But that's another show
May 11, 2011 7:14 PM   Subscribe

After 249 episodes on a wide variety of ingredients and other cooking related topics, Alton Brown ended Good Eats last week (save for 3 unaired one hour specials). The show leaves behind many unaddressed recipes that were to be in "another show."

Aside from Food Network, most episodes of Good Eats can be found on Youtube. In addition, all recipes from the show can be found on Food Network's Good Eats page.

Curiously, Alton Brown also got a verified twitter account within a day ago, and announced the ending of Good Eats in his second (now deleted) tweet.
posted by mccarty.tim (138 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now he'll toil as the announcer to the ridiculous American Iron Chef and, if he's lucky, the hump host of a billion bad CHALLENGE shows.

God speed, Alton.
posted by boo_radley at 7:16 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by crunchland at 7:20 PM on May 11, 2011


In these tough times of economic collapse and widespread illness from excessive sodium intake, how reassuring that Mr. Brown has parlayed his mediocre talents into a well-paying gig shilling for a multinational agribusiness conglomerate in its quest to get Americans to eat more salt.
posted by docgonzo at 7:20 PM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I used to run into his film crew and him at the Buckhead Whole Foods all the time when I worked down in Buckhead. It was always so cool to be able to go "OMG GUYS GUESS WHO I SAW AT LUNCH" and have every one of my friends roll their eyes and say "Alton Brown" in unison.
posted by strixus at 7:20 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good Eats has always been an exception to the norm -- it's too intelligent for me to have considered it popular. I think it's appropriate to link to Bourdain's comments on Alton.
posted by spiderskull at 7:22 PM on May 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Good Eats was the show that got me interested in cooking. The shows explained the science of cooking and the books are even better for geek types learning to try new ways to cook.

Kudos to Alton Brown for all his good work.
posted by Argyle at 7:25 PM on May 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Good eats was the first cooking show to make the process of cooking interesting, instead of just reciting how to make food.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:27 PM on May 11, 2011


It's a funny thing. My wife and I used to watch Good Eats all the time. Then one day we were watching a coffee episode and he was explaining how getting the best flavor requires grinding the beans at 47 degrees Fahrenheit in a counterclockwise motion or something like that and suddenly we were both sick to death of him and never watched the show again.

A real "Fuck fish" moment.

In any event, he looks so cadaverous now after his weight loss that it upsets me to see him.
posted by Trurl at 7:28 PM on May 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


And just in my efforts to constantly make people aware of this book, if you liked Good Eats, you want to read Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:31 PM on May 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


A real "Fuck fish" moment.

You have no idea how happy it makes me that I'm not the only one going around quoting that scene.

posted by nebulawindphone at 7:32 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


...shilling for a multinational agribusiness conglomerate in its quest to get Americans to eat more salt.

Salting your food properly, during or well before cooking, is the #1 thing you can do to make your cooking taste better. Salting is the #1 skill, more important skill than knife work or temperature control, involved in being an excellent cook.

If you're pouring salt on food when it gets to your table, you're using way more salt than you need to, and you're only doing so to mask the taste of crappy cooking. You can get food to taste much better, and consume a lot less salt, if you learn to do that right.
posted by mhoye at 7:35 PM on May 11, 2011 [36 favorites]


Am I married to Trurl? Because that is almost exactly my experience. My husband and I love, love, loved him, then one day I turned the show on and channel hopped during commercial and no one said anything when I never hopped back. I think it was during the show where I felt personally chastised for *gasp* placing more wasabi on my sushi, because if the chef had meant for me to have more, he woulda put it on there himself.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:38 PM on May 11, 2011


Good eats was the first cooking show to make the process of cooking interesting, instead of just reciting how to make food.

I'm not sure you could be more wrong.
posted by dersins at 7:40 PM on May 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


What I always liked about good eats was that he told you why you do things a certain way. I've never really been about recipes, so knowing why certain foods react to each other in certain ways is much more important than simply being told I need to separate egg yolks from whites.

I will miss the show. I hope he moves on to something a little more interesting than the Iron Chef fare.
posted by chemoboy at 7:40 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


.


Seriously, what a great show.
posted by X-Himy at 7:42 PM on May 11, 2011


I could never get past the camera in the fridge, or fact that he claims to be heterosexual.* The rest was just icing — excuse me — salt on the cake.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but rather that I hope my gaydar isn't that out of tune.
posted by schmod at 7:43 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


docgonzo: "In these tough times of economic collapse and widespread illness from excessive sodium intake, how reassuring that Mr. Brown has parlayed his mediocre talents into a well-paying gig shilling for a multinational agribusiness conglomerate in its quest to get Americans to eat more salt."

Here's a fun experiment. Make bread without salt. Try to eat your bread. Do you like it? Do you like eating your bread? Why or why not?
posted by boo_radley at 7:43 PM on May 11, 2011 [27 favorites]


If you don't like Alton, you don't like life.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:48 PM on May 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


My guess is they're about to Batali-ize or Emril-ify our good Mr. Brown because he wouldn't play ball with their ridiculous marketing demands by coming up with a line of branded mixing bowls or what have you. That, or he got sick of all the fake drama they gin up into their now ubiquitous competition shows.

I will miss Good Eats as it, along with the original Iron Chef, is what got me started watching the Food Network in the first place. I actually learned a lot over the years of watching Alton, Mario, Giada, et al. I wouldn't be the cook I am now without them.

However, I stopped watching Iron Chef America after the last The Next Iron Chef because I felt they had insulted the honor of Kitchen Stadium with their obvious rigging of the results. In fact, I was mad enough about it that I sent an angry e-mail to Bob Tuschman which concluded:
Your network as a whole has been slipping lately in production staff and management. You have turned your backs on the people who made Food Network what it is today, e.g. Chefs Lagasse and Batali. You're only lying to yourselves if you think that your viewers don't detect your deceptions and fabrications in the pursuit of more money. Everyone knows you've rigged competitions in the past. Everyone saw through the obvious botch job of the White House Iron Chef special. You should endeavor in the future to be honest and heartfelt rather than slick and packaged. We can tell the difference.
I do wish Alton would put on a few pounds though. It's one of my rules for life that one should never trust a skinny chef.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:49 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think you'd agree that there's a difference between the correct preparation of food and the fact that the average American's daily intake of sodium is twice the recommended level, contributing to 400,000 deaths/annum, a burden of mortality that Mr. Brown is now helping to support. As an epidemiologist(-in-training), it's interesting to me that he's very gung ho about explaining the science of food but not so interested in exploring the public health effects of what he shills for.
posted by docgonzo at 7:50 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Know the scene in the new Star Wars trilogy, where Anakin has just become Darth Vader, and he goes "NOOOOOOOooo!"? I rolled my eyes at that scene so. hard. because I couldn't imagine that ever being a true outpouring of emotion.

I stand corrected. It's exactly how I expressed my grief, learning of this.
posted by meese at 7:59 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not really a fan but that meth lab like precision is pretty appealing.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:59 PM on May 11, 2011


On non-preview: What spiderskull linked. Chef Bourdain nails the rot that has set in at Food Network.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:00 PM on May 11, 2011


There are no words. Good Eats is the most entertaining and creative cooking show to air in my lifetime. Mrs. Deadmessenger and I have learned SO much from watching Alton. For us, eating well is a part of living well, and at the risk of sounding over-the-top about this, I can't help but feel that Good Eats has really made our lives better.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:00 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's interesting to me that he's very gung ho about explaining the science of food but not so interested in exploring the public health effects of what he shills for

At the risk of pointing out the truly obvious, Alton Brown went to culinary school, not med school. Perhaps one of the many medical-advice shows would be more to your taste?
posted by deadmessenger at 8:02 PM on May 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Like him or not, Alton Brown has saved me a ton of money over the years, by teaching me everything from how to trim my own beef tenderloin to the importance of NOT. BUYING. UNITASKERS.

Stopped cooking due to a crappy kitchen, so I haven't watched in a while, but I liked Good Eats and will assuredly be YouTube-ing eps once my dream kitchen is complete.
posted by buzzkillington at 8:03 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Much of what I know about cooking comes from either Good Eats or the original Iron Chef. Only one of these shows was not afraid to throw in an occasional Blade Runner reference.

