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MICHAEL
    Some miscellaneous questions …

ALTON
    My favorite.

MICHAEL
    What future things do you have in the works besides more Good Eats episodes? Another book? Another type of show?

ALTON
    I don't think that far ahead.

MICHAEL
    Now, you did say 'first' book at the beginning of the interview.

ALTON
    There will be another book. There will be a sequel to "I'm Just Here For The Food" called "I'm Just Here For More Food." It is, in my mind, a two volume set.

MICHAEL
    Someone lamented that there wasn't any 'baking'.

ALTON
    [with a halted John Lovitz type accent] Well guess what comes next?
    [normally] You see, to me it kind of comes down to the food that we cook and the food that we make. I didn't make the steak, I made the batter. The second book will be all about the Frankenstein stuff, as I call it, the food you make. The batters, the doughs, all of that, will be in the second book. We left that out on purpose.

MICHAEL
    Do you have a salt episode coming up? "Rock On?" I forget. Your website says something about the history of salt?

ALTON
    In flux. I wouldn't say that it's immediately pending by any means. We should probably take that off of there. One thing at a time. Good Eats eats up a huge amount of time.

MICHAEL
    Well, if you need a webmaster [raising hand] …

ALTON
    I have a good webmaster. We're still deciding how to manage and how to generate enough content. As a control freak, I can only be in so many places at once and that's made it kind of difficult. We even got to the point where we said we said we're not going to sell anymore stuff because we really got... The whole salt cellar adventure was really kind of painful and we lost money on that, but we kind of learned a lot about doing it. We're going to do it again later on. More salt cellars are actually on their way right now. We'd like to divide the website up into places where you can, like, buy stuff directly from us or link to people that we buy things from, because there are certain products that we just can't cost effectively present that we would like people to get. So there's going to be a lot of changes in the website in the next few months.

MICHAEL
    A fan says, "We 'regulars' to the Food TV Good Eats discussion board area loved it when you participated in our discussions. How can we entice you to come back and join us again?"

ALTON
    It's too hard. I can't figure out how to make it work? Simple and plain. They keep telling me that they're going to teach me how to do it. I go there and I try to reply and it brings up this message and I don't know if it's the browser I'm using. I don't know if it's because I'm a Macintosh [sic]. But I just find it very frustrating and I eventually gave up. I do not foresee returning.

MICHAEL
    Can we entice you to the Good Eats Yahoo! Club?

ALTON
    I don't quite understand the difference between the Yahoo Club and the posting area on your website.

MICHAEL
    The Club and Group... There's actually no longer a Club anymore. Yahoo! merged Clubs and Groups so there's just Groups now. That's the new name for it. Yahoo! Groups is just a place where we can put information, have polls. You have to have a Yahoo! account so it would have to be you who logged in. My Message Board is just part of my website.

ALTON
    You see, every time I try to use that Yahoo! thing—I signed up a couple times—I went back, I could never remember the passwords. I can't keep up with all the passwords. Usernames and passwords and blah, blah, blah. What I'm actually hoping is that, we're going to be beefing up the interchange of information on my website so that I can actually post back to a certain number of questions or comments per week.

MICHAEL
    Good.

ALTON
    That way nobody gets disappointed. I used to really enjoy posting on the Food Network site but I just find it too ponderous to get around now. I can't make it work. And I don't want to dis them. They do a good job and I understand that it's working very well and a lot of people are happy with it. Maybe it's my version of Netscape. Maybe it's, again, the Macintosh situation. I don't know. I have a very hard time with it.

MICHAEL
    Can you sanction a Good Eats Fan Club or anything Good Eats? Or would we have to go through Food Network?

ALTON
    I do not own Good Eats. When Food Network picked this up, they purchased all rights to Good Eats. I am merely kept on as its caretaker. They own in it in perpetuity, for ever and ever, in this and any markets to be discovered. So, I don't even get to use the words except on my resume. Which doesn't mean they're mean about it. It just means they own it.

MICHAEL
    Do you see an impact on your fans' lives? You said you got e-mails from people who are studying more. Do you see yourself as changing anything in education or the food world or at Food Network?

ALTON
    Not at Food Network. Not in the food world. I think for a small, very small, group of people that are interested in what I'm interested in, maybe? I still feel very much an outsider at Food Network. There are kind of tiers of talent at Food Network and I'd say I'm a B or C level. There's like Emeril and Ming and Bobby Flay and Mario Batali and  Sarah Moulton, probably. And then there's another level. And then I'm kind of either the very bottom of that level or down on C level. I'm small fry. I'm a very little fish at Food Network.

    The food world, in general, doesn't notice me or what I do, the food profession. I'm not even a blip, really, on their radar. So, I think my audience is actually very small. I think we have just enough, kind of, cult following to stand on our own to be honest.

MICHAEL
    How does Good Eats rank at Food Network?

ALTON
    I don't know.

MICHAEL
    We'd heard that you were number one in your time slot for Saturday.

