Alton Brown has built his career as a Food Network star, an erudite culinary icon whose quirky series “Good Eats” was a whole new breed of cooking show, with vignettes, puppets and comedy bits.
After 14 seasons of “Good Eats,” not to mention countless other shows including “Iron Chef” and “Cutthroat Kitchen,” Brown has hit the road with touring shows that build on his diverse talents. He started with “The Edible Inevitable Tour” in 2013, and now he’s currently on tour for his second show, “Eat Your Science,” which hits Broadway starting Nov. 22.
“What I do is essentially a culinary variety show,” Brown says. “What I was trying to do was invent a new form of entertainment, in a way, to take the traditions of variety show and meld it into a culinary mold.”
That means that there is music, comedy, puppets, demonstrations, audience interaction, volunteers on stage and more. He also performs music with his band, and just released his debut album, “Bitter Like Me.”
amNewYork spoke with Brown, 54, about his new show.
You’re going to be on Broadway. What does that mean to you?
[Laughs] I try not to think about that too much. I try to tell myself it’s just another theater. I’ve played a lot of theaters, I’ve played a live show now for a few years, and so I just keep saying this is just another theater. Of course that’s not true. It’s fricking Broadway. And as somebody with a theater degree, it’s hard to ignore that. But I really do have to put that completely out of my head because that’s just a mind game that will mess you up.
Do you have anything unique planned for your Broadway run?
What’s unique for this particular run is only that I’m changing up some things for Thanksgiving. I’ve got a brand new song that we released on my website called “Grandma Forgot to Brine the Bird,” a Thanksgiving song that I’m very pleased with. And we’ve changed up some other parts of the show to reflect the season. So it’s a special edition of “Eat Your Science,” if you will.
Are people surprised by all these different aspects of you?
I do think there are people [who] think, “Oh, it’s a cooking demonstration.” No, not really. Cooking is certainly done, but it’s not done in a way that’s very orthodox. When you come and you got an electric guitar and you and your band slam out a rock ’n’ roll number about food science, people are like, “Oh, this is not going to be an ordinary night.” This isn’t Ibsen and it’s not “Oklahoma!” It’s kind of a new thing. So you can sometimes see on people’s faces, “Wow, we don’t know what to expect.” Very often I’ll run into people who will say that. They’ll say, “Wow, we caught your show in LA, we didn’t know what to expect, we sure had a great time.” That’s the nicest thing to hear. They know me well enough where they’ll gamble an evening of time to come to the theater, and then they’ll be open to seeing something new or hearing something new that they just did not expect.
Did you ever think you’d be releasing an album?
Wow, I never thought that this would happen. This is a CD of songs from the two tour shows, from “The Inevitable Inedible” and “Eat Your Science,” so it’s called “Bitter Like Me,” because there’s a song about cocktail bitters, it’s kind of a Sinatra swing tune that we decided to name the album after. ... That’s been a fun project, and certainly I never thought that the day would come where I say, “Hey, I got a CD of show tunes.” I just didn’t see that happening in my life.
And you have a new book out, too.
The book is called “Everyday Cook,” and it’s a real departure for me in my eighth book in that it’s personal, it’s my personal recipes, not recipes written to do a book about a specific subject or even to be a book about a TV show. These are completely personal recipes and as a project it was very interesting because it was a highly photographed book, almost every page is a full-bleed photo and the entire book was shot on an iPhone. That kind of makes it an interesting project for me.
You teased a new venture online — is there anything new you can reveal?
Well, for “Good Eats” fans, they knew exactly, precisely what I was saying. In that show I was constantly sticking cameras in places they didn’t belong, especially appliances, so yes, my new venture is basically an internet spirit animal child of “Good Eats.” The sequel that I was always kind of hoping “Good Eats” would get once the media age changed enough that I could do it and not actually have it on television. I very much wanted to do it as an internet-based project, a web-based project, which is what’s it’s going to be.
As you’re going across the country on this tour, how is the food situation on the bus?
We do the best we can. I bring a culinary kit that I can set up on the bus so that I can cook, I can make breakfast. And I try to make sure that at least every few days there are decent smells on the inside of the bus. I tend to become less human when I don’t cook. I think for me, cooking is very important, it’s almost a meditative activity, and I really like feeding people. I know that when we go out next time in the spring, we got another seven-week run, I’ve finally found a little toaster oven that will bake properly, so I’m going to cook a lot more on that trip. So being on my bus is not all bad.