SINCE I'm in the food and entertainment business, practically all my flights are business-related, flying from Atlanta to either New York City or Los Angeles. I am a pilot and have my own eight-seater Cessna, and when I fly my own plane it's spectacular. But there are positives when flying commercial.
I relish the relaxation of commercial flights and being able to sit back and enjoy the ride. I'm also very fortunate because I get to fly first class quite a bit, and it's great. It's one of the few times I can relax for a few hours or get some work done. Even though I am a pilot, I am not a back-seat driver. Sometimes I get a little jealous of the pilots flying those big commercial airlines, but I am at ease. Airliners are amazingly safe.
I don't have too many problems flying, but a few months after the Sept. 11 attacks, I flew up to Allentown, Pa., to cook at a big benefit event. I decided to do an omelet demonstration because I'd done it at several other events around the country and the crowds always seemed to enjoy it. It was also a good demonstration because it didn't require any special equipment, just an eight-inch omelet pan that easily fit in my carry-on.
Everything was great until I got to security at the Allentown airport. Security decided to stop me because of the pan. I did point out to them that I've flown to about 12 cities with this pan and had no trouble, but it didn't matter. The head Transportation Security Administration gentleman said there was absolutely no way I was getting on a plane with something that dangerous. I didn't quite know what to say. It was an omelet pan.
Later that week, I wrote a blog post about the experience, and one week after that I received a box containing my pan. It was no worse for the wear, and I was very happy. I still have it, but now I always leave it at home.
Some people do recognize me from ''Cutthroat Kitchen'' or ''Iron Chef America,'' and I don't mind talking about food with people in airports or on the plane. Compared to 20 years ago, people have a lot more interest in food and are looking for ways to improve their meals. Before, all people wanted to do was follow a recipe; now they're trying to gather knowledge on how to make a meal or a recipe better. Food connects people.
People also ask me food questions. What's really strange is that people ask me about their own family's old recipes when they can't decipher them. Sometimes it's tough to do because they don't remember certain things.
One time, though, something pretty wonderful happened. I was flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles and an older gentleman stopped me at the baggage claim in Los Angeles. His wife of many years had died a few months before, and all he wanted to do was make scrambled eggs. Apparently, his wife often made him scrambled eggs for breakfast.
For most of his marriage, the eggs were lousy, but for several years before she died, this gentleman really liked the eggs. He told me the recipe the best he could, so I got his address and rewrote the scrambled egg recipe by hand, telling him everything he needed to do, including adding some hot sauce, which is why he liked the eggs so much.
A few weeks later I got a thank-you note from him. I still have it in my office.
Q. How often do you fly for business? A. Four times a month commercial, and since I'm a pilot, I fly my own plane a few times a month. Q. What's your least-favorite airport? A. Los Angeles International. The baggage situation always seems dicey. Q. Of all the places you have been, what is the best? A. I'm a big fan of home, which is just north of Atlanta. But I'm also a big fan of Paris. Q. What's your secret airport vice? A. Magazines. I'll buy about 10 of them, which is kind of silly because they weigh a lot. I even buy some magazines covering topics I don't really even care about.
PHOTO: Alton Brown, the Food Network host, at a live event last year. (PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID ALLEN)