Here's my Alton Brown Q&A up on CHOW - with added bonus material. It was actually the first time AB and I really met. During my taping of Iron Chef America, in the short breaks, AB was either running around backstage - wild-eyed, muttering food facts and figures to himself - or in deep conversation with Make-a-Wish kids in the audience. The photo above is from the demo he gave at the recent International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago. For more AB photos, look here and here.
Alton Brown not only represents our inner food geek, he revels it. He's best known for Good Eats, his long-running Food Network show that blends cooking, science, history, and pun-ny prop comedy to demystify ingredients, techniques, and gear. He also announces the detailed play-by-play on Iron Chef America, the U.S. version of the classic, melodramatic Japanese culinary competition show of the same name, in which a challenger chef enters Kitchen Stadium to battle a resident Iron Chef with a secret ingredient. With his pair of Feasting on Asphalt mini-series he leads his motorcycle-mounted film crew on cinematic, cross-country tours of American roadfood, the first traveling from Savannah on the East Coast to L.A. on the West, and the second tracing the Mississippi river, from its Louisiana delta to Minnesota headwaters. He's currently shooting his third Feasting, which leaves the road and States behind. I caught up with AB during his recent visit to Chicago's Museum and Science and Industry, where he gave a food-meets-science talk to 850 hardcore fans, signing copies of his four books, from his first to latest. He also revealed that the long-awaited Good Eats books - yes, more than one - are finally in the works.
LC: I've heard that the next Feasting on Asphalt is not going to be on asphalt at all, but that it's not Feasting on Waves. Where are you going and how?
AB: We're going to be down in the Caribbean on catamarans and scuba diving too. I'm fascinated by the convergence of cultures there. It can really be considered the birthplace of American cuisine. I can't divulge the locations for various reasons nor can I tell you what I hope to catch, because frankly I have no expectations. We're shooting the first three weeks in April and the show premieres this September.
LC: Your new book, Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run, looks like it was actually your personal journal of the road trip. How much of it was really what you collected on the road?
AB: It really was my journal. I was hoping to just directly scan a lot of the notes I'd taken but they were too worn and faded to be legible. Instead they just created a font out of my handwriting and used that instead.
LC: Why wasn't there a book for the first Feasting?
AB: We had no idea what was going to happen. We didn't know if there was going to be enough for a book. We didn't plan fo rone.
LC: I've also read that you're planning on doing a Feasting on Rails? Where would you go? It seems that most of the great dining cars are gone. France and Japan maybe?
AB: Those are possibilities. I'm fascinated by once great cultures - like rail culture - that are at their nadir, then examining them at their height. I want to know what they were like then, before it went so wrong? That's what I want to look at.
LC: And are you serious about Feasting in Air and Space?
AB: It is my sincere hope to do a Feasting in Air and Space. I'm currently working on getting my pilot's license. I could have had it by know but I'm busy doing all this other stuff! And we have Good Eats fans in NASA so I do believe this is a distinct possibility. The network just loves it when I talk about doing stuff like this!
LC: So just how are your collarbone (broken during the first Feasting) and wrist (broken last Christmas Eve getting into the shower)?
AB: I'm fine. I've got titanium in there. (AB points to a faint, cross-hatched scar on his left wrist, vertical, about two inches long.)
LC: Does it set off metal detectors?
AB: No, there's not enough mass. It's extremely thin. But I wish it did!
LC: Congratulations on re-signing with Food Network for three more years. What's going on with Good Eats?
AB: We just finished shooting some episodes in February, then we'll go back to shoot more later this year. I'm just happy to be employed. I don't take anything for granted.
LC: You're shooting your 12th season of Good Eats. I think a lot of people mistake your first two books for GE books. When is a Good Eats book coming out?
AB: I'm working on them now. There will be two volumes actually. The first book will cover the first 100 episodes and the next, eventually up to the 200th show, roughly. We don't have the release dates yet but I'll let you know.
LC: There's a big question out there with gamers, are you going to be involved in the new Iron Chef American Supreme Cuisine game? Because only the Chairman is seen in the trailer.
AB: Yes! I'm going in to record for it in July. And I'll be playing myself.
LC: I've also read that you're planning on addressing some of the big food issues. How?
AB: One of the things I'll be doing is hosting the Monterey Bay Aquarium's sustainable seafood event [Cooking for Solutions] in May. It's a challenge to address food issues and make it entertaining, but I'm looking forward to that challenge. As my daughter [Zoey, 8 years-old] gets older, it's increasingly important to me to illuminate the issues.
LC: What's your go-to meal? (This was a question from the museum event, from a member of the audience who signed his name "Strat". AB did a Q&A on stage after his talk.)
AB: The food I cook at home is very, very simple. I bought my wife a panini press. Don't ask me which one. I just went in and asked for the most expensive one. Hey, it was a gift for my wife! I think it's a Krups. So now we take Cornish hens and butterfly them. We lay them out flat and cook them in the panini press. It's really fast and there's something very gratifying about crushing those bones. So now when we need a fast meal at home, it's "Quick! Somebody get me some Cornish hens!"
LC: What's your favorite curse word? (Also from the museum. Minutes before he went on stage, AB got the idea to do an Inside the Actors Studio type questionnaire - with me playing James Lipton.)
AB: "Oh bother." I'm from the South.
Let it be known that Alton Brown can drop f-bombs with the best of them.