It’s hard to believe the man whose name has become synonymous with the science of good eats actually flunked high school chemistry.
But Food Network star Alton Brown said he was more into music than cooking at a young age.
“I had no real use for science,” Brown explained, “It didn’t apply to anything.”
Once he started cooking, however, Brown said he experienced that light-bulb moment when he realized, “Oh crap, this cooking thing is all science.”
Brown will show off his music, cooking and science skills on Tuesday, when he brings his live stage show to the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall. Tickets are still available for the 7:30 p.m. show, Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour.
While he has done live shows before, this is Brown’s first time touring the country with a show. With his television work taking up most of his time, Brown said it took several years to work out a schedule in which he could do a live tour. When everything fell into place earlier this year, production went into high gear to make the show a reality by October. The show kicked off earlier this month in California and continues through March.
“It is an honest-to-goodness culinary variety show. There are two large and unusual food demonstrations that I doubt have been seen before,” he said.
In fact, at each show there is a “poncho seating area” because things get a little messy for folks sitting close to the stage.
There will be audience participation, plenty of Brown’s signature puppets, filmed pieces, Brown’s stand-up routine, “Ten things I’m pretty sure I’m sure about food,” as well as performances by his musical trio. “I will be performing five or six of my food songs,” he said.
Brown will play the saxophone, guitar and other instruments, and sing tunes from country western to punk and even a lullaby. “It’s not a very good lullaby. I wrote it for my daughter when she was young to teach her cooking,” he said.
That same daughter is 13 now, and while Brown has begun thinking about the male suitors that may one day come, he’s not worried yet. “She’s a good kid and they’re [boys] scared of her because she’s super smart. Plus, they’ve seen my knife collection,” he joked.
Brown spoke from his home in Georgia earlier this month, talking about the show, his family and how he took an unlikely path into food.
Yes, he really did flunk high school chemistry, describing himself as a “music geek” who played saxophone and guitar in bands and eventually earned a drama degree from the University of Georgia.
He began a career making films and cooking was a hobby, but eventually he grew tired of the cooking shows that were available, finding them boring and uninformative. “Food is one of the most entertaining things on earth. It connects all of us and connects us to our planet. I thought ‘I can do better,’ ” he said.
Brown enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont to become a chef to make better films about cooking. “It’s as if Martin Scorsese had actually joined the mob to make better films about the mafia,” he said.
The education paid off.
He combined his skills to create Good Eats, which he wrote, produced and hosted on the Food Network for 13 years. Brown went on to host six more shows on the Food Network, including the popular Iron Chef America, and he has written seven books.
Brown did share one behind-the-scenes secret from Iron Chef America: the chefs involved do have some inkling about what the show’s secret ingredients will be.
“They get a list of 10 possibilities,” he said.
The secret ingredient is always on the list. If chefs did not have some clue in advance, they would never be able to get their cooking done in the time allowed and they would never be able to make the level of food that viewers expect to see on the show, Brown explained.
When it comes to his stage show, Brown said there is more Good Eats than Iron Chef, and it is family friendly.
Brown noted that both shows have a lot of young fans, and while he didn’t set out to make a show for kids, he discovered that if you present an interesting subject in an interesting manner and don’t talk down to kids, they will tune in.
His advice for young people or anyone just learning how to cook?
“Buy yourself a few dozen eggs. Just cook eggs for breakfast every day. They are like culinary school. They’re liquid meat. ... Don’t cook a steak until you know how to cook eggs,” he said.
Brown said he doesn’t plan to leave food television, but he is working on two other nonfood shows, including a situation comedy.
“Food is a subject and it’s a wonderful subject, and there are a lot of other wonderful subjects,” he said.