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Jul 27, 2010 06:22 PM

Good Eats Alton Brown Any ideas?

All - Greetings!
I'm certain that this post is on the wrong board, but here we go.

I really like watching chowhound type cooking shows on TV, but Good Eats starring Alton Brown is horrible. In addition, Adam at Man Eater or Man vs. food, pretty much unwatchable.

IMHO, Bourdain is the best the networks have to offer, Zimmern a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10.
What's out there on network/Cable TV that's interesting to watch?

Host, please put this topic on the correct board.



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  1. Honestly for me good eats is the only show other than iron chef on Food Network that I watch and it is one of my favorites because its the only show that I can acctaully learn something off of. As a chef I like to know as much about food as possible where it comes from, if something isnt happening whats the scientific reason that is making this not work. Even some of the most basic things Ive should of known I pick up on once in a while. So i guess it just depends on what your interst are.

    10 Replies
    1. re: ZagChef

      As a chef, I'm surprised you don't have a copy of McGee's _On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen_ ( ).

      There's nothing on Alton's show that isn't discussed in much greater detail in McGee's book. Another primary source for good food science and lore is Shirley Corriher's _CookWise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking, The Secrets of Cooking Revealed_ ( ).

      TV is TV, but for real information, look to the primary sources - like books! Alton is basically just a TV producer who's latched onto the shtick of taking things out of McGee's book and making TV shows out of them, dumbing down the material and making "science lite" productions. I would think that as a chef, you'd want the real thing - especially as it's all clearly indexed and easy to look up individual questions - you'd have a hard time queueing up Alton's shows looking for a particular answer.

      1. re: applehome

        With all due respect, your reply seems unnecessarily condescending. The thread is not about whether TV (or Alton) is the best cooking information source. It was about what food tv shows a person finds worth watching. You can't dispute what someone else likes watching. They like it, end of story.

        That said, I appreciate your tip about the McGee and Corriher books, which sound interesting.

        1. re: Bada Bing

          "You can't dispute what someone else likes watching. They like it, end of story."

          Respectfully disagree.

          It's not the end of the story, at least not on a discussion board such as this. It's valid to ask, why? Is there something better? Liking something is not the be-all and end-all, just as deliciousness in and of itself is not where we stop learning. It's where we start learning, by asking questions.

          If Alton is a good show because you learn from it, I present another learning tool - something that I feel is better in many ways. That's my opinion, just like it was his that Alton's show was good because he learned something. Back and forth, pretty soon, you have a dialectic, and we all learn.

          1. re: applehome

            Apple -- I believe it was more the "... taking things out of McGee's book... " that sounded to me like he was somehow stealing information from McGee in some plagiaristic way (e.g. Alton's "shtick" as you put it). I would have to agree with Bada here, it was rather condescending -- McGee most likely didn't do the research that produced his book, should we inveigh him for simply "latching onto the shtick" of taking information from publishing scientists and editing a book about it? I think not.

            1. re: mateo21

              McGee is well respected in the food science community amongst such powerhouse scientists as This and chefs as Adria. He wrote his tome many years ago (fairly recently updated) and while such reporters as him have staff, I imagine that he did do most of the initial work. Alton is a TV producer - he's not even in the same class, not even close.

              1. re: applehome

                McGee isn't in the same class as Brown - when it comes to being a TV producer and performer.

                Did you know that McGee has a BS in English - from the best techie school in the country? This dual science and English training probably helps him be the pioneer writer about cooking and food science.

                I see from the short Wiki article that he has a new book coming out - Keys to Good Cooking.

        2. re: applehome

          Information on television is no less "real" than information in books. And the running patter and goofy models on "Good Eats" communicate moderately complex ideas to some people more effectively than words on a page.

          Of course, no television show is a substitute for a detailed reference work on kitchen science. And if you've already mastered everything there is to know about the hows and whys of cooking, then no show is going to do much to expand your knowledge base. But Shirley Corriher's a well-regarded biochemist who has been applying her scientific background in the kitchen for better than half a century, and she thinks enough of what Alton Brown is doing to be a regular guest on his show.

