By Paula Hendrickson
Just over two years ago Food Network favorite Alton Brown hit the stage of the Coronado with his “Edible Inevitable Tour.” He returns Wednesday, April 5 with what he promises is an entirely new live show, the “Eat Your Science Tour.”
When I spoke with him last month, Brown explained why he likes hitting the road. Here’s what he had to say.
Most people know you from your long-running series, Good Eats, which ended five years ago but lives on in repeats. Any truth to the rumors you’re bringing it back?
AB: The only reason I stopped after 14 years was because I just got tired. I poured so much into that show that I could only make about 22 of them a year because there was so much research and so much writing. And it was a single camera shoot, so once we were in production I could only make one about every three days. It kind of wore me out. But I am going to be re-launching it. I’m doing a digital follow up to it, starting this year. The child of Good Eats, as it were.
As a TV cook, what’s it like doing a food-focused live show?
AB: Well, luckily I did a whole lot of theater when I was younger—my college degree was in theater—so I kind of feel like I’m returning to a first love. But I decided a few years ago that I wanted to put on a culinary variety show. I’d always had a lot of fun doing live demos at everything from science festivals to corporate events, but you could never mount anything really big because it’s too expensive, you’ve got to be able to amortize that across a tour. So I built the “Edible Inevitable Tour” which was a true variety show—live music, my band and I did food songs; it was very large, with unusual culinary demonstrations, audience interaction, puppets!—a 2-hour variety show for food lovers. We had so much fun with that show. I decided I liked the way the chassis works, the structure of the show. I wondered if I could come up with another one. So I put the last show to bed and came up with the “Eat Your Science Tour” which is the same level, the same structure of the show, but 100 percent new material. New songs. New demos. New everything.
What’s it like being on stage?
AB: It’s the most fun I have, by a long shot. I’m not going to say it’s something I was born to do, but it’s everything that being in front of a TV camera isn’t. I think it’s one of the reasons so many people who act in movies want to run off and do theater for a while, because every night it’s just about you and that audience. Every night it’s different, every night it’s new.
You use social media to share photos of what you eat and drink while on tour. How important is that to you?
AB: It’s huge. A lot of people think, “Oh, that’s clever marketing.” It actually isn’t. It’s how I remember these places. To me, the best way to make a connection with the people in that audience is to eat what they tell me to eat. I can’t barge into their homes—although I’ve certainly thought of doing that, there might be some people who’d let me, and some people might shoot me, I don’t know—but we all have to eat. Sometimes I eat too much! So my thing with #ABRoadEats is whatever people vote for, that’s where we go. And I talk about it. I think a certain relationship with the audience comes out of it, and certainly by the time the show rolls around that night, the audience and I already know each other a little bit because we already have this connection through the food, which is invaluable to me. I didn’t always do it. I only started in the last leg of my first tour, when I realized I was missing a huge opportunity to have these memories and have these experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Any parting thoughts?
AB: I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve spent basically 20 years taking advantage of the fact that no matter what else goes on in culture, food brings people together. I feel really fortunate that like right now when the entire country is at each other’s throat—or at its own throat–everybody still wants a steak and some popcorn.
So I feel like I’m really lucky. I’m getting ready to tour all these states and people will come and they’ll have a good time because, ultimately, they like food. And we need to remember that’s some of the great cultural connective tissue that we have. Especially in this day and age. I’m not saying that I’m here to heal a broken nation, but if I can just provide some good community time that has no real downside to it, where everybody can get along and everybody can enjoy something, I don’t see what’s wrong with that.
Want to suggest a restaurant he should visit while in town? Use the hashtag #ABRoadEatsRFD in a social media post and it will be added to the growing list.
If you go: “Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, Coronado Theater, altonbrowntour.com/shows/rockford#.
On TV: Brown’s new series, Iron Chef Gauntlet premieres on Food Network Sunday, April 16 at 8 p.m.