Alton Brown book appearance report


Right on schedule, Alton Brown appeared at the Elliot Bay Book Company bookstore in downtown Seattle. One of my friends wondered aloud, "Wait a second, he's promoting his cookbook. How do you do a reading from a cookbook?"

He didn't read from his cookbook.

To an overflow crowd that probably violated a few fire codes, Alton Brown discussed what inspired him to tackle a book on baking, riffed with the audience (he's quite funny when interacting with a crowd), then fielded questions. Alton Brown trivia:

  • At the New England Culinary Institute, he drove his teachers crazy by constantly asking the sorts of questions that he answers on his show. "What is going on chemically?" "What is the purpose of eggs in this recipe?" "Where does the water go?" They thought they were rid of him when he graduated, but AB got the last laugh: The school now gets applications which say "I want to cook like Alton Brown."
  • Why does he wear Hawaiian shirts on Good Eats? Because the material they're made from doesn't rustle against the microphone.
  • The wacko camera angles come from his background in directing television commercials. The show was originally up against The West Wing and used its irreverent style as a form of counter-programming.
  • AB claims that all the actors on the show are really production crew members brought in front of the camera. How much of this you choose to believe is up to you.
  • Each episode takes about three days to film. (Note: This doesn't count all the writing and research time.) Compare this to traditional cooking shows which film three episodes in one day!
  • The Good Eats theme is exactly ten notes long, at AB's specific request. It was allegedly inspired by the last track on the Get Shorty soundtrack CD.
  • On Iron Chef America he does not himself taste any of the dishes. Any more. He learned this lesson the hard way after trying Hiroyuki Sakai's trout ice cream.
  • Before trying any of the recipes in the book, check AB's web site for corrections. The most notorious misprint is the mysterious "aspirin" substitution on page 238. (You also have to watch out for the spelling mistakes. "Nickle"?)

Afterwards, he signed books for ages and managed to be a good sport about it throughout. Then again, this is a book tour, after all. During that time, he's mastered the ability to sign a book and talk at the same time. I, on the other hand, am a rank amateur and couldn't even talk and watch him sign my book at the same time.

Comments (18)
  1. Unfortunately, his “More Food…” book tour did not come near my city of Fort Wayne, IN. The nearest city was Milwaukee, about 5 hours away, which I would have considered driving to if I’d known sooner and we weren’t expecting bad weather.

    I was lucky enough to go to the Great Big Food Show in Cleveland last November. Where I got a copy of his “Gear…” book signed. I would have preferred to get his first book signed, but I made the mistake of waiting until I got to the show to purchase my book. All of his other books were completely sold out. We were also treated to a live taping of one of his shows; he made eggnog and eggnog ice cream. I am not sure if any of it will end up in a “Good Eats” episode, but it was great to watch him work in person.

    The thing I have always liked about Alton Brown is he seems to really love what he is doing, and it shows. When an audience member asked him if there was anything else he would rather be doing, he flat out answered “no”, and stated that he considered himself to be the luckiest man on earth.

    I was also blown away with how personable he was. Prior to meeting him, I was a little concerned that all the fame would have gone to his head and he would turn out to be this egotistical jerk (like you see on television shows), and ruin the whole “Good Eats” experience. I can happily report that this was not the case and from what I can tell he is every bit as friendly, genuine, as witty as he appears to be on his show.

  2. tsrblke says:

    Jorgie,

    I myself was there in St. Louis with my friends. Unfortunately the store says they only had 2 days notice that he was comming, thus they were sold out of the 1st book. I however snagged a copy of "Gear" and "More Food" which I had signed.

    I was really impressed by how personable he was, namely that he took the time to pose for pictures and engage in [b]short[/b] conversations with people. I was with a friend and my girlfriend, he managed to sneak in enough time to make light hearted jokes about my girlfriend’s lack of cooking ability, her sidestepping behind his signing table, (she says she was moving out of the way the lack of cooking means she didn’t buy a book) and give us brief instructions on how to build a cold smoker for curing bacon.

    All and all I give the experience a 9.5/10 (loss of points for not having all the books ;) ) Alton and his personable nature gets an 11/10 just because he made everyone feel welcome.

    I am slightly disappointed in myself. I drove by at around 5 and the place was dead as in ghost town, so I assumed we’d be able to come back around 6:45ish and get a decent spot in line. 1st I didn’t know there was a presentation to be given by AB, second we were numbers 186-188 in line, I should have at least gone in to the store at 5 and inquired to see if I could have gotten a line card, and probably just hung around…. Oh well that’s life.

    On a slightly inside note to Jorgie, since he was obviously there with me. Were you there long enough to see the kids talking with him who liked brocoli and pancakes? Funny exchange.

  3. BonzoESC says:

    " To an overflow crowd that probably violated a few fire codes, Alton Brown discussed what inspired him to tackle a book on baking, riffed with the audience (he’s quite funny when interacting with a crowd), then fielded questions."

    That sounds about right – the Barnes and Noble in Orlando I was at had a mezzanine deck that was packed (where AB actually was), and the ground floor was pretty dense too. More popular than when Bruce Campbell was at my college. One of my friends had the foresight to record an MP3 of the thing, but I haven’t listened to it.

