As Good As Eats Get
By Deborah Cassell
Author, chef and future ASB keynote speaker Alton Brown is as witty in interviews as he is talented in the kitchen.
If you don’t know who Alton Brown is, then get yourself a HOG, don a leather jacket and head for the open road, where you may run into this celebrity chef and Food Network star.
This year, Brown made the Network’s first-ever film, “Feasting on Asphalt,” for which he drove his bike cross-country in search of great road food. The results can best be described as Easy Rider meets the American diner.
When he’s not touring the United States, hosting his show “Good Eats” or writing manuals such as “I’m Just Here for the Food,” “Alton Brown’s Gear For Your Kitchen” and “I’m Just Here For More Food,” this comedic foodie is thinking up new book topics — he hopes to publish a “Good Eats” book in 2008 — and recipes, as well as jokes … or so it seems.
On March 5, Brown will be the keynote speaker at BakeTech 2007, the annual conference hosted by the American Society of Baking. In anticipation of that event, we asked Brown to tell us a bit more about himself. He did not disappoint. Here, Brown spouts off on the types of foods his fellow bikers like, the trouble with flourless chocolate cake and what he’d order for his last supper. … Hint: You’d have difficulty eating it on your Harley.
Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery: Episodes of your show “Good Eats” feature popcorn and tortillas, among other foods. Why did you choose these snacks?
Alton Brown: To me, there are no uninteresting things about food. I love to find the story behind the foods that we as a culture often take for granted. Tortillas and popcorn are both foods that have fallen to the bottom of our culture’s food totem because of how we’ve treated them, not the other way around. Through industrialization, we have trivialized them, which is sad and wrong.
SF&WB: What can viewers learn from watching “Good Eats”?
Brown: That half an hour sure can fly.
SF&WB: You traveled cross-country for “Feasting on Asphalt.” What kinds of towns and eateries did you visit?
Brown: I have no idea. I just point the bike and go. What we find, we find.
SF&WB: How is the Harley rider different from the BMW bike owner? What are their favorite foods?
Brown: Bikers are generally chow hounds, regardless of the technology they ride. Generally speaking, those who are drawn to motorcycling want something more out of life than the average person. They sense things more acutely and appreciate the variety of the open road. Bikers aren’t satisfied watching the movie; they want to be in the movie, and because of that, I think they sense things on a slightly different level. Because of that, they tend to pay close attention to their chow, where it comes from and who prepared it.
That said, the real answer is pie.
SF&WB: What are some of your own favorite baked goods and ingredients?
Brown: Biscuits will always be my favorite baked good because of a strong family connection. If I had to pick a favorite ingredient, it would have to be eggs, which never cease to amaze.
SF&WB: What’s your biggest guilty pleasure food? (Your secret’s safe with us.)
Brown: Cake. I will eat almost any cake until it is gone … as long as the milk holds out. I mourn the fact that it is almost impossible to get a decent piece of layer cake in American restaurants. I blame that whole “chocolate decadence” thing we got into in the ’90s. Too dang rich, I tell ya. And if I see another slice of flourless chocolate cake, I will puke.
SF&WB: Are there any foods that you would avoid eating at all costs?
Brown: Flourless chocolate cake.
SF&WB: If you could choose one chef, other than yourself, to make you dinner, who would it be?
Brown: Chefs scare me. So I can’t say there’s any chef on earth I’d choose. There are people I’d like to cook with, but most of them are dead.
SF&WB: What would you order for your “last supper”? What about dessert?
Brown: Duck confit, because it takes three days to make. Dessert? Perhaps a chocolate meringue pie or a wedding cake with a gallon of milk.
SF&WB: What will American Society of Baking attendees learn from your upcoming speech?
Brown: I probably won’t decide what I’m going to say until about a minute before they introduce me. I’m notorious for throwing away speeches at the last minute. I’m getting rather political in my old age, so I’m likely to go off on a tangent about the place of the bakery arts in modern society. I’ll try not to be too evangelical, though.
Editor’s Note: For more about Alton Brown, visit www.altonbrown.com. For additional information about the American Society of Baking conference, which runs March 4-7, visit www.asbe.org.