shows give me a hard time
transcribing because French is my last language.
Actually, I owe a great majority of anything I've done to
a Frenchman. My first internship when I was in New England Culinary Institute...
It's like the beginning of Apocalypse Now when
Martin Sheen asks for a
mission, "and for my sins I got one." I asked for the hardest internship,
the hardest Frenchman that I could have, because I wanted that experience. And
so I signed on to a restaurant in Vermont that was run by a guy that other
students that had studied under him called him Captain Ahab. I went to work
for this guy and it almost killed me. Actually, he's mentioned in my bio.
He's mentioned in my book.
His name is Patrick Matecat. [link is source this picture] And I was scared to
death of this guy. He could instill fear just by looking at you from across the
room. You have to understand, I
was like 35 years old. I wasn't used to being kind of … I've never been in
the military so I wasn't used to that whole, kind of, French system of tearing
you down and building you up thing. I actually called the drive between the
restaurant and where I lived the Trail of Tears because I would always either
cry going home or driving there. I would cry, "Oh, I don't wanna do this. I
wanna go to …" And he was French. Once I survived … I decided, well all I
can do since I clearly can't cook, never will be able to cook because I'm an
incompetent idiot, I'm going to stay. I'm just going to keep showing up for
no other reason than I refuse to quit.
And after about 2 – 3 months working with
this guy, I suddenly 'passed the test'. I was worthy. I didn't quit. I
didn't break. And when that happened, all of a sudden this guy started
teaching me the most amazing things. He's actually the chef
I admire most, Patrick Matecat, actually. Because in tearing me down, he
actually taught me to eat. Because he understood that to be a chef, you actually
have to start by knowing how to eat and I didn't. I didn't know how to eat.
I didn't even know how to taste my friggin' food. And this guy taught me
from the ground up.
By the time I left there, he was like a father figure. And
we're still really close to this day. I owe huge amounts to this
guy. Amazing cook but kind of, also, a guidance counselor. So I went from being
scared to death of him to hating him to absolutely worshiping him and
eventually to being just deeply respectful of him. And that's something you
get... Only people that have trained in French kitchens will ever understand
that or in German or Swiss kitchens can get that process of what it is to take
amazing amounts of abuse and kind of mental warfare that exists in those
kitchens. It's like going to war everyday and then to come out of it at the
other end and somehow not only a better cook but a better person, which I
certainly did. I certainly did. I think I owe him a lot.
One of your fans asks, "Do you have a favorite meal
or food you enjoy making?"
I greatly enjoy the interaction of meat and charcoal
above all. I'm a cooker of meat. As a cook, I would say that my only talent lies in
that. I have to work hard at everything else, but I have an innate sense of meat
cooking, of meat cookery. And because of that I very much enjoy smoking and
grilling and grill-roasting.
One particular meal? Nah, I can't nail it down. I'm as satisfied
with a properly fried egg as I am something that takes
hours and hours to do. I'm a very simple cook and I tend to be more
satisfied with meals that are made up at the spur of the moment on what's
there. I like to improvise. If cooks were musicians, I'd be a jazz musician
because it's about improvising within a structure. That's as close to an
answer as I can get.
Another fan asks, "How 'into' cooking were you
before you had the idea for Good Eats and before culinary school?"
Oh, very. It was my hobby. I think it was my hobby
since, uh,... I cooked through college, I cooked through high school and I was
always a cook from a hobbyist standpoint. Always. But I never really thought
about cooking until, I guess, I was in my late 20's, once as I was out of
college. I used to use cooking strictly to get girls. Yeah, cooking in college
was the only way I got dates. Pathetic, but true.
What's your fondest memory of your grandmother's
Breakfast. She was just great with breakfast. I don't
know why that, but just everything she did for breakfast was just great. Something
about the way she could get up and make so much happen in a small amount of time
is really great. But she was one of those people that cooked without thinking
about it. For them, you didn't 'think' about cooking; you weren't 'in' to cooking.
You cooked because you had to eat and we don't do that
anymore. We're more into cooking for different reasons now. She cooked to get
us all fed and that is just amazing. She probably would have rather not
have done it.
A fan asks if you'll ever get over your
sweet potato phobia?
Yeah. Actually, I already have.
Will we see a show on it?
Yeah, probably. Yeah. Yeah. I think so. There'll be a
sweet potato show. There will. I've gotten over it mostly because my daughter
likes them so I make them and started eating them. It's like, "Well, you
know? This isn't bad. I can live with this." And the truth is, is that
they're so darned good for you. They're amazingly good for you. The
nutrition is hard to argue with. I've gotten over that. I'm still not going
to go out and "Ooo, let's get sweet potatoes." But I don't shy from
Lamb's eyes, though? You still won't eat those?
You know, the next time I'm served lamb's eyes I'll
give them a shot, but by and large the cornea keep getting caught right here.
[indicated between his front teeth.] I don't have any foods that I'm not
eating right now, nothing that I really dislike too much. I'm still not big on
the cow liver thing. I can't do that.
A fan asks, "What is your take on using irradiation
as a food preservation technique?" Any issues in there?
I don't know if they're asking that question
correctly. The question would more be, "do I agree with irradiation as a
method for controlling the sanitary aspects of food." It's not being used as
a 'preservative' so much as a method of assuring sanitation.
I haven't come across anything to make me really disagree with it yet. I really haven't.
Here's the thing: let's say we have product 'x' that comes from the
processing plant and goes through irradiation to me. Well, sure, I would rather
things be done correctly here [indicates processing plant area] to bypass
further handling. It's not that I have something against the process per se,
it's that I have something against the fact that it's necessary. I think
there are a lot of issues in the manufacturing or the processing of food stuffs
in this country that needs to be addressed at the source of the problem as
opposed to the fixing of the problem.
Irradiation will definitely will make
certain foods safer. Does that mean that there will be more abuses at the
processing end? I'm afraid I think so. The second they know there's a safety
gap downstream, maybe they'll be more lax and then maybe this will happen and maybe...
I'd rather it not be necessary. It's not that I have a problem with
irradiation per se.