We went to a signing he did for his first cookbook, I'm Just Here for the Food. The place was packed but he stayed and talked to everyone who came. My favorite bit was that he had his own copy of the book, and he asked everyone whose book he signed to sign his copy as well. I like to think that somewhere there's a shelf full of all of them in the production office.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:03 PM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


If nothing else, thank you Mr. Brown for bringing The Chewy into my life.
posted by m@f at 8:03 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Almost posted this earlier, but the deleted tweet made me pause. Every article I could find sourced that tweet. Why was it deleted?
posted by curious nu at 8:04 PM on May 11, 2011


Apparently, Alton Brown has decided to delete all his tweets after 24 hours. Strange policy, but maybe he just wants to avoid leaving a trail in case he tweets something he regrets.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:06 PM on May 11, 2011


I'm not sure that he understands twitter. The account was created on May 5th. There was a tweet about deleting tweets to prevent them cluttering up the internet, but that tweet was deleted.
posted by rogueepicurean at 8:12 PM on May 11, 2011


I hope his replacement is Vegan Black Metal Chef.

Not really.

Well, kinda.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:14 PM on May 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


I hate to break the news to everyone, but Alton is and was terrible. His crimes against all things culinary are enough to see him locked up on Rikers for ten to twenty.

His cooking had no joy, no enthusiasm, and certainly no room for mistakes which frequently turn out more brilliantly than the intended result. He lost me the first time I saw him don plastic gloves to handle food in his own kitchen. Jeez, you know his parties don't devolve in bacchanals and orgies. Let me say this again, plastic gloves like the sandwich artists at Subway wear. At home.

Being interested in the process isn't the same, by a long way, as being interested in the product. Frequently he did something that even in my very limited experience was just "wrong", too fussy, too calculated.

Alton is the exact opposite of a great Italian (or French, or Chinese, or Indian,) home cook.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:17 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


A few of my favorite moments. Sorry no links but you should be able to search on wikipedia or foodnetwork.com if you are truly interested:
* Both of his pickling shows. I'm now a pickler and I couldn't be happier.
* His history of the cocktail shows. Especially the one about egg-nog. That is a tasty beverage.
* Asparagus, how wet and dry cooking make completely different dishes, and the advice to put a fried egg on top of asparagus and eat it for breakfast. Yum.
* That episode on chicken wings and the one on hamburgers. Okay, these two episodes have probably shortened my lifespan. But yes, I also grind my own meat now when I have time.
* The poaching show did a great job of explaining how and why poaching works and let me delve into that kinda intimidating concept myself.
posted by chemoboy at 8:18 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Spiderskull, I liked Bourdain's comments on Alton Brown that you linked above, but his comments on Sandra Lee had me howling with laughter. Thank you so much, I enjoyed that.
posted by theora55 at 8:18 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


His cooking had no joy, no enthusiasm, and certainly no room for mistakes which frequently turn out more brilliantly than the intended result

You are out of your mind.
posted by device55 at 8:21 PM on May 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


Alton Brown made me think about cooking-and that's a good thing. And with Good Eats ending, Food Network falls further away from where it started.
posted by Not The Stig at 8:26 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


American's daily intake of sodium is twice the recommended level, contributing to 400,000 deaths/annum, a burden of mortality that Mr. Brown is now helping to support.

And where does most of that salt come from? Processed and prepared food.

What's Alton Brown promoting? Cooking for yourself at home.

What's the one thing dietitians say is the best way to get people to eat healthier? Get people to understand what they eat and how to prepare it better.

Maybe, just maybe, you should go read some public health nutrition papers. But then we'd get into an actual discussion of how poverty and obesity are related not by education but by access to healthy foods, which would be... another show.

But as someone who spent a decade immersed in the public health world, I can tell you there were a lot of Alton Brown fans in public health. And yelling about him and salt is kinda silly given he's on the same network as Paula "Fried Butter" Deen.
posted by dw at 8:34 PM on May 11, 2011 [55 favorites]


All good eats must come to an end.
posted by crunchland at 8:35 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Good Eats going off the air is like the moment MTV finally gave up for good on showing videos. It's finally admitting once and for all that the network name has nothing to do with their programming.
posted by dw at 8:35 PM on May 11, 2011 [18 favorites]


Yesterday I cooked an egg his way. Today I made and used a marinade his way. Every time I cook I think about something I learned from him. His Beakman and Bill Nye fun facts and science for cooking hooked me and I thank him. Thanks, Alton!
posted by tomplus2 at 8:36 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Salt in food you prepare yourself is vital, and should never be neglected. I've made bread without salt and it was wretched. However I've also added too much salt, and it was vile in a different way. The key for me, (with a few exceptions, mainly french fries and things of that ilk) is you should never be able to taste the salt, except by comparison with the same food without it. It should be functioning to blend and enhance the other flavors in whatever you're cooking.

The problem with something like Cargill video, is most people don't consume salt in food that's been prepared at home. They consume salt in industrial foodstuffs, because oversalting is a fairly cheap way to make these foods more palatable. It's like the rather infamous Sweet Surprise video. "Sugar is fine in moderation". Perfectly true, but also perfectly irrelevant given the amount of it we consume in North America.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:41 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel like I should mention that America's Test Kitchen and Cooks Country are both great cooking shows on PBS.

They don't quite have the production values or the writing of Good Eats, but they do have a scientific approach to cooking (literally, they do controlled experiments to compare versions of recipes they are refining, and have a food science expert speak on concepts complete with animations) and equipment testing. They also have two magazines, a ton of cookbooks (get America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook for the ideal mix of convenience and quality), a radio show, and oddly enough a Nintendo DS "game."

I don't agree with them always despite them acting like an authority, Chris can be annoying, and the recipes can be overly complicated, but they beat all my existing recipes for something most of the time. Whether I'm a bad recipe hoarder or if they're great is hard to tell.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:45 PM on May 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Salt is like an amplifier as far as flavor goes. You can taste it itself, but it's best used to make things taste more like themselves. It works particularly well on meat.

I learned that from Alton before he became a NaCl shill.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:47 PM on May 11, 2011


America's Test Kitchen and Cooks Country are both great cooking shows on PBS. --- Whatever you do, don't subscribe to their magazine, though. They have this weird idea that they can just send their subscribers books without asking first, and then they bill them for it. Or they automatically renew your subscription without asking. Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country magazines are great. I buy them every month -- at the store.
posted by crunchland at 8:48 PM on May 11, 2011


Frequently he did something that even in my very limited experience was just "wrong", too fussy, too calculated.

I think of it like this: Picasso had to be able to paint realistically before he could become a true artist. You have to know the calculated, fussy, exact science of a thing before you can learn the heartfelt, flying, expansive art of it. Alton Brown taught the science. It's not the last step in a culinary education, but the first.

The stuff about fussiness--gloves, etc? I think of it like how writing is taught in high school. You're given really fussy rules: don't use 'I', don't ask rhetorical questions, always have so many paragraphs, always start a paragraph this way, always end that way, etc etc etc. No authors actually follow those ridiculous rules. They're fussy; they're wrong. But, you have to follow them to get the very basics of writing down. You learn them, then you learn to transcend them.
posted by meese at 8:48 PM on May 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


Good Eats is like the Mr. Wizard's World of cooking shows. And by that I mean, it's educational and awesome. It will be missed.
posted by formless at 8:49 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you don't like Alton, you don't like life.

Story checks out.
posted by dhammond at 8:50 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


His cooking had no joy, no enthusiasm, and certainly no room for mistakes which frequently turn out more brilliantly than the intended result.

I think I've altered half of his recipes based on my own mistakes. If you say he has "no room for mistakes," then neither did Julia Child.

He lost me the first time I saw him don plastic gloves to handle food in his own kitchen.

After I gave myself food poisoning due to cross-contamination from mishandling a chicken, I switched to gloves and haven't looked back. I wouldn't mock them, just as I wouldn't mock being stuck on the toilet bent over in pain for hours at a time.
posted by dw at 8:50 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The one problem I have with the disposable gloves is the amount of extra waste it generates. Reusable gloves are okay since they're easy to clean and it saves wear-and-tear on your hands a bit.
posted by curious nu at 8:54 PM on May 11, 2011


The stuff about fussiness--gloves, etc?

