Alton Brown looks cold and calculating as the host of the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” but when one of the competing cooks is really struggling, he feels their pain.
“I’ll still feel stress for them, especially when I see that they are going to crash and burn. I want it to be stressful, but I also want it to be fun.”
On Thursday, when Brown sets up his own kitchen on the main stage at Proctors, fun will be the name of the game and the action won’t be anything like “Cutthroat.”
“Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour” is more like “Good Eats,” his brainy, zany culinary science series that aired on the Food Network from 1999 to 2012.
The tour, which launched in October, has been “fantastic fun,” Brown says by phone from Los Angeles, where he was taking a break to film TV shows after visiting 19 cities. In December, he shot the third season of “Cutthroat Kitchen,” and in January, he wrapped up the 10th season of “Food Network Star.”
‘Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour’
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
HOW MUCH: $20-$125
MORE INFO: www.proctors.org, 346-6204
His “Edible Inevitable Tour,” which is making 26 more stops, including Schenectady, is a mix of standup comedy, food experiments, multimedia lecture and live music sing-along. A few lucky audience members will also be tapped as his culinary assistants.
“The tour is a family show. We usually have about 20 percent kids, which works for me because my humor is that of about a 12-year-old boy,” Brown said. “You’ll see the unexpected, that’s all I’ll say.”
If you want to know the real Brown, you have to watch “Good Eats.”
“ ‘Cutthroat Kitchen,’ that’s a persona. I’m playing a role,” he said. “ ‘Good Eats’ I made for 14 solid years, 252 episodes, all painstakingly handcrafted by me and my crew. ... It’s me.”
Making learning fun
For more than a decade, “Good Eats” won high praises for Brown, who was honored with a Peabody Award and a James Beard Award for Best TV Food Personality. Bon Appetit magazine named him Cooking Teacher of the Year.
It’s all about “informational storytellling,” Brown said.
“I like being able to take one subject and turn it over, upside down, but also show how it connects and relates to so many things. You might think that a TV show for a half an hour about cooking one steak sounds kind of boring. Well, it depends on how you approach that. It depends on what science you talk about; it depends on what history you talk about and what shopping you talk about. There’s always some other part of the story to tell.”
If you are interested in the culinary arts, Brown wants you to have an “a-ha moment” when you watch his show.
“Understanding is super-powerful. Don’t just tell me how to cook the eggs, but why does this happen. A lot of times, scientists tend to overcomplicate stuff.”
But Brown would never think of giving a lesson without tickling the funny bone.
“I believe in entertaining first. And if you entertain properly, it’s like a missile. Most of the missile is actually a bunch of fuel. The warhead is usually pretty small. I use humor and hopefully interesting visuals and storytelling to get the warhead where it needs to go.”
Brown was born in Los Angeles to parents from rural Georgia. When he was seven, the family moved back to Georgia, where his father owned a radio station and newspaper.
Alton was a Boy Scout and spent hours in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother.
He earned a degree in drama at the University of Georgia, and for 10 years, he worked as a cinematographer and video director.
During the 1990s, he watched TV food shows but found them dull and decided that he could improve them.
He moved to Vermont and enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute.
In 1998, a year after he graduated, the pilot for “Good Eats” aired on a PBS station in Chicago, and in 1999, the show was picked up by the Food Network.
Everything in moderation
Four years ago, on a “Good Eats” show, Brown announced that he was changing his eating habits to lose weight and be healthier by restricting his daily diet to fruits, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, carrots and green tea.
“I lost 50 pounds,” he says. “I got too skinny. When people are thinking you are sick, you’ve gone too far.”
He decided to put 15 pounds back on.
“It’s always going to be a battle because I like to eat, I especially like to drink, and I’m 51, and my body doesn’t put up with that the way it used to.”
Brown jogs every day and describes his food intake as “grazing.”
“I have to say ‘no’ a lot,” he says. “I’ve come to the conclusion that meals, especially big meals, are what kill us. We are just not meant to eat a bunch of food at one time.”
At home in Atlanta, Brown loves to cook for his wife, DeAnna Collins, and 14-year-old daughter Zoey.
“They are extremely fond of my mushroom stroganoff, and my daughter really, really likes when I cook rib-eye steaks. She’s carnivore. She’s directly descended from T-rexes, I think,” he jokes.
Brown is also known for his flaky, Southern-style biscuits and makes them regularly.
“I won’t make them more than once a week. My thing is I’d rather have them not as often and be able to have two of them,” Brown said.
Television, touring and family aren’t the only things on his plate.
“When the tour is over, my trio and I are going to be releasing a CD, probably in June, of my food songs, which I’m kind of proud of and enjoying that part of my career.”
“Airport Shrimp Blues” and “TV Cookin Ain’t Like No Other Cookin” are just two of the humorous titles.
Brown has a few book projects in the works, too, including a children’s book.
“And I may add a third leg on to the tour,” Brown says.
“My tour schedule so far has not been able to include the Pacific Northwest or any of Canada, so I’d like to be able to address those. So I might go out again in October,” he says.
“And I hope that I’ll be doing another couple of seasons of ‘Cutthroat Kitchen.’ That show seems to be resonating with the audience in a very strong way.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.