Denver Tries to Sleep With Alton Brown

So Alton Brown is kind of like one of The Beatles with a spatula. Or Justin Beiber in an apron. Seriously.

And here’s why: Alton Brown makes housewives go crazy. He’s the culinary equivalent of a rock star.

Brown stopped by The Tattered Cover, the only bookstore in Denver that matters really, last Thursday night as part of his book-tour for Good Eats 3: The Later Years. And I’m surprised the ladies in attendance weren’t whipping their bras off and throwing panties up on stage. Because the phrase “hall pass” was busted out by three different audience members during the hour long Q&A.

The second (as in immediately following first) question of the night was not a question really, but one gal’s profession of undying adoration: “You’re my hall pass. My husband is totally okay with it.” And then she had to explain to Brown what a hall-pass was (click here for the urban dictionary take if you’re also confused). And then Alton Brown was really nice about it but also snarky and I would hope super creeped out, as well he should be, because it was pretty creepy that she was about four-feet away from him. And also she was pretty creepy. And Brown pretty much ignored that side of the room for the rest of the night. And no one could really blame him. And that was before two other ladies worked the words “hall pass” into their questions over the course of the hour…

Button it up Denver. You don’t want everyone thinking you’re that easy, do you? [Also, note about the creepy lady, it wasn’t that she was just a huge fan. Huge fans are totally fine; everyone geeks out over something. No. I got the feeling this lady kind of wanted to wear Alton Brown’s skin as a coat kind of thing.]

But Brown was perfect for the job at hand, half-sweet and half-acid so the eager people in the audience never really knew which Alton Brown they were going to get. And he was slaying them. Perhaps he isn’t a rock star but more like a culinary stand-up comic? There were many classic lines from the night; below are some of my favorites.

On why 99% of the recipes in his book (he calls them “applications”) are successful: “We can’t make them 100% because 1% of people are idiots.”

On being on all 11 episodes of Next Food Network Star in the upcoming season: “My goal is to make everyone cry.”

On his thinking that in the next haute food trend, cuisine is about to go back to the rennaissance by scooting past molecular gastronomy and going back to older styles of cooking: “We’ll be stuffing peacocks with door mice.”

On working in a restaurant: “I’ve been screamed at in a lot of languages by guys in white jackets.”

On diet sodas: “Eating a pack of cigarettes is better for you than drinking soda.”

You can thank the terrible light and my terrible phone camera for this gem of a picture

Jokes! It’s like quote roulette! What else do we have in here? C’mon one-liner!

On why food is his career: “Food is to me what the mob is to Martin Scorsese—it’s always interesting.”

On hobbies that also entertain children: “Add liquid nitrogen to saltines and feed them to the dog. The stream shoots out of the mouth like dragons.”

On trout ice cream: “That tasted like ass.”

On culinary school: “The most valuable lesson I took away from culinary school is you don’t need to go to culinary school.”

After the Q&A, a line of people approximately one billion long (okay, maybe more like 200-ish?) lined up to get their books signed and their pictures made with Alton. As the line sluggishly moved it became clear that Alton Brown was willing to sign any book, DVD, or product ever to bear his name and was also willing and able to sign tennis shoes and salt cellars, but thankfully no one busted out undergarments. Brown was also putting his lanky arm around each guest and flashing his trademark smirk.

“Alton Brown’s going to touch us,” the plush lady behind me chirped with delight.

“He’s averaging 20 seconds per person. That’s three per minute,” a gentleman in front of me with a furrowed brow calculated at one point.

When it was my turn I didn’t say the words “cookbook” or “bacon” or even “f**k” (because those are pretty much my three most used words of the English language). I said, “Hi Alton, I’m Leah. It’s nice to meet you. I have three words for you. And none of them are hall pass. They are: High. Altitude. Biscuits.”

He smiled, then shook his head, cast his eyes sheepishly downward and said softly, “That’s hard. I’d have to live here and practice. Keep practicing.”

And then he threw his arm ’round my shoulder and pointed me toward the camera and I made my best excited faux-housewife face. When in Rome darlings, when in Rome…

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  1. Amy
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Great article!! I want to know what Alton’s response was to learning what a “Hall Pass” was. I am so curious! How funny. I love how he can think of responses on the fly, especially when so many other questions are repeats. I never saw anybody like that in Seattle when he came here. We’re a reserved bunch, you know, with the weather and all the way it is lol

    • leah
      Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink

      Amy, it was a classic Alton Brown response. Equal parts curmudgeon and naivete. He quipped quickly about not understanding why anyone would refer to THAT as a hall pass followed by something along the lines of, “To me a hall pass is something you ask the teacher for to use the bathroom.” He made that phrasing pretty unsexy pretty quickly!

  2. Posted July 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    “At 4,000 feet, you don’t have as much atmosphere pressing down on you, and therefore on the food. This is why water boils at a lower temperature at high altitude. The biggest problem in cooking is dealing with baked goods.

    My general rule is to cut leavening – either baking soda or baking powder – by a quarter. I also reduce any sugar in a recipe by about 2 tablespoons per cup. Lastly, I add a tablespoon or two of liquid for each cup of liquid. This allows you to compensate for the reduced atmospheric pressure.”

    Alton Brown, 2000 Food Network Chat

    • leah
      Posted July 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm. Now I feel like Alton lied to me. Unless he wasn’t sure what his answer was for over 4,000 feet (as Denver is a mile high at 5,280 feet). Either way, thanks for the tip!

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