I know a few folks who have gone to culinary school and who have worked with food professionally. For these guys food safety is serious business. It goes way beyond that blue and white 'A' grade on a piece of paper in a frame behind the register.

Rubber gloves may well be overkill for the home cook. However, food born illness is a real thing and Alton Brown teaches how to avoid it. If you want to rub your hands all over raw chicken and make a salad, be my guest.

I don't use rubber gloves myself, but I do handle raw meat with tongs and a fresh cutting board every time, and that's because of watching Good Eats.

The last time I had food poisoning was in Mexico.
posted by device55 at 8:57 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just obsessively wash my hands a lot while cooking to prevent cross-contamination (hooray for rare droughts in the northeast). I keep raw and cooked food separate. I don't really use gloves, unless I'm handling something my skin doesn't like.

Chopping more than one or two hot peppers is a bad idea without gloves, for example. It feels fine at first, but soon you get a slow burn that gets more intense. At first, you can't type, but it's no big deal. About an hour, your fingers curl up into claws and you hold your hands in front of you like a t-rex so you don't touch anything. You have someone else look up remedies online, but it's too late. The capsaicin is deep in your skin.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:59 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Chris can be annoying

"Can be"? "CAN BE"?!?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:59 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


> Being interested in the process isn't the same, by a long way, as being interested in the product. Frequently he did something that even in my very limited experience was just "wrong", too fussy, too calculated.

Then you really aren't much of a cook yourself then.

Almost every amazing cook I know is "fussy" and "percise" when it comes to cooking. Why? Becaues they don't just make some recipe off the back of the box, they know the science and the art behind what they are cooking, and they are applying their learned knowledge to create something great. And the really good ones can create successful dish after successful dish, and they do it by being fussy. If you haven't had a meal prepared by a fussy, percise, exacting chef, you are missing out, there is an art in being able to create beautiful food every day, but there is just as much science as well.

Alton Brown was about teaching all of this, but with a practical, you don't need to go to culinary school, sort of way. He wanted to make cooking accessible in the house, which is why he was continually preaching against unitaskers. You don't need to drop tons of money on fancy devices, when you can get as good results by using things around the house.

He's your zany highschool science teacher you made you excited about SCIENCE. Everything from Good Eats can carry forward when you want to learn about more advanced cooking and really start becoming independent culinarily. Maybe if you watched his show thinking he would amaze you with some culinary feat, you are missing out. His show was to make you put down your beer and go "hey, I could cook that right now."

As for the health of his food, the best thing you can do to improve your diet is learn how to cook a meal, and what goes in your body. If you can do that and feel more comfortable eating from home for a week with meals that didn't come out of a can (which means they aren't packed with sodium), then he as done something to help people become more healthy. Even if you don't like his recipes (I know a lot of people who disagree with what he does to assemble a dish), he gives you his reasoning behind it, and also shows you the purpose for it as well. I've been watching Good Eats from as soon as I discovered it was on the air, Alton Brown has been pushing for people to be creative and resourceful in the kitchen, and to think critically about preparing food.

Yes, he's a paid rep for the NaCL lobbyists. I'd like to think he is fighting for the right for chefs to use salt in their food and not have it regulated at that level, compared to the processed food arena of canned soups and prepacked meals which are really the biggest offenders in the sodium consumption department. It might not be true, maybe he just wanted more money to buy a new motorcycle, or be able to escape from the sinking ship that is food network, but I am not going to go unlearn all what I gained from the man and destroy my cookbooks because of who he speaks for.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:00 PM on May 11, 2011 [27 favorites]


I hope his replacement is Vegan Black Metal Chef.

Oh my God, thank you for that. I missed the post yesterday.
posted by formless at 9:08 PM on May 11, 2011


His cooking had no joy, no enthusiasm, and certainly no room for mistakes which frequently turn out more brilliantly than the intended result.

Brown's not too fussy; he's a kid whose found a new toy he wants to show off. He knows a lot, but sometimes he get details wrong, or, like any geek, mistakes preferences for "rules". You generally don't need to be as prescriptive as Alton is with a recipe, but it doesn't hurt to do as he does.

He's fun to watch, in a geeky sort of way, and he does his research, but he does make mistakes. He is human. His greatest failing is to mistake opinions as hard and fast rules. There's more in the kitchen than admitted by by his philosophy, but, you know I'd rather watch someone with actual opinions of food than Rachel Ray.
posted by bonehead at 9:10 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


it's interesting to me that he's very gung ho about explaining the science of food but not so interested in exploring the public health effects of what he shills for

I noticed a trend in the later episodes where he was discussing food politics and responsible food choices. For example, the "The Once & Future Fish" episode talked about over-fishing and sustainable fish options.
posted by formless at 9:18 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I respect the hell out of him, met him once, got my picture with him.. genuinely awesome guy. He's the reason I got into cooking, why I have a food processor, cast iron skillet, avoid unitaskers, etc.
I'll miss the show, but it had a great run, and I appreciate that he didn't run it all the way into the ground first.

Also, his steak method changed my life.
posted by hypersloth at 9:19 PM on May 11, 2011


Chopping more than one or two hot peppers is a bad idea without gloves

I did prep for a cook out for a friend's bar once. I was making some chicken skewers using SE Asian flavors; lemongrass, ginger, and chile. Lots of chile. I chopped about 30 thai chilies without gloves. It took quite a while, and I didn't really scrub my hands after. That night, whimpering from the burning, I tried everything google could throw at me. I bathed my hands in ice cold vodka (no effect). I washed my hands in milk (no effect). I washed my hands in yogurt (nothing). I soaked my hands in dish soap for ten minutes (nada). The only thing that even sort of helped was dunking my hands in ice water for as long as I could bear it. Even then, by the time my hands dried, they'd be on fire again, and I'd have to dunk them as long as I could stand.

I couldn't sleep that night because of the burning. Even touching my hands to the sheets on my bed was agony. So, yeah, gloves. Not a sign of an anal of excessive cook. If he's using them, he probably has a reason.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:25 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


He just won the James Beard award for TV host for Good Eats.
Another winner was the book Salted: A manifesto on the world's most essential mineral, with recipes
posted by saffry at 9:26 PM on May 11, 2011


Once, and only once, I cut a Habanero pepper without gloves. I was warned by my uncle to wash my hands well before I touched my eyes. He never said anything about going to take a pee without washing my hands. That was the most excruciating food related mishap I ever had.

Capcaisin, if I recall (perhaps incorrectly), is fat soluable. Sour cream has always worked the best for me, but I imagine any sort of cream would work. Water and alcohol would probably only make it worse. Likewise with milk and yogurt if they were mostly water anyway.
posted by chemoboy at 9:33 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate to break the news to everyone, but Alton is and was terrible. His crimes against all things culinary are enough to see him locked up on Rikers for ten to twenty.

I'm not sure you understand how the criminal justice system works in NY. In fact, I'm not sure you understand what "terrible" and "crimes" is meant to state.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:36 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never got the appeal of Alton Brown. I've seen a couple of episodes, but all the skits and costumes and quick cuts and hammy acting took away from the reason I watch cooking shows -- the food.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:38 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is very little evidence that salt has any affect in increasing hypertension in people who do not already have high blood pressure.
posted by gyc at 9:39 PM on May 11, 2011


But the real question is:

When does the "Good Eats" complete series come out on dvd...or blu-ray?
posted by hal_c_on at 9:41 PM on May 11, 2011


I hate to break the news to everyone, but Alton is and was terrible. His crimes against all things culinary are enough to see him locked up on Rikers for ten to twenty.

I hate to break the news to you, but you're wrong.
posted by Huck500 at 9:43 PM on May 11, 2011


Food Network has some DVDs of Good Eats out but, it is in an odd format, not season by season.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:44 PM on May 11, 2011


I once cut chillies without gloves. Once. I like to be able to see.
posted by netd at 9:52 PM on May 11, 2011


I'm guessing that he features more tropes than any other Food Network show.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:55 PM on May 11, 2011


> I've seen a couple of episodes, but all the skits and costumes and quick cuts and hammy acting took away from the reason I watch cooking shows -- the food.

