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Alton Brown Cooks Up Laughter at Eisenhower

From the moment Alton Brown stepped on stage until he said goodbye, his lecture was filled to the brim with intelligence, wit, education and most of all, humor.

Brown came out to a thunderous applause and informed the crowd that after 13 years of filming, his hit show Good Eats had wrapped up filming two weeks ago. For someone who was first introduced to the culinary world and the Food Network by Alton Brown and that program, it was painful to hear coming straight from the man, even if I already knew that it was ending.

He then discussed the origin of his culinary career: his college days. Brown said he cooked to get dates, but that one date in particular stood him up. Already having begun the meal when she called to cancel, Brown said, “The wine was in, I was committed. I had to finish. Once you start it’s impossible to stop.” Clearly, this man knew his audience.

Brown continued to tailor his message to the college audience by jumping into his “Tips For College Culinaries.” He created these tips because, as college students, “We’re broke, we live in a concentration camp, and the people who feed us want to kill us.” Quickly, the audience learned that Brown was not worried about being politically correct, and they loved it.  The tips that followed were more hysterical than helpful, but the audience was in a constant state of laughter.

His tips included:

1)   Learn to appreciate art: art galleries have openings with good food and if you’re dressed trashy and unshaven, you can pull off pretending to be the artist.

2)   Eat with old people: The elderly have money and “lose their minds,” so you can visit a retirement home and eat their food. Best of all, they’ll thank you for it and be happy to see you.

3)   Crash a Potluck: Potlucks are ever-present and have a huge collection of homemade food.  Brown says that as more people watch the Food Network, the food gets better.  Specifically, he exclaimed, “Sucky casseroles are a thing of the past, unless you watch Rachel Ray.”

4)   Visit a fine hotel: Brown talked about a great experience where he went floor to floor and took food from the room service carts sitting outside other guests’ doors.

5)   Try “urban gathering”: In other words, dumpster diving.

6)   Submit to the dining hall: When all else fails, go to the dining hall, but bring a survival kit including hot sauce, soy sauce, and other ingredients to make the food more lively.

His last tip was by far his most humorous and interesting: cook in the dorm. He mentioned crock-pots, panini presses, and electric kettles as devices that could easily be used in a dorm room, and even uncovered the origin of Ramen noodles. But best of all, he demonstrated one of the many uses for his favorite tool (albeit a unitasker): the blender.

In dramatic fashion, Brown went behind the curtain and brought out a blender. He tossed in ice, Kosher salt, and water until it was “slushy” and then proceeded to make a contraption out of rubber bands, tongs, and chopsticks to place a can of beer in the blender.

He had a volunteer validate the beer was warm, but in two minutes in the ice-water slush, the beer was chilled. Brown had the student come back up and demonstrate the brew’s newfound coldness—by chugging the whole can as the crowd gave him a raucous applause.

A Q&A session followed, in which my personal favorite line came when someone asked what his favorite Girl Scout cookie was.  He said their was only one kind—Thin Mints, of course—and when another suggestion was yelled Brown responded, “Communists like Samoas.”

This was more of a comedy show than anything else, but Brown’s mastery of the culinary arts and his knowledge of the more scientific components of cooking was extremely impressive.

He knew what the crowd wanted and that was an interactive, fun, and humorous evening with one of, if not the most, significant figures in culinary television.

Good Eats will forever be dear in my heart, but last night’s lecture will hold an even greater place, as the man himself came to Old State and put on an absolute show. I salute you, Alton Brown.

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