No Budget Kitchen Hijinks: Alton Brown at Dragon Con

Photo by Brandilyn Carpenter
Photo by Brandilyn Carpenter

Dragon Con foodies were given a treat on Sunday afternoon at 4PM in the Marriott Atrium Ballroom as the first-ever “Good Eats… the Panel” was presented. Longtime fans of the show will recognize not only Alton Brown but also the rest of the panelists, who all appeared on the show in one or more onscreen roles over the years. Joining Brown on the stage were actor Bart Hansard, actress Vickie Eng, actor Lucky Yates, production designer Todd Bailey, actress Widdi Turner, and “lawyer”/production assistant/percussionist/jack of all trades Jim Pace. These names may not sound familiar, but their many faces and talents accompanied Alton Brown on his Good Eats journey.

Over the course of the hour, the cast shared many behind the scenes tidbits. Vickie Eng is known to fans best as “W,” the infamous kitchen tool expert and Brown’s onscreen nemesis. Many fans will be surprised to learn that, prior to her run on Good Eats, Eng knew very little about the kitchen tools she so expertly introduced to viewers. Widdi Turner started her time on Good Eats as a production coordinator. Her lack of a French accent landed her the role of Francis Andersen on episodes such as “Crepe Expectations” and “Squid Pro Quo.” Todd Bailey is the only crew/cast member to work on every single episode of Good Eats, while Bart Hansard and Lucky Yates were best friends and roommates prior to their stints on the show. It was Yates’ lack of transportation that landed Hansard a recurring part on the show. Jim Pace played approximately twenty different roles on the show. Virtually everyone who worked on the show in any capacity appeared onscreen at least a time or two as one or more characters.

The cast has an undeniable chemistry on stage. This chemistry led to much banter and many stories that probably shouldn’t be repeated in print.

One thing that can be repeated—in fact, Brown encouraged the entire crowd to record and share on social media—is Brown’s announcement that Good Eats will be returning to Food Network in 2018 as Return of the Eats. The new show will air both on the network and through its streaming services. Streamed episodes will also include bonus content not broadcast on the network.

Brown et al. treated fans to many comical stories of times on set and many behind the scenes outtakes. Turner related that script changes were so common that the cast never actually committed them to memory, so she was constantly learning things from her own lines while she watched the show itself. She also may have heaped some praise on her former boss by saying that “Alton is a genius.” Specifically, she was speaking about the timing and pace of the show. However, any Alton Brown fan would agree with the sentiment.

Also, apparently, the cooktop in the original house was so underpowered that they had to pre-heat the skillets and then hang them back up. This practice lead to Brown more than once grasping the wrong skillet in the wrong place, resulting in much discomfort. Working in pain was not uncommon for Brown, who conducted an entire interview during the episode “Art of Darkness” with blood running down one side of his face.

The question and answer session brought new insights to the audience. One such insight is that the crew had a goal to use at least one new technique or shot in every episode. Brown wanted to “make Good Eats visually interesting and pack it full of good information” with the goal that “[viewers] would watch Good Eats more than once.”

Judging by the response of the crowd at “Good Eats… the Panel,” you succeeded, Mr. Brown.

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