Thats because the show was all about how (and why) to cook that food, which required hammy acting, skits, and costumes. Or it might not have. Instead of just saying "dice this, chop that, bake at 350 degrees" he would unpack the entire reasoning behind why you would want to cook a steak this way instead of that. But the hammy acting made it more interesting, and made the entire experience light hearted. It did for me anyway, but then again I grew up mainlining Mr. Wizard and Julia Child.

Again, if that is not what you were looking for in a cooking show, then I can understand the lack of appeal. One thing I found useful now is just googling "good eats thethingiwanttocook" just to watch Alton Browns method of cooking. You may not end up using his style, but if you try it his way, you may find it easier to start branching out and toying with the recipe, etc.

Also, I am glad this is on repeats indefinitely, so I still have something to watch when I visit my parents.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:55 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Food Network has some DVDs of Good Eats out but, it is in an odd format, not season by season.

I hate that bullshit. Its like when they used to sell x-files videotapes with 2-3 episodes that were kinda related. Fuck that. Gimme everything arranged nicely, food bitches.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:56 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


our good Mr. Brown because he wouldn't play ball with their ridiculous marketing demands by coming up with a line of branded mixing bowls or what have you.

ob1quixote--He's got masses of marketing crap.

I don't particularly like him, but I don't like any TV chefs.

Fans have the three one-hour specials and the final GE book to look forward to.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:56 PM on May 11, 2011


Also, if you are looking for the episodes, LikeTheHat has just about every episode on youtube.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:57 PM on May 11, 2011


ob1quixote--He's got masses of marketing crap.

Look through them, the vast majority are not real products, they are possible products that have never been made.
posted by SuzySmith at 10:00 PM on May 11, 2011


I'd much rather have a focus on the food, not hammy acting or costumes. You can tell me why it's a good idea to do X instead of dressing up as an old lady or large carrot to illustrate it.

Saves time and is way less cheesy. Makes more time to devote to the actual food content. I prefer a more straightforward style and grew up watching both science shows and cooking shows. I'm a passionate cook and a total geek, so friends recommended the show to me but it was just too much cheese.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:16 PM on May 11, 2011


The stuff about fussiness--gloves, etc? I think of it like how writing is taught in high school. You're given really fussy rules: don't use 'I', don't ask rhetorical questions, always have so many paragraphs, always start a paragraph this way, always end that way, etc etc etc. No authors actually follow those ridiculous rules. They're fussy; they're wrong. But, you have to follow them to get the very basics of writing down. You learn them, then you learn to transcend them.
posted by meese


As a professional chef, I can tell you that this is the 100% absolute truth. Every time I get a cook in my kitchen who starts making suggestions about what we "should" do I tell them to make me an aioli by hand (mortar+pestle, whisk, bowl) then we'll talk.
posted by kaiseki at 10:24 PM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Watching Julia Child as a kid with my mom sort of set the bar real high for me on cooking shows. GE was interesting on occasion, but he is no Julia.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:26 PM on May 11, 2011


The only thing I have against AB was related to an interview-by-email he once did with Slashdot, where he was needlessly, rudely dismissive of someone's (actually quite interesting and quite serious) question about how it's possible to cook a chicken in molten lava. It's pretty interesting and would have been a great segue into an explanation of heat transfer or thermal mass or any number of other issues, and he was a real dick instead.

But then again, he actually did an email interview with Slashdot. Don't think there's anyone else on the Food Network who can say that.

I hope he escapes FN and finds another network to do a real cooking show with again; if he doesn't get out of there, some day he's going to wake up and realize that he's nothing but another Marc Summers to them. And it will be -- [pregnant pause] -- too late.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:29 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I understand the appeal of the straightforward standup cooking show. Too bad Food Network is trying to run them all off the air with Best Chopped Diner I Ever Ate Under $40 Throwdown America of Cakes clones.

My wife told me tonight Food is giving Ree Drummond a show. It's like they're out to make anyone with a little glamour and a book of recipes into a bland talking head and bit actor in the Epic that is Food Network now. I mean, they fired Batali, then turned his right hand woman on ICA into Anne Burrell The Woman Chef On Every Damn Show. Nothing against Burrell, but gaah, that's like MTV firing Prince and putting Apollonia on every damn hour.

You watch Julia Child, you WANT to cook, you want to hang out with that lovable drunk that sold America on what a good home cooked meal should be like. You watch Giada, and you love her skills and you know she knows Italian cuisine backwards and forwards, but you feel like, as Bourdain said, the camera cares more about her cleavage.

MTV doesn't show videos, Food doesn't show cooking shows, SyFy doesn't want to be sci-fi, half the news networks don't really show much news other than celebrity gossip... at this point, I fully expect ESPN will announce this year they're replacing the morning Sportscenter reruns with WWII documentaries and a Charlie Trotter raw cooking show.
posted by dw at 10:45 PM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


On cutting chiles:

I cut and dice a LOT of chiles. I eat extremely spicy food really often. I never wear gloves, and so long as I wash my hands pretty well I've never had a problem. Even when I cut a half pound of anaheims to make hot sauce.

But then I cut a full pound of habaneros. I was okay until I showered the next morning, when I guess the hot water opened all of my pores and the residual capsaicin crept in, slowly descending me into burning hands hell.

The only thing that helped was the weirdest sounding- soaking my hands in a mild bleach solution. I guess it crystalizes the capsaicin so it can be washed off. I repeated that a few times and I was fine.

The more you know!
posted by flaterik at 11:13 PM on May 11, 2011


Oh man, I knew he wasn't planning on letting the show run all that much longer, but I didn't know this was the last season. Count me in as another person who got interesting in cooking because of Good Eats. Every time I want to try making a food I never have, the first thing I do is check if Good Eats did an episode on it.

From interviews I've read, it sounds like Alton considers himself a TV producer first and a "food personality" second, so I hope he moves on to create other non food related shows and doesn't end up in Food Network hell the rest of his career.
posted by gregoryg at 11:25 PM on May 11, 2011


Seconding that fans of Good Eats will probably like America's Test Kitchen, which also takes a very scientific, empirical approach to cooking.

Also seconding that Chris Kimball is completely annoying, though my wife and I were watching an episode the other night (Chicago-style so-called "pizza") where Bridget utterly pwned him with her genius recipe, won her freedom from the hex he obviously placed on her, and shanked him with the manacles that had been around her ankle for good measure. It was a pleasure to see. I just wish she hadn't let him eat any of that pizza - or at least snookered him into eating it while it was still hot enough to burn his mouth.

And also seconding that weird experience crunchland had. I bought their cookbook on their website, and then they sent me an additional (different) cookbook that I had never ordered and had no interest in. However, I called them and told them nuh-uh - something they were clearly very familiar with, because they cancelled the bill and just told me to send the book back. A very dumb, sketchy business practice, but whatevs. I lived.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:46 PM on May 11, 2011


Good Eats was the only cooking show I watched on purpose. That said, I bought one of his books, and he seems to have always poo-pooed the idea that salt contributes to heart disease. Also, he does have a sort of "my way or the highway" approach to cooking. One of the chapters in the book was about roasting. Now, at first it's all reasonable. I ended up making a pretty good roast just buying a roasting pan and a probe thermometer. But then he just gets weird. By the end, he was expecting me to effectively build a kiln in my backyard (I have no yard), or I'd have a sucky roast. I have to get written permission just for a grill!

That said, the good outweighs the bad.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:03 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The way I see a lot of AB recipes and techniques is that you should never take them too literally. What he's doing is basically thinking "ok, so how can I make the most perfect, best [insert food item here] possible?" and then using SCIENCE! to come up with an answer. Thus you have to use bricks to build your own oven or construct a pulley system to deep-fry a turkey.

