Food & Drink

Cameo: Alton Brown

Chef, musician, author, and television personality.

First, I want to talk about the Edible Inevitable tour coming to Baltimore on February 22.

It’s fun to say isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s a bit of a tongue twister. So what’s in the show? Is this your first tour?

is. I’ve done a lot of live shows. But they’ve always been stand
alones, and I’ve always wanted to actually put out an entire tour
together, and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to do it.

What did you want to include that you haven’t been able to include before?

number one, the show is made up almost entirely of things they wont let
me do on TV. I’m not going to lie, the show was strictly made for my
pleasure, and what I want to do, and hopefully what someone wants to
watch. That’s really what it is.

So I’ve always done various
unusual food demonstrations because I don’t believe anyone wants to go
to a theater to watch someone scramble some eggs, so I tend to do larger
more theatrical things. But I’ve never been able to do really big
theatrical things. We’ve never been able to do it on a show-by-show
basis. So I’m finally going to be able to do big flashy demos that
require a lot of special things to be built and that are a lot of fun.
And I’m going to be able to do a multimedia presentation. I’m doing a
shortened version of a lecture series I’ve done over the last 10 years
called, “Things I’m pretty sure of, I’m sure about food.” So it’s more
like an excuse for a 20-minute stand-up routine.

Sounds fun!

thing that’s kind of the biggest kick for me is that my trio and I are
going to be performing probably six food songs off the upcoming CD. So,
hopefully, people are entertained by funny food songs. That’s something
that I have not ever gotten to do before.

Well I read that you haven’t been in a band since you were 21.

true. I am now, by golly. Yeah, it was something I kind of put on the
back burner and thought, “You know what? I’m going to get back to this.”
And I started to write songs, food songs, about a year ago. But I was
writing them much longer than that; I kept a notebook of lyrics and
things and finally looked at it one day and said, “You know what? Now’s
the time”

Is it sort of like a They Might Be Giants kind of situation? You know, funny, clever, satirical songs?

god, I hope so. I mean they’re a great example. I wouldn’t try to hold
it…but I’ll give you an example of actual lyrics, there’s a country and
western song “Airport Shrimp Cocktail,” which is about getting food
poisoning in an airport. There’s a song called “Pork Chop”, about a guy
trying to eat his wife’s pork chop, which is horribly overcooked.
There’s a song about caffeine, which is always a lot of fun. There’s a
punk rock song called “East Bake,” which is about Easy Bake ovens. So
we’re kind of all over the place. But in terms of style, all the lyrics
are funny songs.

That sounds great. Another thing that I
read about the tour that its also acceptable for all ages? So I was
wondering, when you’re putting together a tour, and you want to do
things that you’re not allowed to do on TV and you want to keep it smart
and sophisticated but you also want to keep it family friendly, how do
you decide what goes in and what goes out?

I don’t have to use too much of a filter on myself for that because my work, at least my TV work—Good Eats—was
always family friendly, and it always strove to be smart across
generational boundaries. We have a lot of kids come to the show, and I
don’t feel that I have to dumb things down for them. But naturally, I’m
not an off color kind of guy, from a performance stand point. I may
occasionally throw in things only the adults are going to get. But its
never going to be anything to offend. It’s just not my style really.

Right, you’re not working blue.

I’m not. I think about the raciest thing in the show is . . . I can’t
think of anything. And its not because I’m trying to make a family show,
it just kind of . . .

That’s your sensibility

my sensibility about things and, hopefully, it works in a way kind of
like, when Disney cartoons are really good, there’s different takes on
different levels for everybody and it all kind of comes off as being

Right, yeah, like a Pixar movie.

Yeah, I mean there are layers for everybody but no ones going to be offended by anything. Gosh, I hope not.

No, it sounds like a lot of fun and its pretty rare these days that there are things you can take the whole family to.

I thought about that. Honestly, I thought about that.

Everything is so demographically targeted now that it’s rare right now to go to . . .

Well, I’ll tell you why I don’t have that issue. It’s because I’m not trying to build a show for anyone but myself.


to gosh, its two hours of me doing some pretty silly stuff. I mean,
I’ll be really honest with you, we have a bunch of taped segments that
feature puppets. Puppets were a big part of my show Good Eats.
They’re cheap puppets; especially puppets that are supposed to be yeast.
Yeast cells. They’re sock puppets so they did what yeasts do which is
they farted and burped a lot. We have entire segments of video that are
nothing but burps and farts. So 8-year-old boys are delighted at the
show. And hopefully no one’s offended by that. I mean they’re sock
puppets, and at that age, I think that’s pretty mild.

So switching gears now, a couple of years ago I read that you lost I think it was 50 pounds.