          You've repeatedly noted that you don't care for this particular show. Fine; don't watch it. But you can't seriously dispute that Brown explains kitchen science in a way that makes it easier for many people to understand. And although his demeanor may be annoying and his material derivative (which he acknowledges by frequent nods to the likes of McGee and Corriher), the simple fact of the matter is that he's putting out basic but solid information to a wide audience. Including chefs. What's wrong with that?

          1. re: alanbarnes

            To alanbarnes response, I'll add this supportive aside: I am not a chef, but I am a teacher, and what Alton Brown does is, technically, one variety of sound pedagogy. Use models and images, insert humor, change the pace, acknowledge the most challenging matters, and so on.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              But I do watch Alton, and I am certainly entertained. He's a great entertainer! How dare you tell me not to watch him!

              If he's a great teacher to you, great. Perhaps he should have taught high school social studies. Nothing wrong with that. But personally, I'm glad he didn't - I'm glad he stuck it out as a TV producer and put himself in front of the camera. He's entertaining, and as they say - that's that - end of story.

              1. re: applehome

                I never said he was a great teacher, especially not to me, since I don't watch television. But he is more than entertaining - he's informative. Is he the best possible source for the information he's presenting? Of course not. But the perfect need not be the enemy of the good.

        3. For me, Good Eats is #1. I haven't seen Man Eater and don't have any interest in it.
          I like Alton's props, the scientific explanation and the fun vibe of the show.

          Man vs Food, Bourdain and Zimmern are all enjoyable shows, but interchangeable.

          Other cooking shows... Top Chef Master and Top Chef (I've missed this season know that I work the swing shift). PBS has good cooking shows too - Rick Bayless (Mexico-One Plate at a Time), Jacques Pepin (Baking with Julia) and America's Test Kitchen.

          1. My favorite on FN is Barefoot Contessa. When I hear the opening piano music I'm like, "hooray!" I actually kinda like Alton Brown's show if it's a topic I'm interested in, but I'll avoid the opening silliness. I appreciate his Monty Python references, for instance any chance to reference 'wafer thin' and he's all over it.

            I like some of the stuff on the new Cooking channel, like Chuck's Day Off and a couple of others.

            And I really like Top Chef on Bravo.

            1. What makes Alton Brown's show "horrible" for you? Everyone's got their own taste and needs, of course. But since you're asking for tips, we'd need to know why you dislike Brown's show enough to make a special point of it.

              For my own part, like ZagChef and others, I find Good Eats to be one of the only shows that actually teaches me something with any regularity about food or cooking.

              1. I like Alton's Good Eats. Some shows are better than others, and it can be a bit basic at times, but I have picked up some skills and learned why things happen from watching. I don't agree with his science or his reasons or methods all the time, but generally I'm in the pro-Alton column.

                I love Bourdain, and will watch anything he is in.

                Zimmern's shtick has gotten old hat. I love offal and strange shellfish as much as the next guy, but I feel like I am watching the same show over and over again now.

                Man vs. Food would be better if it didn't have that whole eating competition thing at the end. I like the concept of highlighting local joints and street food in various US cities, and I enjoyed The Hungry Detective when it was on. I generally just fastforward through the last third of M vs F though as I don't really care if the guy can eat 10 lbs worth of something or other in less than an hour. Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives does this format better, and I am in the camp of people who like Guy Fietti.

                Top Chef is of course the best cooking or food related program on television.

                I watched the first couple seasons of Hell's Kitchen, but I haven't bothered since. The emphasis is too much on restaurant line skills, not enough on vision and recipe creation, so it doesn't really interest me. Plus, Gordon yelling at people incessantly gets old fast. Oddly enough, I do like seeing The F Word when it comes on BBC America, so I don't think Gordon is to blame for Hell's Kitchen's failings as much as Fox is (as if I need another reason to dislike Fox in addition to their right wing pandering and their cancellation of Firefly and Dollhouse).

                If you are into old stuff, the new Cooking Channel is showing re-runs of Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet. Both were well before my time, and after hearing so many people ramble on about how Julia was their inspiration for getting into cooking I was sad to see how disgusting looking so much of what she prepares on that show is, but then again, it was a product of a different time, so maybe it was groundbreaking cuisine back then. Jeff Smith and The Frugal Gourmet was the go to cooking show on TV while I was growing up, and I remember watching it with my dad. I'd like to see it get re-run, but who knows if it would stand the test of time any better than Julia.