The point though is that this is the ideal, best-case way to go about doing such things (according to him at least), but not that is the ONLY way to do so. Since he explains clearly why the methods he suggests work, you can just use those principles to achieve some improvement in your cooking to whatever extent is comfortable to you. So you don't need to go and build that kiln, you could just take the idea of using materials with high heat capacity and place a few heavy tiles (or flat stones) in your oven. Going to the extremes is really just being geeky for the fun of it.
posted by destrius at 2:01 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Splunge at 2:23 AM on May 12, 2011


Have you all seen Bitchen Kitchen? I saw it late it night after a bottle of wine and I'm still not sure if it was real or a fever dream.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:19 AM on May 12, 2011


Seriously, folks, if your cable provider doesn't offer the Cooking Channel, you need to call them and demand it. It's what Food Network used to be, many years ago. Original Iron Chef! "Two Fat Ladies" on Saturday nights! Mark Bittman has a show, for god's sake!

sprinkles some kosher salt on the ground for "Good Eats"
posted by jbickers at 3:20 AM on May 12, 2011


And yeah, "Bitchen Kitchen" is incredible (also on Cooking Channel). It seems to be channeling the spirit of early "Good Eats."
posted by jbickers at 3:24 AM on May 12, 2011


I don't remember why we stopped watching Alton but it certainly wasn't because of anything bad. I think it's because after three seasons we had a pretty good idea of where he was going. And, well, we didn't need a dozen years of an awesome science teacher; three was enough, we graduated and moved on. Now I look at a chunk of meat and compose a cooking method in my head in a second or two and announce, "three hours" and after minimal effort, and three hours, we have awesome meat. The world where thatdawnperson creates gluten-free recipes of tasty things from Joy and they just work. Where we basically never eat out, and when we prepare a meal it is made with care and forethought and comes out healthy and tasty.

That's Alton's legacy, and for some people a dozen episodes would do it, for some three seasons, and for some 250 or so. We might go back and watch his later episodes (maybe someday, Netflix?) but he would be preaching to the choir and it would be fun but not another life-altering revelation.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:58 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you think there's a lot of salt in American food you've obviously never eaten in a Russian household. They don't have a salt cellar, they have a salt dish with a desert spoon. Everything is cooked with half a bucket of salt and served on a bed of salt with a salt garnish and a pile of salt on the side. If you grew up in Russia under communism you're eighty percent salt, but I'm sure that's all the fault of international capitalism too.
posted by joannemullen at 4:11 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


If not for Alton's first book, I never would have found John Thorne. Thanks Alton.
posted by valkane at 4:15 AM on May 12, 2011


Vegan Black Metal Chef.

I would SO watch the crap out of that show. :)

you know his parties don't devolve in bacchanals and orgies.

You know this show would probably start at that. ;)
posted by usagizero at 4:35 AM on May 12, 2011


I had no idea he was still doing new shows for Good Eats. It seems like every time I tuned into Food Network, it was yet another damned cupcake competition or somesuch.

My eulogy for Good Eats is mixed, though. The show definitely pushed me to try a few new things in my kitchen. On the other hand, Brown's "If you don't follow my directions exactly as I laid them down, all hell will break loose" manor really turned me off at times. I can definitely see why the show became so popular with the "can't drink water without 5 pages of instructions and $200 of gear" crowd.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:47 AM on May 12, 2011


One of the reasons that Alton wore gloves was because of his own food allergies. At least for clams (or perhaps oysters), as he said in the show. Another reason was for specific cases when cleanup could have been a pain. Anyone that has had club hand from breading would understand.
posted by X-Himy at 5:24 AM on May 12, 2011


I was a huge fan of the show for a long time... I learned quite a lot from it and really admire the format he developed.

I was really let down when I saw him shilling for Miller Beer a while back, not only because it's mass-produced mediocre-at-best beer but because I could swear I read an interview with him in the early 2000's in which he made a firm and principled statement about why he didn't do endorsements. (I'll be darned if I can find said interview so I know it's not fair to judge the guy because of that... but Miller, really?)
posted by usonian at 5:40 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: An exception to the nom.

keming!
posted by Eideteker at 5:52 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, Alton Brown was the DP on R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" video. That fact has always cracked me up for some reason.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:55 AM on May 12, 2011


I was really let down when I saw him shilling for Miller Beer a while back, not only because it's mass-produced mediocre-at-best beer but because I could swear I read an interview with him in the early 2000's in which he made a firm and principled statement about why he didn't do endorsements

Brown, of course, has been shilling for Welches grape juice for awhile now. And, lord knows, he should be getting checks from the Digital Scale and Thermometer Manufacturers Association.

The idea of a Miller beer endorsement is kind of funny, since his own homebrew beer recipe is barely better than the Miller swill.

One thing I've always enjoyed about G.E., is the visual design. If nothing else, it is always a fun show to watch.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:07 AM on May 12, 2011


I liked Alton Brown until I read comments from him that was really pretty insensitve towards fat people. I really do wish I could still enjoy the show again, but after hearing him shame people in that interview, I just don't look at him the same way anymore.
posted by inturnaround at 6:14 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, under no circumstances should you ever try Alton Brown's homebrew recipe. He made a ton of mistakes. He clearly was new to homebrewing, and hadn't done enough research and probably tried to make his own recipe when he just wasn't ready yet. I've heard he apologized for that episode, but I can't seem to find the apology online.

There are much better recipes, guides and videos online. Homebrewtalk.com is a good starting point.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:19 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bitchen Kitchen is not channeling early Good Eats.

Good Eats was contrived and cute.

Bitchen Kitchen is contrived and hideous.
posted by notyou at 6:37 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always suspected the one Good Eats recipe no one has attempted to replicate at home is his recipe for liquid smoke. Talk about a lot of bother for very, very little payback.
posted by sourwookie at 6:40 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised so many are surprised or disappointed to see Mr. Brown doing commercials; after all he was directing them before he became a Food Network star. The one for Cargill does seem a little at odds with his "eat locally and in season" tendencies. On the other hand, I can't get too upset about salt. Despite what many seem to think, it is not salt that is the problem, but too much sodium. Although salt is the main source of sodium in the diet, there are many others, especially in processed foods. Although MSG is unjustly vilified for causing "Chinese resaurant syndrome" it does add sodium to food. A lot of other additives are in the form of sodium salts as well, for example baking soda.
posted by TedW at 6:48 AM on May 12, 2011


I must admit: has Good Eats really been on all this time? I stopped watching years ago...but then, with the second kid (much less the fourth), I stopped watching everything.

I would love to be able to go to his network's site and pull up a given show for reference, in the way that I always crack open "How to Cook Everything" and "On Food & Cooking" before I try something new, but I don't think I would buy the DVDs.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:23 AM on May 12, 2011


I first met Alton around 2002 when he walked into the motorcycle shop where I worked. Being one of those smug people who didn't have a TV, I had no idea who he was. I helped him like he was a normal person and he became a regular customer. I got to know him and his family pretty well; he gave me a part in the beef jerky episode of Good Eats.

Alton does virtually all of the writing for Good Eats; the persona you see on TV is pretty much what he's like in real life. He is, and I mean this with the utmost respect, a complete geek, and a well-rounded one. He was in my shop the day my Compact Oxford English Dictionary arrived from buy.com. We sat at the parts counter for an hour or so looking up words and talking about language.

I will be very surprised if he doesn't have another project in the works.
posted by workerant at 7:28 AM on May 12, 2011 [24 favorites]


Regarding Alton Brown and salt - I haven't watched the show in a while, but one of the last episodes I did watch sort of etched itself into my brain because it seemed to represent such a shift in what Alton had been saying. It was around when he started to look gaunt, after losing weight when I think he'd started to have weight-related health problems and was ashamed of how heavy he'd become. He had an episode called "Live and Let Diet." He said this towards the beginning:

"There is one more list to consider. This is my 'Do Not Eat' list, the foods I consume zero times a week. This list includes fast food, soda pop—with the exception of club soda, that's okay—processed meals—TV dinners and the like—canned soups—generally full of sodium—and anything with the word 'diet' on it. Because, after all, I'm not on a diet. Besides, the way I look at it, artificial sweeteners have so deadened our collective palates that we can't even taste how sweet real sweet even is when we get it."

