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Alton Brown marks 10 years of 'Good Eats' with a show, a tome — and a bullet

October 9, 2009 | 10:45 am

Good-Eats "Good Eats" creator and host Alton Brown was supposed to be talking about his new book, "Good Eats: The Early Years," and the 10th anniversary of the show, which airs Saturday night on Food Network. 

But A.B. — every bit the multitasking pragmatist both inside and outside the kitchen — was already talking about The End.

As in The End of "Good Eats."

"I doubt 'Good Eats' will last that long beyond next year," Brown said during a telephone interview earlier this week.

Now, don't panic, A.B. fans. "I'm not going to kill it before its time," he cautioned. But he likened "Good Eats" to a beloved dog. And when your beloved dog gets too old and begins to suffer ... you have to do what is humane. "I will not jump the shark. When it comes time, I will know when to put it down. I'm getting too old for the youngsters. I'm 47. I'm contracted through the end of next year. You just can't ask an audience to stick with something that long. Fashions change, times change .... I've already got a bullet with a gun, and when [the show-chopping TV execs] come for us, I will lead us out to the pasture, and I'll put a bullet in it."

A.B. may be bracing himself for the inevitable, as any good pet owner would.

But neither A.B. nor "Good Eats" — a unique blend of cooking meets entertainment meets mad-cap science — seems to be getting long in the tooth:

He's popular on college campuses, where he occasionally takes the show for a rare live performance, and sold-out crowds. He's hosting "The Next Iron Chef," which started Sunday and scored the network's highest ever premiere rating. And he was the show-stopping star of the opening night festivities for the NYC Food & Wine Festival held Thursday night at Food Network headquarters above Chelsea Market. The event started at 7:30 p.m., but who ever expects the talent to be on time? Yet the entering masses found A.B. front and center, his mere presence causing a logjam, as supposedly seen-it-all New Yorkers turned star-struck, elbowing their friends and murmuring, "Look! Look who it is!" and commenting on A.B.'s more streamlined physique. (He's taken up exercising and watching what he eats, and has a 50-pound weight loss to show for it. And yes, he's considering writing a book about how he did it.)

"Good Eats: The Early Years" is the first of a planned trilogy — up next is "Good Eats: The Middle Ages" and "Good Eats: Tomorrow and Beyond." The book is certain to be a hit with fans of the show. (You might even call it the perfect stocking stuffer for the holidays, except that it's textbook-size and weighs in at nearly 4 pounds. But consider it an A.B.-approved multitasker: You can use it for bicep curls.)

The writing process was "exhausting," he said. "I had two rules for doing a 'Good Eats' book. First, I said we had to wait 10 years, we had to last 10 years. It seems like every show, the second they get renewed for a second season, they do a book. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to get some distance from the material." The second rule was that there had to be something original to fill said book. "I didn't want people to pay money and open it up and say, "Gee, he's selling us what we already had."

To that end, the book offers a lovingly (and hysterically) detailed behind-the-scenes look at each and every "Good Eats" episode of the first six seasons. (Remember, this is the early years.) Fans learn why the fish-meuniere-tent-scene was even harder than the long single take would suggest, the sleight-of-hand behind that impressive Chinook salmon haul and that A.B.'s single favorite show is Season 1, Episode 7, "The Dough Also Rises," because it features his late grandmother, Ma Mae.

The pages are chock-full with trivia, fun facts and footnotes. Although fans will enjoy just cracking open the book and digging in, this is also the rare cookbook that just might inspire you to start with the very first page, which features A.B. interviewing A.B., and read cover to cover.

Every "old" recipe — er, "application" — from past shows has been re-examined, retested, amended, streamlined and updated before earning its place in the book. "This allowed me to pay for some old sins and do a few repairs that have bothered me over the years," he said. For one, baking recipes have been converted so that many ingredients are weighed, ensuring a more accurate yield.

So what's with all this "application" vs. "recipe" stuff?

"Recipes are an end to themselves, while apps refer to applied knowledge. The shows aren't about the recipes, the shows are about acquiring the knowledge," he said, adding, "Long before Apple had an app for the iStore, we were doing this. I think Apple may have stolen that from me."

But that's another show.

— Rene Lynch

Photo credit: Be Squared Productions

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