There’s a lot of punk rock ethos in the food media, where chefs are often self-contained artists grabbing a channel for self-expression, or even a second chance at life. Alton Brown is the well-dressed, meticulously researched foil of this trope, somehow embodying this passionate, irreverent mayhem better than anyone.
Interest in Brown, like interest in television science greats Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson, never seems to wane. This fall, Brown is take his show on the road — stopping at the Moody Theater in Austin, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio, Jesse H. Jones Hall in Houston, and the Theater in Grand Prairie near Dallas — promising “comedy, food, music, mayhem, not necessarily in that order”.
The tour will make further stops in Texas at Lubbock and El Paso.
Brown’s 1999 Food Network show Good food redefined what a cooking show could be, incorporating science and camp in equal measure, and throwing space-wasting “unitasker” tools out of the frame. At 14 seasons, it was the network’s third-longest-running show, and it learned more about food than most home chefs would need to know in a lifetime. Keywords: need to know.
Good food made viewers want to learn food science, whether for better banana pudding or just for fun. Two decades after the original show debuted, Good food: the return launched on Discovery+, and Meal Vouchers: Recharged on Cooking Channel reconsidered some of Brown’s past advice. The two series expansions ran for two seasons.
The live show is “a completely different ball of dough,” Brown told CultureMap in an email. “Although I think Good food fans appreciate our tours, it’s by no means Good meals: live. It’s actually all kinds of things I can’t do on TV.
Details of the live show are “top secret”, according to Brown, but one of the draws is the audience participation. The chief warns that he will ask for impromptu volunteers. If past live shows (The Edible Inevitable Tour and Eat Your Science) are any indication, they’ll have to keep up with his frenetic culinary experiments and playful heckling. The improvisation shows Brown’s mind in action, and mistakes made on stage can be more memorable teaching tools than a scripted demonstration. Photos show costume changes, mystery gear and a game show wheel.
“Demos are very unusual and require completely custom tools,” Brown writes of the challenges of producing a live show. “Having said that, we’re also playing a funk number, and that’s also a challenge.”
After Good foodBrown’s second best-known show, Ruthless Kitchen, parodied other contest shows by introducing “sabotages”, obstacles that contestants could win at an auction and subject their contestants to: making their own tools out of tinfoil, procuring cookie dough from a pint of ice cream, cook pasta in an espresso machine. Some tasks were downright frustrating, while many gave candidates an opportunity to show ingenuity by working around them.
America’s favorite home cooking educator kept the public company during the pandemic shutdowns with Pantry Raidfilmed in a Good food test kitchen, and Quarantine shutdown, broadcast live from his home. Brown and his wife, Elizabeth Ingram, still cook meals each week for QQ, completely improvised and with the reckless abandonment of an already wacky leader freed from the obligations of the network. In the chat box, viewers compliment the Browns or complain that cilantro tastes like soap.
The call of Good food and QQ comes in their relativity, with absurd twists about what can really be done at home by home cooks, if they can afford it. As to whether the Texans will relate to special content in the live broadcast, Brown is goading CultureMap with his signature candour: “Maybe.”
Tickets to the Austin show on November 5, the San Antonio show on November 3, the Houston Show November 2 and the Grand Prairie show on November 6 are on sale at altonbrownlive.com, starting at $45. VIP tickets include great seating, early access to merchandising, sound check admission and a Q&A session.