So, although he's a big fan of putting kosher salt on/in pretty much everything (even COFFEE, for crying out loud- yeah, that coffee episode didn't do it for me either), I thought that there was very sensible. And aside from that, hopefully that episode got a lot of people to see that, although he does a lot of indulgent stuff on the show, that doesn't mean you should eat that stuff all the time.
posted by wondermouse at 7:40 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Put me down as another person whose life was made better by Alton Brown. I was a culinary burnout because of a bad experience working as a cook but Alton Brown arrived in my life at the right time (around the same time as this article about mole and I go into my culinary burnout in a comment in the thread) and my love for cooking was nurtured back to life on a steady diet of Alton Brown watching (thanks to MeFite GenjiandProust). I now cook regularly, putting thought and fun into the most trivial meals and use plenty of tricks I picked up from AB. He's not a perfect human (I don't care much for Feasting on Asphalt, for instance, and I was shocked when I saw him shill for Welch's using the same visual language he'd developed on his show) but Good Eats remains a brilliant cooking show. He and Julia Child are the only people whose cooking shows hold my attention.
posted by Kattullus at 7:49 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


After I gave myself food poisoning due to cross-contamination from mishandling a chicken, I switched to gloves and haven't looked back. I wouldn't mock them, just as I wouldn't mock being stuck on the toilet bent over in pain for hours at a time.

Except that wearing gloves doesn't do anything to prevent cross-contamination from mishandling a chicken (or whatever). The only way that wearing gloves would mitigate the risk of cross-contamination would be if you took them off immediately after handling the chicken. You know what else would mitigate that risk just as much? Washing your hands immediately after handling the chicken... which you could do at the same time as you're washing the cutting board and all the other things you used to prep the raw chicken.

The reason gloves are used in some restaurants isn't really to prevent cross-contamination as such. It's there because, well, food workers often don't wash their hands as frequently or thoroughly as they should, especially in places that are paying 8 bucks an hour. For example, a while back a small county (<500,000) in New York was getting over 40% of the reported hepatitis cases in the state. Then they started to strictly enforce a glove law in fast and fast-casual restaurants. The problem disappeared and has never returned. If you know anything about how hepatitis is usually transmitted, it's clear that the workers at these places weren't washing their hands (or weren't doing it often or thoroughly enough) after using the bathroom. Making them wear gloves reduced the extent to which they could contaminate the food with fecal material from their unwashed hands. But it wouldn't have done anything about whether they spread salmonella all over the kitchen once they had the gloves on. If anything, wearing gloves can reduce the extent to which a cook is aware that he needs to clean his hands.
posted by slkinsey at 7:51 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't take everything AB does in his shows to heart - sometimes his idea sounds great in theory but is not so great in practice. But certainly I've always had the impression that he loves food, and geeks out about it as only a geek can.

His sometimes abrasive demeanour notwithstanding (watch Feasting on Waves to see him really butt heads with people whose culture and pace of life are different than his), he's always been informative and enjoyable to watch.

Good luck to whatever's next for AB!
posted by LN at 8:06 AM on May 12, 2011


So one of those Egg Salt Council creeps got to you too, huh?
posted by mikelieman at 8:11 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll miss the hell out of Good Eats. I agree that the rigidity behind his recipes and techniques was a little off-putting to me (speaking as someone who loves cooking off-the-cuff), but then again the recipes really had little to do with the show as a whole. They were just foundational applications of the ingredients and techniques that he detailed in the first half of the show. It was a vehicle for learning about food and cooking.

I particularly appreciated that format for a cooking show because my all-time-favorite cooking show had more or less the same approach: Half the show for teaching about the food in question, half the show for cooking it. I'm talking about Taste (hosted by David Rosengarten way back in the early days of Food Network). It was like the less-cereberal, more-refined older brother of Good Eats. Wonderful, wonderful show.

I miss the old boring Food Network quite a bit, back when it was just an endless wonderful stream of cooking shows (and very little else). I spent way too many evenings after school watching 2 Fat Ladies, Taste, Chef Du Jour, Grilling and Chilling, classic Iron Chef, even the old taped Emeril cooking show was enjoyable. I attribute most of my humble skills as a cook to watching the channel religiously.

The lineup has been garbage for years, though. I loathe most of the competitive cooking shows, particularly the desert and cake competitions. I make a few exceptions: Chopped is okay, 24 Hour Restaurant is watchable, and Iron Chef America is a guilty pleasure. But none of the new shows are really great. I'll watch anything that has Giada De Laurentiis or Bobby Flaw cooking in front of a camera; I love them. Paula Deen and Ina Garten are usually watchable. I'll watch Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, but more because I have a crush on Guy Fieri than because of any particular merit to the show itself.

I can't believe I'm getting nostalgic over a cable cooking network.
posted by kryptondog at 8:12 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The thing about Alton was his palpable joy about SCIENCE and how that translated into fluffy omelets and better pan sauces. Yes I thought the show often veered over the cutesy punny costumey line, but he never talked down to you, always had something interesting to teach and had so much fun it was infectious. How I will miss his giant styrofoam molecules.
I never once watched him make a backyard egg boiler with a wrench and two flamethrowers and thought: Alton is telling me to go do this and will think less of me if I don't.

That night, whimpering from the burning, I tried everything google could throw at me.

I learned a trick - I could swear from AB himself: after cutting chilies, use a liberal amount of greasy hand lotion (or, I suppose, oil or butter or any fat) and THEN use soap. Supposedly the capsaicin bonds to the fat, which then can be washed off with detergent. Now I keep a bottle of cheap hand lotion by the sink.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:14 AM on May 12, 2011


On non preview, god yes, I miss Rosengarten too.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're going to miss Good Eats at our house too. It definitely got me interested in cooking, and many of his recipes have become staples. Many others have been head-scratching flops, but the good definitely outweigh the bad. Here's hoping his recipes remain available online now that the show is over.

It looks like you can now actually buy the complete first and second seasons. Here's hoping the rest will follow.
posted by howling fantods at 8:28 AM on May 12, 2011


I could never get past the camera in the fridge, or fact that he claims to be heterosexual.* The rest was just icing — excuse me — salt on the cake.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but rather that I hope my gaydar isn't that out of tune.


I've read several interviews where he talked about the sacrifices his wife made for him during the early development of the show--when it seemed pretty much just like a crazy idea that would never go anywhere. I don't think he is faking anything.
posted by Quonab at 9:16 AM on May 12, 2011


The thing about the fussiness with food safety is that the "oh noes, gloves in your own house" folks don't know what they're talking about.

They think "stomach flu" is a flu you can catch from the air or something that just happens naturally from walking around and doing stuff.

Instead of gastroenteritis and bacterial infections being, you know, fucking food poisoning.

Oh gosh, I'm allergic to MSG! No jackass, you ate some bad chicken someone left on the counter too long. Can't eat gluten? Do you have Crohn's? No? Then it's not the gluten making your insides all rumbly. It's the fecal coliform.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:21 AM on May 12, 2011


"Alton Brown, the geeky television commercial director who ended up creating the most popular food television of his generation, has announced his main show, "Good Eats," is over. Here's a Chicago Tribune story on the news. Here's some of the reaction, from Alton lovers and a smaller number of not-fans, at Metafilter."

posted by zarq at 9:42 AM on May 12, 2011


His cooking had no joy, no enthusiasm, and certainly no room for mistakes which frequently turn out more brilliantly than the intended result

You are out of your mind.
posted by device55 at 8:21 PM on May 11 [11 favorites +] [!]


Alton is terrible - and frankly boring. KT is right, his cooking has so little joy and exuberance, Good Eats was frankly America's Test Kitchen with the personality syphoned off.

He is like the guy who claims to be an audiophile who looooves music - but then you show up at his house and find out the entire living room is lined with $10,000 speakers, and you spend the next hour listening to raindrops on a tin roof, as your host revels in the clarity of his stereo system.

And BTW - good cooking comes from a place of wanting to please, and nuture your guests, about showing them your love of food and sharing the experience with them. You ever notice how Alton is almost eating by himself on Good Eats?
posted by helmutdog at 9:48 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


You ever notice how Alton is almost eating by himself on Good Eats?