    I missed the signing the next day in Tampa, but it was in a grocery store and not nearly as packed. My roommates got spatulas signed, and got the pictures from the previous day signed too.

  4. Fox Cutter says:

    I was there myself, shoved into the back corner on the right side of the stage, along with three friends. He does put on a great show and seems just as funny in person as he does on TV.

    I probably wouldn’t have even heard about it if you hadn’t posted about the tour. So thanks you for doing that.

  5. Derek Dysart says:

    I did make it to the Milwaukee signing last Friday and the Harry Schwartz store (in Brookfield) was packed as well. I’d echo Raymond’s observation. I got there late and got "R" as my letter for my turn to wait in line (they only handed out up to "S"). He started with Q&A around 7pm, and I didn’t get my book signed until 10:30pm. He was still going strong at that point, and amazingly still friendly (I’d have been worn out by then). There were maybe 20 people behind me and he joked at one point "Man, it sure is quiet back there." and then went on to thank us for sticking around.

    Interstingly, he handles most of his own travel and given we got over 12" of snow that night, I did feel a bit sorry for him. Nice to see he made it to Seattle (although he was doing two signing in Minneapolis on Saturday).

    I also have to give Raymond the credit – I wouldn’t have know about it if it weren’t for you.

  6. We met Alton Thursday night in Saint Louis at the Left Bank book store.

    The folks at the Left Bank bookstore had not heard of him and were astounded when the bookstore was overflowing with fans 30 minutes before he was scheduled to present. By the time I talked to the third bookstore employee I was actually a little miffed as all three of them had given me the *oh, I don’t watch cable* line. (Making it perfectly clear that they were well above such mass media claptrap.) I guess they have never heard of "PBS", "Discovery", "History" or "Food TV".

    Alton talked and did Q&A for about 45 minutes and made a point of introducing himself to each person that came up to get his signature. I thought that was pretty cool.

    To keep things under control, they gave out numbered cards as you came in the store to be used for lining up for the book signing later. We showed up an hour early and I still ended up with number 80.

    The woman in line in front of me pulled open her shirt part way and asked him to sign her chest. He said no, that he had to draw the line somewhere, but he did sign a piece of paper backwards, lick it and stick it to her chest! LOL! It was classic. I did not see if it actually worked, but she went away happy.

    There was a nice lady prepping books ahead of time by putting a Post It note on the page he was going to sign and if you wanted it personalized, she would write the name on the note. When I got to Alton he noticed that I did not have my name on the notes and asked it I wanted personalized. I told he no, no one would believe that I knew him anyway.

    I asked him if he was going to do a 4th book, and he said no probably not, but then he said he may do a *Good Eats* book based on the show.

    He told us that his next big project was a Route 66, "Road Food" movie. It sounded really good. I hope he is able to do it.

    Jorgie

    jorgie@gmail.com

  7. Damon Durand says:

    I got to meet Alton when he visited us here in Minneapolis, right before he flew out to Seattle.

    (Quick summary of my own blog post)

    Since a few months before I found Good Eats 5 years ago, I have had the paper mache chicken you can see in some of the backgrounds on the show. I thought I’d bring it to the reading, get Alton to sign it along with my book.

    Well, Alton had other plans…because his chicken had become broken, he wanted to buy mine off of me. Even after he raised the price in an auction manner, I continued to insist he sign it.

    I’m now the proud owner of a chicken who’s bootay not only has Alton’s signature…but his self-drawn characature as well! Woot! In exchange, I offered to hook him up with the local business I obtained the chicken from years ago, since I knew they still had some decorating their ceiling.

    Quite the story…but he impressed me throughout the experience with how real he made himself seem compared to TV. He was just as funny, just as friendly as he appears on his show in real life at the book signing. Being sure to let the kids in the audience ask their questions, honestly taking time to ponder any conundrums the audience asked. All in all, very impressive.

  8. Aaron says:

    Yes, I too was at Milwaukee. Drove up from Champaign, IL to see him (picked up a friend in Chicago). Thankfully the weather DID turn out to be not so great. Otherwise, I can only imagine the increase of people that would’ve been there.

    Unfortunately, I too, underestimated the amount of people that were there and went to dinner an hour before the signing (drove right past the bookstore so we knew where it was). When we finally got back, I was slapped with a "J". Mild disappointment was had. I still think my friend and I should’ve gotten a better letter, just because we were keeping the male 18-24 demographic afloat.

    It was good times though.

  9. Todd Laney says:

    Raymond, I should have known you were a Good Eats nerd!

    PS I got a salt dispenser for christmas

    http://www.altonbrown.com/shopgifs/cellar_lg2.jpg

  10. Jim Heivilin says:

    I went with Jorgie to Alton’s St. Louis appearance and I’d have to say that he’s the model of the "Modern Southern Gentleman". Funny, personable, unfailingly polite and genuinely a wonderful person.

  11. Larry says:

    Will someone share with me who/what "W" is?

    Thanks!

  12. Micki says:

    "W" is a chiropractor in real life. That’s what AB said when we met him here in KC in October.

  13. Martha Stewart was in town last week.

  14. One of those things they don’t teach you.

Comments are closed.