Why did an almost sold-out crowd of Dallasites fill the Majestic Theatre twice on Sunday to see Food Network star Alton Brown? What could they possibly see in two hours that 200-plus episodes of Good Eats, The Next Food Network Star, Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen couldn't help them glean about the performer known for his obsessive attention to detail and nerdy devotion to food history?
"These two hours are not about your pleasure," Brown said early in his performance. "They're about my pleasure and letting me do what no one will let me do on television."
What were those things? First, Brown sang. The set opened with a rap called "TV Chef" about the compromises of celebrity chefdom and closed with "Cooking Lesson Lullaby Part 1" about the not-so-simple cooking tips a person should remember on "12 hands."
The show allowed Brown to "rant, rave, preach and pontificate" about topics that might upset Food Network sponsors.
He introduced the cooking demonstration in the second act with a Violent Femmes-inspired acoustic rocker called "Easy Bake" about the trials of a boy who just wanted to use a light bulb to make cookies, and he spun a countrified ditty called "Airport Shrimp Cocktail" about the dangers of eating improperly stored shrimp cocktail in an airport before a 5.5-hour flight.
The show also allowed Brown to "rant, rave, preach and pontificate" about topics that might upset Food Network sponsors. Of course, as Brown explained about the tour, "I don't have any sponsors. I just have you." That allowed him to take gentle pokes at Sandra Lee ("there's nothing you can't do with crepe paper and a fifth of vodka") and Williams-Sonoma ("the single most stuck up place I've ever been").
He shared seven pieces of wisdom billed as "things I'm pretty sure I'm sure about" that consisted of witty, oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny, observations about the world of cooking. For "chickens don't have fingers," he told the story of combating his daughter's request to serve chicken fingers to her friends by serving them fried chicken feet. For "look for the little things," he related a story of learning to make his grandmother's biscuits by observing that she couldn't bend her fingers as she mixed the dough due to arthritis.
Other things Brown is sure about: "Trout don't belong in ice cream," "shower your 'shrooms," "don't leave out the NaCl," "raisins: always optional ('no recipe that ever called for raisins isn't better with M&M's')" and "never eat a shrimp cocktail in an airport" (see song reference above).
Two cooking demonstrations marked particular high points. In the first, Brown made carbonated chocolate ice cream by shooting high-pressure chocolate cream at carbon dioxide from a giant fire extinguisher — a Good Eats-style prop he called the Jet Cream. In the second, he righted his boyhood slights by making pizza with the Mega Bake, a custom-built giant oven powered by fifty-four 1,000-watt lights capable of producing 1,026,000 lumens.
With help from an audience member, Brown used the Mega Bake — "an oven you can see from space," he said — to make two pies topped with brisket from Dallas' Pecan Lodge he had saved from a lunchtime visit.
Throughout, Brown kept the mood light and the quips flying. He called out a late arrival for being tardy and expressed shock when his pizza assistant, Andrea the psychotherapist, anticipated his recommended enzyme for repairing a hole in her crust by spitting on the unbaked pie.
Highlights of the Q&A portion included his observation that the Dallas food scene is "coming along nicely" as more than a town known for Texas food like barbecue, and the promise of a Good Eats web series (premiere date TBA).
Those expecting a two-hour-long, highly scientific Good Eats episode may have left disappointed, but Brown's light-hearted tone and surprisingly funny stage demeanor kept things from dragging. Some even gave him a standing ovation at the end. He'd earned it.
This was the only Texas stop on Brown's tour.