Alton Brown's Favorite Cookbook Out Of The 2,000 He Owns

On television, Alton Brown is a pretty open book. His hit show "Good Eats" is a collection of step-by-step hacks for intrepid home cooks. Since the show first aired in 1999, Brown has spent his career showing foodies how to get the perfect crust on steak or rig a pepper grinder to a power drill. He's a trusted mentor on "Iron Chef America" and has cemented his position as a household name. But, behind the scenes, there are more than a few things about the chef that fans might be surprised to learn — like, that he actually doesn't like to be called a "chef" at all. (Brown prefers "foodist.") He directed television commercials for eight years, and he's currently part of a musical trio that made the Billboard charts twice. He scuba dives and flies planes, loves Stanley Kubrick films and motorcycles, and collects typewriters.

Typewriters aren't the only thing the foodist collects, either. Alton Brown owns a whopping 2,000 cookbooks. It's a fitting library for somebody who has devoted their entire life's work to sharing culinary instruction. But, out of his collection, only one book can occupy the coveted position of Brown's personal favorite. Here's which cookbook takes the proverbial cake.

Brown swears by this American classic

The cookbook that Alton Brown names as his favorite is "The Fireside Cook Book" by none other than James Beard, America's first foodie. Brown is himself the recipient of two James Beard awards (which he reportedly keeps tucked in a drawer in his office). A prolific writer, "Fireside" is the fourth of Beard's more than 20 cookbooks, originally published in 1949. With an impressive 1,217 recipes, it's something of a culinary Bible, loaded with playful recipe titles like "Dinner for a Gloomy Day When All the Leftovers Are Gone." Notably, Beard's authorial voice here is reminiscent of Brown's own cheeky on-screen persona.

In addition to a trove of recipes, "Fireside" also features nearly 400 color illustrations by award-winning children's book illustrators Alice and Martin Provensen – but even these charming drawings aren't what makes the book Brown's favorite. According to the James Beard Foundation, Beard wrote the book in hopes of defining a unique "American" food style. "America has the opportunity, as well as the resources, to create for herself a truly national cuisine that will incorporate all that is best in the traditions of the many people who have crossed the seas to form our new, still young nation," wrote Beard. This sentiment is what draws Brown to the book. "It's a clear portrait of American cuisine at its post World War II height, before the rise of California or fusion cuisine, or any cuisine for that matter," says Brown, via Food Network