If you have turned on the Food Network in the past decade, then you have seen Alton Brown. Long before anyone was searching out diners and dives or cooking barefoot, Alton was a linchpin of the network, hosting Good Eats which included an opening monologue, skits and recurring characters—making him more of a self-actualized PeeWee Herman than a generic attempt to be the y chromosome’s answer to Martha Stewart. He is currently shooting for Food Network Star and Cutthroat Kitchen, both of which call on Alton to play a colder, calculating orchestrator—like on Cutthroat where he tempts chefs bid on items such as a “No Water Allowed” sign to hinder their competition in a round of crafting the best deviled egg.
However, while Alton is a man who has made calculations, plans—a scheme if you will, he is anything but cold. Alton Brown Live: The Edible Inevitable Tour, is an idea that has been bouncing around his head for over six years now, and he is thrilled to be bringing his show to families and fans across the nation, landing him at The North Charleston Performing Acts Center on Thursday, February 25.
When I spoke with Alton, he was returning to the tour in Austin, Texas after taking a break to shoot for The Food Network.
HG: This is your first big, national tour. 40 cities. How did you prepare?
AB: I’ve been doing live shows for over a decade, but they were always single shows, so I was never able to do the size show I wanted to. It wasn’t scalable: you can’t create a master show just for one date.
HG: How will this show be different from those solo shows?
AB: The big element is the music. I started writing food songs for a CD that is coming out later in the year with my trio, The Eatable Inevitable Trio.
HG: Will you continue with the trio after the tour?
AB: Yes, it’s way too much fun. The songs, at least to me, are pretty good. There’s a country number about food poisoning, a punk rock song about Easy Bake Ovens, a Blues song about pork chops. I don’t rap, and there’s no reggae yet, but we’re working on it.
HG: I saw that the live show has a lot of the same elements of Good Eats. Are we looking at Good Eats Live?
AB: No, I don’t think you can do that. Good Eats was a television experience, single camera, kind of shot like a movie. The way it was composed, you can’t replicate that—and I didn’t play music. There are some elements that fans will immediately recognize like puppets, strange food demonstrations, and me. But this is a completely built-from-the-ground-up, theatrical experience. I’m finally getting to use the theatre degree that my parents told me I would never amount to anything with.
HG: Can you give me an example of one of the food demonstrations that you are going to do?
AB: All I will tell you, because I don’t want to give anything away, is that one involves extreme cold and another one involves extreme heat. Also, one of the demos typically fills the air with a fair amount of sticky matter, so we offer ponchos to the first two rows. If you get a poncho, put it on! I will not be responsible for what happens if you do not wear your poncho.
HG: Do you tweak the show from one stop to the next?
AB: My fans don’t change too much from town to town, but there is one demo that allows me to use local ingredients. If I’m in an area that’s known for something in particular, then I will definitely rebuild that part of the show around those ingredients.
HG: What is the inspiration behind the show? Is there a theme?
AB: The theme is having as much fun as you could possibly pack into two hours, and, I’ll be honest, it’s all stuff that nobody would let me do on TV. So, in that way, it’s for me. But I hope the audience enjoys it, too. It’s a family show and very family-oriented. We built it for everybody, from five years of age to dead. We like seeing families coming together and laughing together. It doesn’t happen much these days. I’m proud to say that we have put a show together that is literally for everyone in the family. That’s the big thrill.
HG: Have you spent much time in Charleston before, personally?
AB: I have. In fact, I’m hoping to one day retire and move there. I love Charleston, I like the islands, Sullivan’s and Isle of Palms. I love downtown. I know since I wasn’t born there, I’ll probably never be accepted, but maybe they’ll let me stay!
HG: Do you have a plan for where you are going to eat when you are in town?
AB: I won’t have a lot of time, but I will not leave town without having a bowl of chocolate pudding from Hominy Grill. But hey, if someone’s coming to the show and wants to pack me something, I’ll be hungry.
Alton Brown Live: The Edible Inevitable Tour comes to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, February 25. Show starts at 7:30. Tickets are available here.