Point-Counterpoint: Alton Brown Is the Man and I Challenge You to Say Otherwise
Alton Brown: "the man" or...a menace?
We had so much fun chucking Chow Bella contributors Ando Muneno and Lauren Saria into the ring over food trucks, we decided to do it again. This week's burning topic: Alton Brown.
Ando: Alton Brown is the man and I challenge you to say otherwise.
Lauren: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
Ando: Seriously, what is not to love about Alton Brown?! I'm specifically speaking of his work on Good Eats. I'm not a huge fan of Iron Chef America so it's difficult for me comment on the merits of his work there, but Alton Brown has done more than any other human to break me free from the false restrictions of a recipe and embrace that cooking is about using a handful of techniques to make magic with whatever you have on hand.
Lauren: I have no doubt that Good Eats has inspired many a viewer to stray from the confines of a cut-and-dried recipe. Maybe I too could find wisdom in the show if I could get over the seemingly endless stream of "guest characters" and puppets -- and by guest characters, what I'm referring to is Alton Brown dressed up as different people talking to himself. I'm sorry, but if that doesn't set off a little warning light in the back of your head about his sanity, I don't know what would.
Ando: Alton Brown is like the Mr. Wizard of cooking! Every episode he takes a core cooking concept and breaks it down Barney-style for the rest of us. He talks about why it works, how you can make it work and then usually delves into the notable history of the technique or the dish. That's what makes him so great, he takes you into the how of cooking and beyond the "add 2 tablespoons of this and 3 of that."
Just a quick example. He did an episode on stew:
In it he explains what stew traditionally is, why it can suck and what you need to do to make it suck less. He talks about the cuts of meat that are best and why. While he does present a "perfect" cut of meat for the recipe, you can use your head and figure out what a good substitute would be. Then he shows a novel technique for cooking the base of a stew that yields the best and easiest results. By the end, you don't just have an awesome beef stew but a feeling for the very essence of stew! You can use what you've learned to make your own stew or use it to better understand a different recipe. He doesn't just show you the preparation of a recipe he gives you an education.