I lost too much, actually. People started thinking I was sick. I got a
little crazy with it, thinking that skinnier is better; it’s not always.

No. Have you gained a little bit back since then?

I put on about another 15 pounds. And my dermatologist pointed out to
me like, “You look like a turkey. You need to put some weight on it.”
And I’m like “Oh, crap.” And when people ask you like “Did you just have
chemo?” That’s not what you want.

That’s not what anybody
wants, no. But you did it largely without giving up the southern
cooking and recipes that you love and are known for. So how did you do

I did a whole show about it and you can look this
up on the Internet and it was called, “The Diet of the Five Lists.” And
I made a series of lists. I tried to make the diet on things I had to
eat, not things I couldn’t eat. So I made a list of things I had to eat
everyday. Things I had to eat at least 2-3 times a week. . . . Oh wait,
it was 4 lists, not 5. Things I could only have once a week. And things I
could never have ever.


And so I ate
off of that list. And I started exercising a lot. Basically a man
heading into middle age needs to exercise everyday and I do a lot of
weight lifting.

Well, everybody heading into middle age needs to exercise.

you know what, muscle is your friend. Muscle eats, muscle hold up your
skeleton, muscles good and it’s really hard to argue with. When you have
more muscle you can eat more.

Yeah, which is the best thing ever.


I did want to ask you about your tour schedule. It’s pretty grueling.
You’re really doing back-to-back shows, and you’ve lamented the fact
that it leaves little time to explore the cities you’re visiting.

little. I sometimes get an hour or two break time, either around
breakfast or midday, where I can go just walk around. And I think
anything that’s within walking distance of the theater, I’ll find.

Is there anything culinary or otherwise that you would like to see in Baltimore?

know what, my fantasy would be that somebody who really knows and loves
the town would just pick me up in a car and just take me someplace to
eat because if it’s what locals are proud of or what locals eat, then
that’s what I want. And very often that’s not something that anyone
could know about. But the thing that I mostly stay concerned about is
getting sick because of the grueling schedule. Like am I going to get
food poisoning? Something like that. And if something happens to me,
we’re pretty much in trouble. So that’s always something I keep in mind.
But, you know, Baltimore is famous for so many things, but I want
someone who is really part of the scene to pick something.

Makes sense.

I might do is I might go on twitter and get people to start making
suggestions. “Give me 15- or 30-minute walking distance around this
location” before I go.

Well, you’re playing the lyric in Baltimore?


Well, that’s toward the west side, and I know you didn’t ask me but . . .

Well, I was going to.

okay, well, my two cents is, if your going to come to Baltimore, you’ve
got to have a crab cake, right? So probably the most famous place for
crab cakes in Baltimore is Faidley’s in Lexington Market. I would say
it’s like a 10-minute walk from the theater.

Lexington Market has got a bunch of stuff, right? I mean, it’s a landmark all on its own.

does yeah. It is a landmark on its own. It’s interesting. But Faidley’s
crab cakes, I mean, I think they’re the best crab cakes in Baltimore,
and everybody’s got an opinion about crab cakes in Baltimore, but I
really do think they’re the best.

And around the area, do you think I could walk there without dying? Also its going to be cold. It’s going to be god awful cold.

It’ll probably be cold, although we’ll be heading towards spring then, so it’s possible it could be in the 40s or something.

Really? That warm? That’s the perfect time. All right what else?

I’m trying to think of what’s around the lyric. There’s a good
Ethiopian restaurant called Dukem. That’s pretty popular in Baltimore
and very cheap. A lot of people like that. And another thing Baltimore
is known for are these cookies. They’re called Berger Cookies, and
they’re kind of a shortbread cookie with fudge icing on them. And
they’re just sort of like a local staple.

A Berger Cookie?

Berger Cookie. And they’re really sweet. So probably one of them will
fulfill all your sugar needs for the day. But they’re pretty good. So I
mean those would be my recommendations.


Yeah. But I’m sure Twitter will have a lot of other recommendations.

So, I’ve got one more minute, any other questions?

You were part of the first wave of chefs to become television
personalities. Do you want to take credit or blame for the celebrity
chef wave that followed?

Gosh, no one has asked me that
before. Well I’m certainly not going take credit. Um, blame? Hmmm. I
think I’m a little bit different because I actually came from the
television world. I came from film production and then quit and went to
culinary school. So, I actually know what I’m doing. The job that I have
I have trained for and worked for my entire life. But I came at it from
the world of big art rooms and studios and cameras. So the roles of
commercials, director, cinematographer, it’s all I’ve ever done, and I
took the side trip in order to get the culinary training I would need in
order to do what I do culinarily.


I feel like I’ve always been different from everybody else in that
regard. Whether that means that I require some blame? Sure I’ll take 20
percent blame—and no credit.