Food Network star Alton Brown visits Foxwoods with his national food tour "Eat Your Science"
Food Network star Alton Brown might be best-known for his quirky television show “Good Eats,” which began airing in 1999. The show, which paired classroom-style explanations with strange but hilarious comedy sketches, taught audiences how to make simple recipes in a fun and engaging way. The show also put Brown on the map as a food-guru celebrity and ultimately was a hit on the Food Network until it ended in 2012. In the years since, Brown hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and has been keeping himself busy with a variety of projects, ranging from writing new books (“Alton Brown: EveryDayCook”) to hosting cook-off shows (“Iron Chef American,” “Cutthroat Kitchen”).
In a more grandiose spinoff of “Good Eats,” Brown has also since created a live stage performance that features “very large and very unusual, incredibly impractical and potentially dangerous” cooking demonstrations, as he explains, in combination with a “culinary variety show” performance — that of which will include comedy skits, musical and dance performances, and, of course, audience participation — all devised by Brown himself.
This year’s version of that, titled “Eat Your Science,” debuted on Broadway in November 2016 and will make its way to Foxwoods on Oct. 27.
In a recent interview with The Day, Brown talked about the tour, what he knows about southeastern Connecticut, and, of course, “Good Eats.” Here are excerpts from that conversation.
Can you give a hint about what your cooking demonstrations will be like?
No, I’m not going to give any hints. No, no, no. No way. OK, I will tell you this. One involves extreme cold, and the other involves extreme heat.
So how many demonstrations are you doing then?
Two. It’s a two-act show, and there is one in each act. They are kind of big. I can only fit them on a theater stage because one of them doesn’t even fit into a regular building. So now I’ve already said too much.
So, you create and design all of these demonstrations yourself, but before that, how do you even begin to imagine them?
It almost always comes out of first and foremost saying what it can’t be. For instance, theater runners don’t like fire. So, I try to make sure that I build my demos without the use of any fire. Then I ask, what have I done before? In the "Edible Inevitable" tour, I made a giant easy bake oven out of rock and roll lights, and we made an ice cream machine that used compressed CO2 to make ice cream. So, I can’t do those things in this show. But then I ask, what are the next things that I can do, and how can I teach certain scientific ideas with that? It’s then playing around with ideas until you strike upon something that works theatrically, and that would be engaging for both an audience and for volunteers. That’s the long version. The true version is, I have no idea how I come up with them, I just do. It takes a lot of time, I’m not going to lie …
I read in the New York Times that in the “Eat Your Science” show you made a cocktail out of tequila, pumpkin spice liquor and mouthwash, and that has me wondering if that is actually edible?
Oh, you can get it down if you try hard.
But is it actually good?
No, no, no, it’s not good. The game show portion of my show demands the use of a game of chance to design a cocktail, and every night a new cocktail is presented. We then do scientific experiments on it. But big wheels have to be spun, and the wheels have different possibilities on them. Whatever the volunteers spin, that’s the cocktail they make, and that’s how you would end up with things such as tequila, pumpkin spice liquor and mouthwash. So, that’s not something I made up to drink.
All right, good, that had me questioning everything I thought I knew about alcohol combinations. So, is the participating audience member expected to drink it?
Um, no comment. I’m not saying because I don’t want people to not volunteer. There is some mandatory tasting, I will say that.
Are there ever food mishaps and should those in the front rows wear a smock?
No comment. No comment. OK, I’ll say this. During our last tour, we actually issued ponchos to the first few rows, but for this show, that doesn’t happen as much. But I still wouldn’t wear white if you are in the first couple of rows. But, hey, it’s too late in the year for white anyways.
I read somewhere that you studied science to gain a deeper understanding behind the concepts of cooking …
I was the worst science student on the face of the Earth. I barely graduated from high school, and I only dealt in college with science, knowing that would help me in my original career as a cinematographer and commercial director. I was OK with physics and things like that, but with chemistry, no. It was only when I realized that I would have to have it in order to be a better cook that I kind of went back and learned it all.
I love then that you are now combining those two elements in this show now.
They always go together for me. The two things are inseparable.
So, how did you get into cooking in the first place, if you were studying cinematography?
I’m not going to lie, I started doing it in the ’80s to get dates. I won’t say that it always worked in that particular arena, but I will say that I actually liked the cooking, so I guess I got something out of that.
How did you come up with “Good Eats” and “Eat Your Science”?
I was watching a lot of food shows when I was directing commercials (in the 90s), and I wouldn’t get anything out them. They were boring, and the best I would get out of them would be a recipe. So, I started playing around with a new kind of cooking show. And I got so obsessed by the idea of that. One day, while I was sitting at my desk, I wrote down Julia Child, Mr. Wizard and Monty Python. And for some reason I felt that if I could combine those three things, comedy, cooking know-how and science, there would be a show in that. I decided to quit my job and go to culinary school and make that show, and that became the show “Good Eats.”
For my culinary variety shows (such as "Eat Your Science"), part of it was just me wanting to do a show that had bigger elements in it. And the other thing is that I was a big fan of television variety shows, in the ’70s when I was a kid. I loved Flip Wilson, Sonny and Cher. I find that there is something nostalgic about that form, and I realized that no one has ever done a culinary variety show.
And it became kind of an obsession and in a way, an antidote to doing television work. Because television work is a one-way membrane. The audience can’t get to me, I get to them. Being able to do something in a theater every night where the audience is giving you that feedback, that’s very enjoyable … That’s really the main reason for doing it all
Can you explain what your hashtag program is all about?
We have a hashtag program called #ABRoadEats, and it exists on all social media platforms. For each city we tour through, we issue specific hashtags (for Foxwoods it will be #ABRoadEatsFoxwoods), and people can post to us using that hashtag to places in the region that they think we should go. We are looking for morning coffee/breakfast, lunch and then something for after the show. Twelve hours before we get to the city, we start tabulating those votes, and that’s where I go and that’s where I eat.
Have you liked every place that you’ve been recommended to?
Of course not. Some of them were simply hideous. But you know, what’s funny, occasionally in a community, people will gravitate to a particular place or a particular dish not necessarily because it tastes great, but because it’s authentic and perhaps traditional for that area. And you’ll go and be, like, I get why this is important, I get why people love this place, but oh my God, this is horrible. The reality is that it is getting increasingly difficult to find bad food in the United States because people are so much more aware and savvy about food and demand good food in their communities. It’s really hard to find a bad meal, but it can be done.
Have you ever been to southeastern Connecticut before, and I’m wondering what you know about the food reputation here?
I have not, and I don’t. And I don’t want to know about the reputation because if it’s a bad reputation, don’t tell me because I want to walk in as a complete babe in the woods and be directed by the fans. I know that there are parts of New England that are challenged a little bit when it comes to times of the year and getting good ingredients. So, if it is bad, don’t tell me.
How far are you willing to drive from Foxwoods?
I guess the farthest we are able to go from one of our venues is an hour. It can be challenging organizing the day, I have sound checks in the afternoon and things like that, so we try to stay close and in a situation like Foxwoods, I know that most of the things that people will suggest are not going to be near there, so we are planning some travel time.
Well, that’s good because there are really some great little towns in this area. Namely, probably Mystic. Which I’m sure you’ve probably heard of.
Of course. I’ve never been to Mystic, but we are planning to go there. Unless someone directs me somewhere else, that will be my daytrip.
If you go
WHAT: Alton Brown Live: "Eat Your Science"
WHERE: Foxwoods Grand Theater
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27
CALL: 1-800-200-2882, www.foxwoods.com
MOST VIEWED MEDIA
MOST DISCUSSED STORIES