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Alton Brown Cooks Up Laughter at Sewickley Academy

The popular "Good Eats" chef and book author appeared Wednesday before a sold-out crowd.

In the fourth season of "Good Eats," Alton Brown delivered for his viewers a smoked salmon in a cardboard box. A woman watching the show decided to try the same recipe in her apartment — with charcoal.

"And it caught fire,” Brown said, adding, “Evolution is just taking care of business.”

In a bow tie and his signature dark-rimmed glasses, the madly creative kitchen scientist and star of the popular Food Network show drew consistent laughter from a sold-out crowd Wednesday night at .

From humorous memories on the set of "Good Eats" to his adoration for his wife’s cooking, Brown held back nothing in the nearly two-hour appearance on stage on Rea Auditorium.

The creator of the popular science-of-food television series, “Good Eats,” stopped in as part of his book tour to promote “Good Eats 3: The Later Years.” The event was hosted by .

Brown wasn't exempt from the brunt of his own jokes, pointing out several of his own failed attempts in writing and producing the show. He had the idea to cook rabbit on one episode, but the network executives didn't go for it.

Then there was an episode in which he attempted to portray an Amish couple riding on a buggy and to depict both the husband and wife with a beard. He said he thought it was good comedy. The network did not.

Fans of Brown are familiar with his wit and humor, which he blends into the writing and producing of his show, along with hand puppets, pop culture, science, and crew and family members.

“I like to cook . . . more than I like to eat sometimes,” he said. “I like to feed people.”

Brown said the show, which premiered in 1999, never aired an episode about cooking rabbit. Nor did he cook venison or innards, such as liver or kidneys.

Instead, Brown stuck to popular foods, such as apple pie, and showed the science behind the dishes. He also admitted he has had about 35 hidden references to "Jaws," his favorite movie, throughout the show's 13-year run.

The final regular episode aired this summer. The new book is the final volume in the three-volume series, which sums up every episode in the television series.

Brown also spoke about his years on "Good Eats" and what he’s planning — and not planning — now that he’s retired the show.

“It’s not like I’m running for president,” he said, in response to the boisterous applause he received when he walked out on stage.

Brown also isn’t finished cooking. He said he's working on several projects, including video-enhanced ebooks and a miniseries about foods that changed the world. Brown has also prepared a few one-hour specials: a Thanksgiving episode that will air in November and a special on dark chocolate slated to air around Valentine’s Day. 

Brown devoted most of his time to answering questions from audience members, even using some of his Food Network cohorts as punchlines, and promised to stick around to .

“In the end,” he said, “we as a society don’t have a whole lot in common anymore. The thing that ties us together is food. It’s the last common thread that holds us all together."

He said he decided to make books based on "Good Eats" when his show crossed the 10-year mark. Writing the books was a lot harder than he expected, he admitted.

He also offered advice to prospective culinary students and aspiring cooks and talked about how he got the attention of the Food Network execs and rose to become a household name.

Greg and Betsy Scott of the West End said they enjoyed the event and were "big fans" of Brown, whom they referred to as the "Bill Nye" of Food Network. Greg Scott, an engineer, said he liked the science aspect of the shows, while his wife liked the cooking.

"This is a show we can both watch," he said.

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Brown told the audience he would answer any question – except who’s going to win the next "Iron Chef" competition. Here are some of the audience's questions and Brown's responses.

 

Q. What were you doing when Food Network discovered you?

A. “Food Network didn’t discover me. I discovered Food Network.”

Brown went onto say he made two pilot episodes in 1997 that didn’t catch the network’s attention until November 1998 after he posted them online.

 

Q. Which of the Food Network chefs do you connect most with?

A. "I don't really connect with anybody."

 

Q. What would your final meal be and who would you choose to cook it?

A. Duck confit because it takes three days to make. I would want my wife to cook it.

 

Q. If you had a year to hang out and study the cuisine, where would you go?

A. Japan, "if [Iron Chef Masaharu] Morimoto would let me."

 

Q. What's the best thing you've ever eaten that you didn't make?

A. "Anything my wife made. I do mean anything." Brown went on to say a good meal is basically "where I am and who I'm with rather than what I'm eating."

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