The Edible Inevitable Wit of Alton Brown
By Robin Jay
It’s daybreak on the set of Cutthroat Kitchen. The trailer door of the star’s dressing room swings open. Quirky culinary show host Alton Brown steps out, pausing to double check that his morning ritual is complete: his wireless microphone is secured properly to his sock, his Converse sneakers are double knotted, his round spectacles match his pocket square, and his signature bowtie – one of a collection of nearly 200 he inherited from an art school professor – is perpendicular to his collar. He adjusts his watch (an essential tool for timing dueling chefs in his latest nerve-racking TV cooking competition), grabs his must-have cup of coffee, and then saunters off with a kick in his step.
Once inside the studio, Alton stops by the set’s food pantry to sneak a cherry tomato for breakfast. ‘It’s not allowed, but who’s going to stop me?!’ And then, with a leap, he lands at the bottom of the sound-stage stairwell to announce his surprise entrance, “Good morning chefs!”
The Cooking Show Pioneer
Alton Brown is not your typical cooking show host. The son of a media executive who owned a Georgia-based newspaper and radio station, Alton grew up an avid Boy Scout who dreamed of following in the steps of Jacques Cousteau. The eclectic young man loved riding motorcycles, strumming guitar, flying airplanes, eating sardines and his grandmother’s biscuits, and collecting cookbooks – some 2,000 volumes.
As a child, Alton says he enjoyed hanging out in his mom’s kitchen, but his true passion for food started in college. “Girls who said ‘no’ to dates sometimes said ‘yes’ if I offered to cook for them,” he said with a laugh.
Then, after a stint as a music video cinematographer, Alton noticed a genre in TV he felt was lacking substance – American cooking shows. He aimed to start his own novel cooking program and enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute. “I only got into science when I realized it was the key to better cooking,” Alton told South Florida Opulence.
Step Aside Julia Child
In 1998, the pilot for Alton’s first cooking show – Good Eats – aired in Chicago. “My idea was to combine Julia Child, Mr. Wizard, and Monty Python,” Alton said. And indeed he did. Good Eats became an iconic blend of food science, pop culture, skit humor, innovative cooking, and the occasional burping puppet. His innovative series lasted 13 consecutive seasons on Food Network and earned him a Peabody award for broadcast excellence.
“Comedy is a tough thing to examine, so I try not to think about it,” Alton said. “But I do believe that laughing brains are more absorbent, so it’s easier to teach people who are being entertained.”
Since Good Eats, you’ve seen this culinary comedian as the TV commentator of Iron Chef America; Feasting on Asphalt (Alton tours the country by motorcycle uncovering tidbits of road-food history); and Cutthroat Kitchen.
“We have combined science, music, food, and a few other things no one in his right mind would allow me to do on TV (ponchos are provided),” said Brown, who delighted fans with his performance at the Kravis Center in Palm Beach in February.
To locate times, dates and cities for Brown’s future tour stops, go to www.altonbrowntour.com.