Call him a mad culinary scientist if you like. A mad genius too.
Alton Brown, who leapt to fame with his Good Eats show on the Food Network 15 years ago, has kept his career moving with cookbooks, culinary competition programs (Iron Chef, Next Food Network Star and Cutthroat Kitchen) and live stage shows. He's just been nominated for an International Association of Culinary Professionals award for his Internet podcast, The Alton Browncast (thebrowncast.libsyn.com).
And this weekend, he wraps up the current stretch of his raucous The Edible Inevitable Tour with stops at the Straz in Tampa and Van Wezel in Sarasota. It's not exactly Good Eats on the road, even though there's a bit of science, some standup comedy and a whole lot of food included. Expect music (he writes lyrics) and maybe even a bit of a mess.
"If you get offered a poncho," he says, "I would suggest you accept."
Brown talked to us a couple weeks ago from Hartford, Conn., on the morning of a show there. He was sitting on his bunk in his rock star tour bus.
This show is almost at the end of the tour? How has it gone? What has changed?
It has become a game that you play with yourself to make it better. How to tweak it? For one, changing timing on certain lines. Otherwise I might as well be a robot.
The audience is everything. How they respond, whether it's a joke or anything. ... The audience doesn't have to make noise for me to gauge their reaction. I can watch their faces. It's like golf, no matter how good you get, you are always working on your putting.
Where did the name "edible inevitable" come from?
For years people around me said you'll eventually do a tour; that it was inevitable. If you've had too much to drink, it's hard to say. It's really 21/2 hours of a classic variety show.
What can the audience expect? I am nervous about the mention of ponchos.
We have two very large food demonstrations. One of them tends to eject particulates into the air.
You stopped making Good Eats a couple years ago. Do you miss it?
I miss doing Good Eats, but Good Eats ate my life. It was so time-consuming. I could never do anything like this if I was still doing the show.
Why our intense interest in food ... eating it, watching it, shopping for it?
When I started on Food Network, food shows were about cooking; they were instructional. Good Eats was the last instructional show on at night. Food is now of interest in general, and that's fueled reality shows and competition shows. Hopefully that will change. There's no genre that food doesn't touch on. I am still waiting for someone to ask me to do a food sitcom.
You're on the move so much, do you cook much anymore?
Not as much as I'd like. The kitchen on the tour bus is quite small. There are four of us on the bus: the lead prop guy from Good Eats, my assistant who is also my drummer, and my audio designer who is also my lead guitarist. Everyone on my bus I've worked for at least for 10 years.
Speaking of being on the road where food is notoriously unhealthful, how have you kept the 50 pounds off that you lost a few years ago?
Don't eat, or eat as little possible. I don't know when my next opportunity at exercise is going to come from. I eat a can of sardines everyday to get my omega 3 fatty acids and lots of hummus with vegetables.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8586.