Each year I look forward with great anticipation to the annual episode on Alton Brown's popular food network show, Good Eats, titled "It's a Wonderful Cake." Will it air again this year, or has AB discovered a new and improved method of making fruit cake? I go to the Food Network website holding my breath. No wait, there it is in his Good Eats Fruitcake air times!. Three December showings. Why do I get so excited? I appear on this show and like Jimmy Stewart, I air every year – for about three minutes – yet I feel this is my 2 seconds of fame! So would you believe Alton spent about 12 hours filming in our Evanston shop to get this three minutes? If you watch Good Eats, I think you already have an idea of what a thorough guy Alton is.
Alton and his crew, including his lovely and then pregnant wife, arrive very early on a Saturday morning. Now it is important to remember this was probably six years ago. We were concerned about him filming on our busiest day of the week. No problem, he said, we like to see a busy place when we film. So, as many customers as we had in the store that day, I recall maybe two customers telling Alton how much they loved his show. ONLY TWO? If he were to film today, it would be almost every customer, as our customers LOVE Alton Brown. For some reason we seemed to be one of the last big cities to have our cable television network pick up the Food Network. Obviously no one in Chicago cares much about food! I now fantasize about getting Alton to come to the shop for a Spice House party or book signing but alas, I fear he has just become too famous.
A perfectionist to the hilt, we did our talking segments over and over to get them just right. One of the cameramen had a light meter he held up to the sky and if there was a cloud passing through we had to wait until it was gone. Talk about attention to detail. All and all, it was a very fun day, although it did wear on a bit. We have been on other food shows where the host is in and out in 15 minutes so we never expected Alton and his crew to spend the whole day! Those of us not in the film media business have no idea how much work goes into every episode, it made grinding spices seem an easy task by comparison. What actually ended our filming was the World Series. The crew of the show live in Atlanta and their baseball team was playing one of the series games at 7:00. The crew starting getting quite anxious at about 6:00. The game, AB, the game, time to wrap up!
A really nice touch, as they were about to leave, they opened a large cooler. In between some bottles of Mexican beer (which I assume were intended for the big game) were a couple of home made fruitcakes. They presented us with one as a thank you. I froze that cake and we saved it for Christmas morning at the family household in Wisconsin. On Christmas morning, we toasted it in the oven, and served it as we plugged in a tape of the Good Eats It?s a Wonderful Cake episode. What a lovely start to Christmas. I would like to say that started a family tradition and we start every Christmas morning doing that same thing, but for some reason I am the only one who likes watching that episode as much as I do! And every year I think, that is a DARNED good episode, I hope you have a chance to watch. Here is a link to Alton Brown's Fruitcake Recipe. Happy Holidays