I met Alton Brown!!!
Yes, kiddies, I met my culinary hero. He does not refer to himself as a chef, but as "the world's grooviest home ec. teacher." Ever since I found out that he was going to be at the Union Square Barnes and Noble today, I worked my butt off all week so I'd have a few free hours to attend the discussion and book signing. He's awesome and even funnier in real life than he is on the show.
During the Q&A, someone asked him about Iron Chef America (he just finished taping 10 new episodes of it, which will air in January 2005). "Is it rigged?" Alton Brown answered, "No, it's the farthest thing from rigged. We don't stop the clock and we don't unplug people's appliances or give them pots that have holes in the bottoms." It turns out that the chefs aren't completely surprised by the secret ingredients. AB revealed that they're given a list of 5 possible secret ingredients and come up with recipes in advance. That was followed up by, "How do the chefs get the other ingredients?" AB explained that the chefs are given an allowance of $500 to buy supplemental ingredients. He said, "Morimoto had a list of 3000 items, that had stuff like 15 kinds of kelp and one kind of mushroom that grows on only one hillside in Japan that I can't even pronounce and it looks like a 4 year old dead duck." And what does Food Network provide for the chefs always? According to AB, "Salt.... and water."
My meeting with AB? Awesome. I was mad that I didn't bring my camera because they had a Barnes and Noble on the stage who was taking pictures for people. It turns out that the girl sitting next to me was also a first year law school student and we were talking about exams and our experiences so far, and when she found out that I didn't bring my camera, she offered to take a picture for me and e-mail it to me. I don't think I thanked her enough. When I got up to the stage to meet him, he said, "Hi, I'm Alton Brown," and shook my hand. I told him, "I'm a big fan" and he held a hand up over my head to compare my height to his, giving me a puzzled look. I added, "I learned a lot from your show," and he said, "Thanks, that's why I do it."
I realized when I was about to get on the subway that I left my umbrella by my seat in Barnes and Noble. I guess I was so excited about getting to meet Alton Brown that I left my crappy, falling-apart Rutgers umbrella there.
I think it was worth it.