DETROIT – Alton Brown has been a Food Network staple for decades. From Good Eats, which introduced a new style of cooking show, to hosting Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen, Brown has been an innovator of media in all forms.
Now he’s on the road for his final time with Alton Brown Live: Beyond the Eats, a show so innovative itself, he’s the only one doing it. We got to chat with the James Beard Award-winner before he makes his way to Motown.
I believe you’re the only person doing this, what exactly is a culinary variety show?
I do think I’m the only person that’s doing this. The variety shows of the 70s on TV, like The Sonny and Cher Show, which all found their origins in vaudeville, is based on the fact that there’s different acts, different things going on, but all with the same theme. So our show has live music, my band and I we do some of our food songs, which are hopefully entertaining. There’s comedy. Of course, it’s only comedy if people laugh, but you know, we try. There are very large, very unusual culinary demonstrations. And in this show, we actually built a game show with volunteers from the audience that we play right in the middle of the show. So there’s a little bit of something for everyone. The common thread, of course, is that everything’s about food.
What is it about touring that might be a little different from filming a TV show?
I love live audiences. I love the interaction with live audiences. I love the energy of live audiences. I love being able to have that interactive vibe which is something that is just not doable on television. And the wonderful thing is that it changes every night, each audience is different and so the show becomes different. When the volunteers come up, you never know what they’re going to do. You have to embrace it and enjoy the ride. I do love making TV shows, I enjoy the craftmanship of that. But being on stage every night for two hours and 15 minutes with an audience is just about the biggest rush I can imagine.
Have you had any wild audience participation?
Most of these theaters have bars in them and audience members come in and have a couple of drinks. All of a sudden, somebody raises a hand and gets up on stage. And, you know, people that have had a few drinks sometimes do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do in life, and you just got to go with it. We’ve had a few times where I wasn’t exactly sure how things are going, but usually people are great. But every now and then things get a little crazy.
What has the response been around the nation?
No one’s asked for their money back, so I guess we’re doing okay. And the audiences are getting bigger and bigger as we get back to something that seems to be normal. More and more people are coming out and that’s really wonderful to see because a lot of these folks have not been in the theater for two years. There’s this general feeling, like a sigh of relief, from the audience as they’re together again. People really are meant to be with other people. We’re not solitary creatures.
It looks like you’re doing a show almost every day in a new city. That must be pretty tiring.
We’re typically in a new theater every single day. We build the show in the morning, we do the show, we put the show back on the trucks, we get on our buses, we sleep as we roll, and then we wake up in another city.
Will Beyond the Eats really be your final tour?
Back in 2013 I said I was going to do three tours. This is my third. As much fun as I’m having, I want to honor that because it will force me to move on to some other realm that I’m not comfortable in. When I first started doing this, I wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t even know that I could do it. Now I am comfortable, and I like it, but it’s so easy to not push yourself.
What’s next for Alton Brown?
Well I’ve got a new book coming out, Good Eats 4 will be out in April. Then I have a project on a large streaming platform that we’ll be hitting in June. I can’t say anything more than that or I’ll get in trouble.
Alton Brown Live: Beyond the Eats is on Sunday, March 20th at the Fox Theatre at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $40 and are available at 313presents.com.