‘R’ you kidding? Yes, we can feed Alton Brown’s tour
By Brooke Carbo Staff writer
Posted Apr 7, 2016 at 12:01 AM
Alton Brown planned to spend the hours leading up to his show at the Crown Theatre sampling the local cuisine.
For weeks, the ABRoadEats competition had been asking fans where Brown should eat on his “Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science” tour and Fayetteville residents flooded social media with recommendations. But at noon, the Food Network star had not been able to visit a single eatery.
Due to what tour members said was an unforeseen transportation issue, Brown spent the lunch hour standing outside the theater signing cookbooks and taking pictures with the 60 or so fans who came out for the flash autograph signing.
Lexi Hasapis and Scott Keen were among those who were able to decipher the message posted on Brown’s Twitter and Facebook 12 hours earlier announcing the latitude and longitude coordinates, and the Coordinated Universal Time of the signing. The co-workers took a break from their work at the Center for Economic Empowerment & Development to meet Brown.
When they heard he wouldn’t be able to go out to eat, “we said, well R-Burger is on wheels,” said Hasapis. She called up Rob and Mary Russell, the owners of R-Burger food truck, and told them Alton Brown was hungry.
That was all the mobile chefs needed to hear.
“We said we know how to solve that problem,” said Mary Russell.
The couple put up a note apologizing to the lunch crowd at Bell’s Seed Store, tweeted out that they were changing locations and headed for the Crown.
Within minutes of pulling up, the Russells were put to work cooking enough burgers and hot dogs to feed the entire “Eat Your Science” tour.
Brown came out to pick up the order himself.
“Thank you, I’m very hungry,” he told Mary Russell as she passed one paper sack after another through the order window. With a tower of takeout balanced under his chin, Brown paused to pose for a picture with Rob Russell before heading back to his tour bus.
“We’re going to dissect all your food now,” he called over his shoulder.
Less than 15 minutes later, Brown reemerged to greet two women approaching the bus with a bag from Fayetteville Pie Company. Owner Leslie Pearson and executive chef Martha K. Lee put together a sample of the lunch spot’s Thursday menu, including their specialty, the Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato pie, and at Brown’s request, the Vegetable Makhani pie.
The Rowan Street lunch spot was a frontrunner in the ABRoadEats competition, which made the experience even more special, Pearson said.
“We were busy today but when we got the call we said OK, we’re just going to make this happen,” she said.
Brown worked up an appetite earlier in the day, meeting and greeting fans who came out for the flash signing.
Riley Power traveled four hours from Fort Monroe, Virginia, just to meet her idol. The 8-year-old didn’t learn until arriving in Fayetteville that her parents were surprising her with tickets to the show.
Wearing an “Eat Your Science” apron, Riley posed for a picture with Brown and told him what grade she was in.
“I remember third grade,” he responded. “That was a good year.”
Afterward, Riley’s mom helped her back into her freshly-autographed apron. “She loves Alton Brown,” Jeannie Power said of her daughter. “She loves to do her own experiments with science and food.”
“We did the recipe he did on lemon curd,” Riley added. “It turned out good.”
When it was Keen’s turn, he asked the master chef to autograph a 1938 cookbook that had been passed down from his grandparents.
“It came with the gas range in their first home after he got back from World War II,” Keen said.
After checking that Keen didn’t mind him defacing a family heirloom, Brown signed the inside cover: “To Scott, may the food be with you.”
After the last autograph had been signed, Brown hung out for another five minutes in case any fans had trouble deciphering his clues.
Inside the theater, preparations were underway for the second night of “Eat Your Science” tour. Opening night in Charleston, South Carolina, the night before went smoothly, Brown said. Still, the crew takes extra precautions to ensure everything is in order for the messy experiments for which his shows are famous.
“I’ll say this,” said Brown. “The odds are very likely they’ll be able to reuse this theater again.”
Staff writer Brooke Carbo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3523.