Alton Brown came. And Alton Brown left.
(Well, we think he left. For all we know he might still be snoozing at a fancy Wichita hotel suite preparing to hit the road.)
While the Food Network star was in Wichita for a Wednesday-night performance of his “Eat Your Science” tour at Century II, he made his typical rounds of Wichita, stopping at his favorite coffee shops, surprising a few business owners and mingling with the people.
Brown, a self-professed Wichita fan, has become a bit of an adopted celebrity son in the city over the past several years. This is his third Wichita visit since his 2014 performance of his Edible Inevitable” tour, and on each visit, he’s made his rounds and caused a stir.
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We tried to track him down as he hopped from place to place in Wichita yesterday, but we were always one step behind him.
Here’s a retracing of his steps while he was in town, compiled by using his social media accounts and reports from Wichitans who saw him:
Century II: The first sign Brown was in town was a video he posted on his social media accounts showing him walking through the bowels of Century II and eventually on to the stage of the empty Concert Hall. The voice-over featured Brown explaining the history of the building then encouraging his fans to purchase the remaining seats that hadn’t yet sold.
Espresso to Go Go: Anticipation was high among restaurant owners, many of whom have been tweeting for weeks with the hashtag @ABRoadEatsWichita in hopes of attracting the star for a visit. (Several weeks ago, Brown asked local restaurants and their fans via his social media channels to follow those instructions if they wanted him to visit.)
But his first stop was at one of his regular Wichita haunts. Brown is a big fan of Espresso to Go Go, the coffee shop with the disco ball at 102 N. St. Francis, and has stopped there on every visit since 2014. Owner Warren Tandoc texted me after Brown left and said the shop was too busy for him to snap a picture this time, but Brown posted two shots from that stop on his Instagram story: one of him sipping an iced coffee against the shop’s indoor mural and another showing a short video of the spinning disco ball.
86 Cold Press: After leaving Espresso to Go Go, Brown stopped in to sample the fresh pressed juices at neighbor 86 Cold Press and posted a colorful photo of his juice flight. Owner Austin Dugan said Brown also took some goodies to go, including some paleo balls, trail mixes, beef jerky and seven bottles of juice.
“I saw him and his assistant walk by my windows and I thought to myself, ‘Hmm... That guy looked like Alton,’” Dugan said. “And two seconds later, they came through my door.”
Nifty Nut House: From Douglas and St. Francis, it appears Brown traveled to Nifty Nut House, one of his favorite Wichita stops, which he described in 2014 as “a national treasure.” He recreated his famous 2014 photo of himself sticking his face in the store’s playful cutout and posted it on social media.
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While he was there, Wichitan Cindy Means was shopping with her 3-year-old granddaughter, Anestyn, who was at the store for her first time. The toddler accidentally walked right in front of Brown, and her grandmother encouraged her to say, “Excuse me.”
“He went off with his cameraman to do other things and I paid for our purchases and then decided to approach him and just asked if he would take a picture with her,” Means said. Brown quickly agreed and asked permission to pick Anestyn up. “I snapped the picture, shook his hand and we left,” Means said.
Why is the Nifty Nut House so popular during the holidays? What is it that people are buying? Some shoppers and employees helpfully tell us through a song. Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle
Moler’s Camera: Next, Brown – an avid photographer – showed up at Moler’s Camera at 2609 E. Douglas, a neighbor of Brown’s favorite stop Reverie Coffee Roasters. While there, he took pictures of cameras and posted a picture of himself holding an old Rolleiflex camera.
Reverie Coffee Roasters: Just after noon on Wednesday, Brown also returned to his other favorite local coffee shop, Reverie Coffee Roasters, which he’s also visited on all three of his visits. He had a cortado, posted a picture of it and posed for a snap with owner Andrew Gough. He then sat in the window to talk business with the staff. “We chatted about our happenings since his last visit and a bit about his future coffee shop, which he wants to open in his hometown sometime in 2018,” Gough said. Alton Brown scoop!
The show: Several restaurants that were waiting in anticipation of a Brown flyby were disappointed on Wednesday, including the guys at the Flying Stove, who organized a mini food truck rally at the Spice Merchant hoping to attract his attention. But Brown wasn’t spotted again during the afternoon.
The show, which started at 7 p.m., drew an appreciative crowd to Century II, and as usual, Brown lured volunteers from the audience on stage for hilarious food experiments (including local nurse Kim Talbot), snapped a photo of the crowd and posted it on his Twitter feed, and took questions from the audience via Twitter.
Shelly Stout posted a selfie with her young daughter, and their question was chosen. “My daughter, Emma, and I want to know what your favorite meal was as a child.”
Brown went on to tell a hilarious story about volunteering to make dinner as a child then serving his family Gaines-Burgers, a hamburger-shaped dog food patty popular in the 1960s.
He described his dad taking a bite and looking a bit concerned. His mother then noted aloud that she hadn’t bought any ground meat recently. Brown said his father finished chewing the bite, got up and silently left the table.
“And we never spoke of it again,” Brown said as the audience roared.
You can follow this Twitter link to see pictures Wichita audience members snapped of the show and to see all the questions they posed via Twitter on Wednesday.