ALTON
    That was a rumor. That was a rumor. I'm not privy to that information. I severely doubt that. I can't imagine that. No, Saturdays I would expect, probably, belong to Iron Chef and then to Naked Chef and then Naked Iron Chef …

MICHAEL
    [chuckle]

ALTON
    … Semi-Naked Tin Chef. And then Emeril and then we're probably, we're the caboose on Saturday nights. I'm lucky to have a job and I know that on a daily basis. I update my resume every couple of months just in case I don't, although I have no idea what I would do.

MICHAEL
    Your fans note your Hawaiian and Bowling shirt collection and you've mentioned your wife finds most of those?

ALTON
    She's found a lot of them. I found about half. She's found about half. I don't dress like that in real life. I'm a pretty boring guy in real life. [Alton was wearing a baseball cap, black (leather?) jacket, shirt and jeans for the interview]. You know, the Hawaiian shirts when we first started weren't that popular. When we started in 1999 you didn't see that many people in them. We were just, kind of, part of general a revival in that. So, we've kind of fallen away from... I don't think there are any Hawaiian shirts in season 6 at all, come to think of it. It's actually it's pretty drab ware. I keep looking for the next thing I'm going to be comfortable in. We picked them because, actually, the whole reason we picked Hawaiian shirts is they're made out of Rayon which is very microphone-friendly. It doesn't make a lot of microphone noise. That was the real reason for them.

MICHAEL
    We don't see a lot of microphones in your show.

ALTON
    You saw some in season four. You won't see any anymore. But it's always on me somewhere. We spend a lot of time and effort... They're hidden on things. One of the pots hanging from a rack might have a mic on it, I'll have a mic on me and if I'm leaning over there's probably going to be a mic on the back of something. We put a lot time into getting the sound right because we do so much moving around. It makes it really difficult. That's why we wore those shirts for a long time just because they were comfortable, you know, short sleeve.

    I'm kind of looking for a new look to be honest. I don't know what's going to be next. I don't know. Style's important but... So I went to black aprons. You'll only see me in black aprons from now on. They're just easy.

MICHAEL
    Are we going to see any new characters in season six?

ALTON
    There are a couple in development, yeah. The hard thing about characters is soon as you find... Here's what happens. With the exception of the woman that plays W, you invent a character, you get them on a Good Eats, they become in demand, they move to New York. The guy that plays Chuck is still in Atlanta and the woman that plays W is still in Atlanta. Merrilyn Crouch, that plays my sister, lives in L. A. I can only get her when she's in town. So, I'm hesitant, you know, because as soon as I create a character they're going to move away.

MICHAEL
    What about Widdi?

ALTON
    Widdi's local. She's local. She was actually the coordinator on season five. But I knew she was an actress so I decided to start using her. She's in This Spuds For You Too. She plays the woman fan and is a tour de force of screwed up. She's wonderful. Wonderful. She absolutely makes that show. That show is hers. I'm just there. I'm part of the scenery in that show.

MICHAEL
    You're hosting that whole [potato] weekend? [Couch Potato Weekend, April 20-21, 2002]

ALTON
    No. I am not. What I did is we produced 10 short films about potatoes. They generally run from, like, anywhere from 35 to 45 seconds long that will be airing in between other programs, that focus on all different aspects of potato-dom. And then we have our new potato episode.

    I don't know where this 'host' word came up. I didn't host anything. But we definitely have a presence. It'll be a, I think, pretty darned good weekend in television and I'm real glad to have been able to participate in it. It's 10. I think we did 10. They're called 'interstitials', little bitty short programs that go in between other programs. We had the opportunity to produce those. We did those here just like we would a Good Eats episodes.

    I've gone around the country and done a few events representing Couch Potato. I did a thing out in Boise a few weeks ago just as being one of the people involved in it. But again, I think there are much bigger fish in that particular 'stunt' which is what that's called.

MICHAEL
    Let me ask you one, last, probing, in-depth question: are you really Thomas Dolby?

ALTON
    No. [chuckles] Although I did have Golden Age of Wireless when it first came out, but I didn't look anything like Thomas Dolby. I don't think I look anything like Thomas Dolby now. We both have bad haircuts and glasses.

    Although I often wonder about Thomas, you know. Where did he go? What did he do? He made a lot money there for a few minutes. But, no. No. I am not Thomas Dolby; I'm not related to Thomas Dolby; never met Thomas Dolby. But there are several Blinded Me With Science references in upcoming episodes.

MICHAEL
    Great.

ALTON
    Often the things we hear from fans we'll put in a show just for the 'why not?'

MICHAEL
    That'll add to my Thomas Dolby mythology page.

ALTON
    Where is he? What is he doing now? I don't know. I guess I could be him. I don't remember where we first heard that.

MICHAEL
    The fans have been there for the past year.

ALTON
    Yeah, that was about how long ago it was when it first reared its ugly head, so to speak, semi-ugly head.

I hope you enjoyed the transcript of the interview.
—Mikemenn

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Copyright © 2002 by Michael Menninger
Last Edited on 08/27/2010