Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hall of Fame Chef

For those of you who watch the Food Network or leave it on constantly like I do, no doubt you’ve encountered the “Bill Nye, the Science Guy” of the food world, Alton Brown. When I talk to people about Alton, I get mixed responses ranging from “I love him” to “He’s a little weird” to “He really likes food!” It’s for these reasons and more that I love to watch him.

Alton isn’t your average chef, nor is he your average TV personality. He’s the guy you went to school with that didn’t quite fit in. He’s the guy who was way too in to Chemistry lab and who liked to stick around after class to try another experiment. He knows things that you would never know and you think you never need, but when you hear him explain why increasing the brown sugar in your cookie recipe makes your cookies more tender and using shortening instead of butter makes the cookie puffier because of shortening’s propensity to stay a solid longer than butter, it all starts to make sense. And his show, Good Eats, makes you think a little more about the tools you’re using in your kitchen (multi-taskers rule), the way you mix ingredients, and how best to prepare a dish. But my favorite reason to love Alton? He demystifies daunting dishes! Alliteration aside, Alton takes recipes that have scared many a home cook and breaks it down into simple bite-size morsels, offering random facts, humorous displays and demonstrations, and time-tested techniques along the way. Consider his Good Eats episode, “Cuckoo for Coq Au Vin” where he walks viewers through the classic French recipe that by its name alone has frightened many a cook. Or how about his episode on bubbly, airy soufflés? Genius!

But he doesn’t only deal with complex recipes. He explores American favorites like waffles, eggs, honey, muffins, biscuits, and dips. And if you think watching a show about a common ingredient could be boring, try watching his show about chili or his ode to garlic involving a certain blood-loving tall, dark and creepy guest. Alton uses humor, science, culinary know-how, and charm to create a show that amuses while teaching, a model other shows could benefit from emulating. If you can’t catch an episode of Good Eats, you can see Alton on Iron Chef America or The Next Iron Chef, where he provides intellectual insight into various secret ingredients and the color and height of alcoholic flare ups when the liquid libations are added to hot pans. No matter what he’s cooking or saying, Alton Brown is one fine chef and a darn good entertainer and he’s the first in my Hall of Fame chefs!


  1. I am not a fan of Alton because he freaks me out with how he sticks his head up in the camera and all, but I like what you had to say about him. I do have to admit, he has much passion for the chemistry of food. He is the Ms. Barnhart of cooking. :)

  2. Passion is always a good thing when it comes to cooking!