Alton Brown Interview: Beyond Good Eats
Jana Lynn French - 10/28/2014
When one thinks of a program that has won a Peabody Award, a cooking show is probably one of the last things that comes to mind. But Good Eats, a show that started on Food Network, won a Peabody in 2006. The judges said it was “omnivorously educational and great cheesy fun.” After speaking with the writer/director, Alton Brown, it’s easy to see how a show that tells you the basics of how food works can be so enjoyable.
Good Eats ran for 14 seasons between 1999 and 2014. Episodes can now be seen on the Cooking Channel and on Netflix. They get at the science behind some of the most basic foods consumed on a daily basis. Brown breaks down for the audience exactly why you must take care when deep-frying a turkey and how different candies form, often using other people, puppets and/or diagrams and models to explain. He shows viewers kitchen tips and tricks that save them from buying big, expensive tools.
He also goes into the anthropology of some of the ingredients and dishes. He looked at the origin of baklava and busted the myth that it comes from Greece. He also explained why it is made the way it is, all while using a brightly colored backdrop to make the history of baklava more exciting than a professor’s history lecture.
Brown said some of his favorite episodes to make were the ones he learned the most from, which includes his episodes on oatmeal, chocolate, and fried turkey.
“Oh, and the only time that I finished a show where I thought ‘Wow I’m clever,’” he said. “We did a show about garlic that was seen through the eyes of a vampire who was trying to get over his fear of garlic.”
Brown said a Peabody was the only award he cared to win. “Because I’ve always been in broadcast, and because I went to the University of Georgia, the Peabody was the only award I ever cared about, to be quite honest,” he said.
Brown added that “it’s the qualification process, it’s not a popularity contest, it’s a quality thing. So for me, personally, it was a major victory,” he said. “And once I had that, I was kind of like yeah, okay, cause the only two food people have ever won them: me, Julia Child. I’m good.” (Since winning his 2006 Peabody, only one other cooking show has received the award. Viviane Howard’s cooking show A Chef’s Life received a Peabody Award for its 2013 season. - Ed.)
Beyond Good Eats, Brown hosts a game show on Food Network called Cutthroat Kitchen, where chefs can sabotage other chefs’ dishes, and hosts Iron Chef America, the American version of the Japanese cooking competition show. He also has his own Youtube Channel and a series of podcasts where he interviews other cooks.
But for those missing Good Eats, Brown said he is working on something that will “feel like a big warm hug”— something interactive and nonlinear that will be online.
To hear more about these projects, his thoughts on the foodie revolution, and what he made for girls when he asked them on dates in college, watch the video below.