So was Julia Child. Also, drinking alone.

I wonder if the problem with Alton Brown for people is he looks at food from a science and engineering perspective, and it's running alongside 23.5 hours of food looked at from a sensual experience. It's not that he doesn't bring the food porn (or that food is nothing more than energy), but he's not exactly treating it like you're going to have sex with the quinoa salad.

And I think, too, that you always saw Julia Child's mistakes, e.g. dropping the turkey. Brown edited his out, mostly. So he's what you get, but he isn't always what you see.
posted by dw at 11:10 AM on May 12, 2011


We met Brown on his first book tour. Despite being prodded and poked by the crowd for dirty gossip on any of the other Food Network stars, he remained a total class act and wouldn't speak ill of any of them. That stuck with me.

Re: Chris Kimball - As a side project, I used to review cooking magazines for a publication. I always, always reviewed America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country very well, compared to other cooking magazines. However every new edition I'd dread contacting them because it was the most micromanaged publication I'd ever dealt with, from an editorial standpoint. It was standard procedure to recieve sample copies of magazines for review, every other publication I'd review was fine, but every time I dealt with ATK or CC, I'd end up with either an "accidental" subscription, or a bill for the review copies. (I've since changed topics for that publication, based partly on that.)
posted by librarianamy at 11:13 AM on May 12, 2011


I have to say I agree with both camps on this thread w/r/t Alton's fussiness. On the one hand, I think that many home cooks fail to understand that the difference between good cooking and great cooking is often precision (and technique). If nothing else, it's hard to come away from an episode of Good Eats without an appreciation of that fact, even for simple dishes.

On the other hand, Alton tasted his own cooking, during the process of cooking, far too little, thereby failing to emphasize that cooking is, first and foremost an art, and a sensual experience, not a science.

I have known far too many Alton fan-nerds who will blather on about their Alton-inspired gear and their Alton-borrowed chemistry knowledge while serving you something awful to ignore the criticisms of his sterility and robotocism as a chef.

Knowledge of chemistry will NEVER replace an educated palate.

That's why, in the end, the myth-busterization and nerdification of cooking is as much of a disaster as Sandra Lee.

Great chefs are nerds, yes, but they are sensualists, first and foremost.
posted by macross city flaneur at 11:24 AM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Good food is both based on form and function, like good software. But for it to be good, it has to have both, with function probably taking priority among beginners. You can improvise the best omelet filling combination in the world invented through your sheer creativity, but it doesn't matter if the eggs stick to the pan and are brown by the time you scrape them off.

So fussiness is pretty important. I'd say it might be a good idea for beginning cooks is to learn fundamentals from Alton Brown and maybe Harold McGee if they feel like really getting into the science, and then learn that it's okay to improvise a bit from Mark Bittman, who is pretty good at teaching people how to relax when it comes to cooking at home.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:36 AM on May 12, 2011


Good Eats is over?

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by I am the Walrus at 12:29 PM on May 12, 2011


Knowledge of chemistry will NEVER replace an educated palate.

And how do you get to that "educated palate"? For most people, who don't have the time or resources to go to culinary school and may not have the family tradition of cooking to get passed down to them, the way you acquire it is by building up from the basics.

Instructions like "add salt to taste" are worse than useless for the beginning cook, because it assumes that someone will know what the dish is supposed to taste like! And that's a pretty silly assumption. One of the best things about Good Eats is that Brown (usually) doesn't make that assumption. If a recipe requires salt, he'll usually say how much. If it requires cooking, he'll say how long, or to what temperature. Etc.

Once you've made (using one of my personal favorites that I learned how to make from G.E.) french onion soup according to Brown's recipe, which gives precise quantities for everything along with the justifications for why he's doing various things, then you're in a position to say "well, maybe less salt," or "maybe I'll use applejack instead of cognac." But it's pretty difficult to do that, at least in any sort of intelligent way, if you haven't made the dish the 'standard' way at least once, and understand the reasons for doing various steps.

So, yeah, his recipes may seem soulless and workmanlike, but I suspect people probably said that about Escoffier, too. Escoffier, by the way, doesn't hold back; for 4 quarts of Bechamel sauce, you need "2/3 oz. of salt, 1 pinch [each] of mignonette and grated nutmeg, and one small sprig of thyme", and then he goes on to tell you, in great detail, how to do it The Right Way.

You need to walk before you can run, and Good Eats always seemed to me like it was doing a pretty good job teaching people how to walk.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:43 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


McCarty, I want to agree with you, but I have to say I bristle at your form and function distinction and your software metaphor.

Good software comes nowhere close to being aesthetically pleasing, even at its best. If only it did, but in practice, almost never. We would have to completely trash our HCI and computer science programs if that was our goal, and start over. Because they do NOT teach aesthetic understanding. Not in the least.

And as far as "function", good food has very little to do with it. You can get your nutritional requirements quite nicely with food that tastes like garbage. Many "health nuts" do that very thing, with protein shakes, grilled chicken breasts, tuna sandwiches, and plenty of raw veg.

That's NOT cooking. Good cooking so completely EXCEEDs the notion of "function" that it is a completely useless term when it comes to cooking.

Now it is true that good food must appeal visually as well as texturally and in the flavor department. And it is also true that a fantastic dish has a sort of structure.

But it makes no more sense to say good cooks should start with chemistry and THEN learn to improvise than it is to say a Jazz musician should master music theory before picking up a trumpet.

There's no preferred order here. You need to understand the fundamentals AND you need to develop your palate.

But if anything, I'd say the chemistry is the negligible part. By the time you've cooked and tasted and recooked a thousand dishes, your intuition about flavor has all that chemistry baked right in. No need for a periodic table.

It's a completely different learning process than the one engineers are used to, and a completely different kind of understanding. That's why the "engineered" approach to cooking is just soo soooo very wrong.
posted by macross city flaneur at 12:48 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


. indeed, but we'll see more of him. And not just as the voice of ICA.
posted by robstercraw at 12:55 PM on May 12, 2011


Kadin2048, the kind of precision you mention in Escoffier's recipes is laughed at now. And for good reason.

The amount of salt required in ANY dish always varies according to context. It is different at sea level (Miami) than in the Rockies (Denver). It varies with the hardness and taste of your tap water. It varies with the air pressure, the specific densities and qualities of your ingredients.

These differences are ENORMOUSLY important in baking, but they are at play in ANY dish.

The home cook who follows a recipe to the letter, particularly when it comes to salting, is almost certainly over or under salting.

This is why contemporary chefs almost never use precise quantities of salt in their recipes.

You simply MUST taste your dish.

This IS the basics. It is the MOST basic thing. TASTE YOUR DISH. Taste it again. And again. Make it again. And again. There is nothing more basic. There is no rule that can ever replace it. There is no algorithm that will ever replace it. You simply MUST cook to be a cook. And you must taste. And taste. And taste again.

Without this, any notion of "fundamentals" is simply a lie.
posted by macross city flaneur at 12:55 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought he was funny. I thought his show was informative and entertaining, and I'll miss seeing new shows, and I look forward to seeing the new stuff he does. And all you naysayers can simply get stuffed.
posted by crunchland at 12:57 PM on May 12, 2011


And all you naysayers can simply get stuffed.

Weren't you paying attention? Stuffing is evil.
posted by howling fantods at 1:55 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


But if anything, I'd say the chemistry is the negligible part. By the time you've cooked and tasted and recooked a thousand dishes, your intuition about flavor has all that chemistry baked right in. No need for a periodic table.

Look, I agree that cooking is an art, but I'd argue that science is just as much a part of it. In fact, it IS science, since everything you're describing to be not-science about cooking -- tasting, using senses, trying again, refining -- describes the scientific method.

Almost makes you want to filk Camara: "When I made a risotto, they call me a cook. When I ask why risottos work, they call me a Communist Sandra Lee."

This IS the basics. It is the MOST basic thing. TASTE YOUR DISH. Taste it again. And again. Make it again. And again. There is nothing more basic. There is no rule that can ever replace it. There is no algorithm that will ever replace it. You simply MUST cook to be a cook. And you must taste. And taste. And taste again.

