What it was like to be a contestant on Alton Brown's show in Dallas
NOTE: Geoff Keah, a food-savvy Dallas resident, attended the Alton Brown show in Dallas on December 10 and shares his first-person account of participating as a contestant on stage.
I thought I knew my steaks — but I got tripped up by the T-bone.
That was my downfall when I joined culinary whiz Alton Brown on stage as a contestant in his Alton Brown Live: Beyond The Eats - The Holiday Variant! show at the Music Hall at Fair Park.
Since 2013, Brown has periodically mounted this culinary variety show tour featuring food trivia, cooking lessons, and a game show with volunteers.
I've always been an AB fan - I love his quirky way of introducing the science behind why things work the way they do when cooking/baking. His style isn’t for everyone, which makes it even more appreciable.
I brought my dad along for the ride, which included tickets to a pre-show VIP Q&A featuring Alton and his wife, Elizabeth: It consisted of a 30-minute session where attendees asked whatever they wanted about his shows such as Good Eats and The Next Iron Chef, as well as a multitude of questions about food.
The official show opened promptly at 7:30 pm, when Brown and his band played a comedic, holiday-themed ditty, followed by a bit called "Rolodex of Regrets" -- humorous outtakes from various times in his life. One example involved his Aunt Verna and a case of mistaken chocolate that turned out to be Ex-Lax.
The T-bone was especially tricky.Geoff Keah
Fun and games
Next came the game show segment, requiring volunteers from the audience. Many raised their hands, but luckily enough, I was seated dead center in the front row, right in front of the mic, and got called on stage, along with my two food-savvy opponents, a woman named Liz and another woman named Chris.
In the first round, Alton asked culinary questions, often bizarre, and we hit our buzzers to answer. Unfortunately, I scored only one point here, and I can't even recall the question. Years of Toastmasters go out the window when you’re in front of a live audience and Alton Brown is the emcee.
For the next round, we each faced individual challenges. These would determine who would reign supreme.
- Liz had to identify ingredients that were in one of his famous recipes.
- Chris had to identify tins of spices. (Post-segment, one of the producers said this challenge was harder than you’d think. He said that people usually take a big sniff of the first tin, and it’s so overpowering, it throws off their palate for the rest of the segment.)
- I had to identify cuts of beef.
I was led to a chalkboard-style diagram of an Angus Beef Chart and tasked with correctly placing a whole slew of beef cut tags -- brisket, chuck, skirt, rib eye, filet, sirloin - into their corresponding areas of the cow. All within a glorious 60 seconds.
The T-bone was especially tricky, because it also includes the filet/tenderloin as well as the strip steak. I am certain I could nail this sitting in the comfort of my own home, but when the pressure is on, things go south quickly!
And yet, I still made second place. My prize: a four-inch golden trophy with the show logo stickered onto the side. Liz, who'd skunked us all in the first contest, won first place.
My time on stage now done, I could sit back and enjoy the ride, but Alton wasn't done with me yet.
After intermission came the "spicy segment," in which contestants must eat spicy wings on stage.
A pair of 22-year-old twin girls from Louisiana, who'd also attended the VIP segment, were selected, and powered through some pretty spicy wings with aplomb.
They threw Alton off his game so much, that he approached me in my seat and asked what was in my drink that I'd left sitting on stage. "Vodka," I said. He chugged half my drink and gave me his nutmeg in exchange.
Post show note: Some of us were able to taste the chicken wings. They had a nice heat signature/zing, but they weren’t nearly as hot as you might expect.