7 Questions with Alton Brown

Alton Brown is one of the most popular and beloved TV chefs in the genre.  His mix of geeky science proficiency and every-man appeal have made the Georgia boy an icon of food television world wide.  It’s nice to profile someone everyone knows because it allows me more room to address the events of our meeting.

Cheflebrities Stuart Reb Donald and Alton Brown at Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-offOne year ago the good people of Dauphin Island, Alabama had just put on their first ever gumbo cook-off and were getting ready for the busy tourist and sport fishing season that annually brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to this town of 1300 residents.  A month later there was an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig.  As a result eleven men died and an entire season of industry was lost to a third of the nation’s coastline.

As injurious as the spill itself was to communities like Dauphin Island the problem was compounded by a lackadaisical response by British Petroleum and the dysfunctional efforts of the Obama administration which exponentially increased the damage from the spill.  The final cherry on top of this bureaucratic Sundae is the reluctance of Gulf Coast Claims Facility administrator Kenneth Feinberg to distribute the $20 billion set aside for those injured by the spill.  To date only 5% of the money has been paid to the rightful victims, while Feinberg’s fee has been doubled by British Petroleum as reward for a job well done.

The husband and wife team of Dana Popoff and Marion Laney, both integral parts of the Good Eats production staff, live on Dauphin Island.  It was while discussing the Gulf Crisis with their boss, the aforementioned Mr. Brown, that the cheflebrity asked, “What can I do to help?”  On March 26th of this year Alton Brown was the guest of honor at the 2nd Annual Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off at which I was scheduled to be a judge.

Attendance at this year’s cook-off was more than triple that of last year’s event.  What’s more Brown’s visit assured the people of the beaten but not broken Gulf Coast that even if BP and the government don’t care about them there are people out there that do.  I was lucky enough to spend the better part of a day in the presence of Alton and to see firsthand the effect his celebrity had on the people of the community.

For his part Alton was kind enough to answer 7 Questions.

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1. What brings you to Lower Alabama?

Alton Brown on Wannabe TV ChefI’m a fan of American seafood and even bigger fan of American fisherman.  We have a perception in this country right now that something that is imported from people we don’t know, in lands we don’t understand and languages we don’t care about are making better seafood than we have here in America.  I’m here to help stamp that out.  I came down here to let people know that American seafood is back.  Gulf seafood is back.

2. What can people do to help change things?

Tell your congressman.  Write people.  Get mad.  Refuse to eat in restaurants that serve imported seafood.  This is America.  I don’t think we should import seafood at all.  America pretty much has ocean all the freaking way around it.  Countries that cannot feed themselves go down.

3. What’s your favorite food?

I’ve learned a very important lesson as a married man.  My favorite food is whatever my wife is going to make next, regardless of whether I like it or not.

4. Being as how this is a gumbo cook-off the question begs to be asked, what’s the best gumbo you’ve ever had?

The best gumbo that I’ve ever personally encountered, it probably would have been in a small town near Lafayette, Louisiana.

5. So Bobby Flay said when he did the original Iron Chef in Japan that they were actually given five possible secret ingredients.  Is that the same for Iron Chef America?

Here’s the deal.  About two weeks before the competition the chefs are given a list of ten possibilities and they have to plan for the ten possibilities.

6. What do you do with all the food you cook on Good Eats?

All the food at the end of the day generally goes to a food bank or a shelter.  Unless it’s really crappy.  Food Network’s got a really strong policy about that as well.

7. You film Good Eats in Atlanta, have you ever considered doing the show from the Food Network Studios?

I’m a Southerner.  I’ve had a lot of offers to move to Los Angeles or New York and ah, I’m not gonna do that...

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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