One of the best chefs I know when it comes to meat dishes is a vegetarian.
posted by dw at 2:04 PM on May 12, 2011


I loved loved LOVED Alton, but the silly costume bits always made me cringe a little, so I started ffwding through them. There came a tipping point (around the apparition of the stupid fridge fairy) where I was skipping more than I was watching, and that's when I turned it off for good.
I'm just here for the food, y'know?
posted by Freyja at 2:05 PM on May 12, 2011


dw, the thing is, unless you believe in magic, then yes it's all science (it's all theoretically knowable as positive, "factual", systematized, data - unless, that is, you want to get into chaos theory, non-reversible processes, irreducible complexity, probability, etc). But even while wearing our unreflecting scientific positivist hats, we have to acknowledge and recognize that theoretical knowledge has its limits, and practical knowledge isn't something you can get out of a book or by doing experiments. there simply isn't enough time. we simply aren't self-aware enough. the conscious mind is a puny instrument next to the subterranean vastness of our embodied experience. and then there's the fact that conscious knowledge is always advancing against the veil of the unknown far too fast for experimental verification to catch up.

In other words, your body knows things your conscious mind will never comprehend, document, chart, or "prove" correct.

So get out your barometer, your altimeter, your beakers. Go ahead. Distill that old tap water. Send it to the CDC or the FBI for precise chemical analysis. Start a cooking school based on that. Go ahead.

I'll be over here tasting my food. Call what I'm doing science if you want (turn science into a religion in which all phenomenon are always already knowable only AS science and through science). What it is is practical, experiential, sensual understanding. The only rulers I need are a mouth-mind and a belly-mind.

You're not a gadget. You're not a brain in a vat. You're not a database. You're a human in the world. With other humans. With a world of things to eat. With a world of experiences awaiting. Do yourself a favor and leave your lab coat at home.

No one will accuse you of being a priest or a shaman. They might accuse you of being human.
posted by macross city flaneur at 2:40 PM on May 12, 2011


The only rulers I need are a mouth-mind and a belly-mind.

That's great. But that cannot be said for my friend, who was very proud of herself for baking her own bread (ie: buying a "brown in the oven!" loaf from the store), even though she was nervous and didn't know how to interpret the "cook until brown" instructions. It ended up burnt on the bottom and doughy in the middle. She was proud for making a baked potato but, all the same, had trouble getting it thoroughly cooked, given how often she removed it from the oven to test it for doneness. She loved mac and cheese, from the box -- having never tasted homemade mac and cheese, she didn't know what it was supposed to taste like. I met her at an exciting time in her life, when she had to start cooking for herself for the first time, and I saw as she took these ittybitty baby steps towards understanding how to prepare food and how to taste food.

My friend didn't have the mouth-mind and belly-mind that you have. You push her into a kitchen and tell her, "Just experiment! Taste the food! FEEL the flavors!" and she'd deliver something inedible. And then she would give up, depressed and humiliated by her failure, and she'd never develop that mouth-mind or belly-mind. If you've never tasted a perfectly ripe tomato (as opposed to the horrible things at a supermarket), you won't know what it takes to make a good salad; if you've never made a stew before, you won't know how to adjust the seasoning just by tasting it. What you are describing as a "mouth-mind" and a "belly-mind" is a skill, and people have to start somewhere in order to develop a skill. You want people to be chefs with all the skills that term implies, but you are pooh-poohing the sort of elementary information that helps people develop those skills.

Probably, if one could grow up with the stereotypical grandmother, who cooks solely by mouth-mind and belly-mind, one could learn the skill of cooking without the rigorous science presented in Good Eats -- you would grow up around good cooking, and you would learn it through a young lifetime of practice... But I didn't have that sort of grandma (the most extensive meal she ever prepared with me: fried Spam), nor did my friend. The people who watch and learn from Good Eats need a starting point, a way to begin.
posted by meese at 3:04 PM on May 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


meese, you're talking about something that's orthogonal to the cooking as science/art issue.

first off, Alton's detailed explanations are way over the head of the kinds of beginner cook you're describing.

Julia Child specialized in teaching these kinds of cooks. She taught practical knowledge, yes, but she mostly taught that the will to cook, and fail, and simply enjoy yourself, were the most important things for a cook starting out.

Alton, on the other hand, appeals to a very particular kind of cook, and not necessarily a beginner at all. The Bourdain comments upthread testify to this fact. Alton, like all the old celebrity chefs, is being marginalized by the Food Network precisely because he doesn't make beginning American cooks feel comfortable and safe. He's simply offering too much information. He's scary.

He appeals instead to a moderately experienced kind of cook, or perhaps, to a beginner-moderate who has a geeky, tinkery, hackery disposition. The kind of cook who wants to make their own beer (now a food-hacker craze). The market for that is relatively limited, which is why the kind of beginner cook you're describing typically opts for Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee.

No one ever felt insecure following one of their recipes.

But for your friend, Julia Child is a far better answer than Alton. And Julia precisely emphasized the pleasure and experiential aspects of cooking, not the science.
posted by macross city flaneur at 3:20 PM on May 12, 2011


Another aspect of Alton, I should have realized, though, is that he has made it safe for men to be in the kitchen.

I hadn't thought of this before, but maybe by turning cooking into engineering, he's allowed dudes to come in from the barbecue pit and feel comfortable in the kitchen.

Julia Child probably doesn't do that for a lot of macho men.

Personally, I grew up with an Italian father, so being in the kitchen was always macho. But a lot of other cultures, I know, have a very different set of gendered norms.
posted by macross city flaneur at 3:44 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


macross city flaneur: Kadin2048, the kind of precision you mention in Escoffier's recipes is laughed at now. And for good reason.

While I generally agree that at some point people must ditch the knowledge and start cooking by feel, I think you're arguing a point too far. For example, no one I know or have worked with in kitchens laughs at Escoffier. He is, rightly, considered one of the fathers of modern professional cooking. His book is still read and studied in culinary schools.
posted by Kattullus at 4:18 PM on May 12, 2011


Kattullus, I'm really not "arguing a point too far". Escoffier is most certainly respected. However, he's also the archetype for the snobbish drill sergeant figure we associate with classic French cooking, made fun of not just by cooks but in even mainstream movies like Pixar's Ratatouille.

It's precisely Escoffier's obsession with militarism and order in the kitchen that is both his greatest legacy (still the model of the big production kitchen used in hotels and even many smaller restaurants) and the source of the derision.

But the upshot is that the kind of precision you find in his recipes, and which reflects these very classic French attitudes, is now thought of not simply as outdated, but technically incorrect (at least for cookbooks).

Keep in mind that Escoffier was training chefs to work in HIS kitchen, IN France. He was trying to produce, from that kitchen, a certain kind of consistency among his own chefs. This was the same attitude that he used in preparing the recipes you mention.

However, when you're publishing cookbooks for a global market, you take a different approach. Cooks have become MORE precise, more aware, and that is precisely what leads them to be LESS precise in their recommendations for flavoring many recipes. Because they realize that different conditions, different availability in ingredients, and even high variability in the SAME ingredients, means that, at best, they can ONLY give recommendations, not hard and fast rules.
posted by macross city flaneur at 4:32 PM on May 12, 2011


I dunno, I'm a pretty freestyle cook and I've never felt that Alton was being too precise and unforgiving of improvisation. Perhaps I usually take his show as more of an entertaining and silly version of Of Food and Cooking, and don't pay that much attention to the actual recipes beyond them being case studies for the fundamentals he was trying to teach. Whenever I do use an AB recipe, I usually change all sorts of things about it.

I think a good example is the Three Chips for Sister Marsha episode. He gives three recipes for chocolate chip cookies, but because he explains what each change in ingredient does to the cookie, you actually have an infinite number of recipes, each varying one of the key ingredients slightly.

Actually I find that whenever I want to read up on something by AB, I almost never read the recipe as listed on the Food Network website; instead I go read the entire transcript of the show; that gives me a lot more background information that I find very useful when I actually get down to cooking the dish I want to. The Good Eats Fanpage has transcripts for most of the shows.
posted by destrius at 7:25 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


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