The Edible Inevitable Tour: Alton Brown takes his vaudeville-style educational show on the road
By T. Ballard Lesemann Special to The Post and Courier – Wednesday, February 19, 2014
If you go
What: Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable TourWhen: Tuesday, doors open at 6:30 p.m. with show starting at 7:30 p.m.Where: North Charleston Performing Arts Center, 5001 Coliseum DrivePrice: $29.50-$125For more info: www.NorthCharlestonColiseumPAC.com
Award-winning chef and veteran television personality Alton Brown knows how to celebrate food. As the bespectacled host and creator of the Food Network's popular "Good Eats" series, which ran 1999-2011, Brown's persona was part wacky scientist and part nerdy vaudevillian as he explored styles of cooking and the science and technology behind how to prepare things.
In recent years, Brown, 51, has stepped into new TV roles as the host and commentator for "Iron Chef America," the host of "Cutthroat Kitchen" and other ventures.
This winter, he embarked on his first-ever multimedia variety show road trip billed as Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour. He's traveled many miles with TV crews in tow before, but the Edible Inevitable Tour is a very different kind of traveling culinary circus.
"The show is built out of me wanting to do things they'd never let me do on TV," Brown says. "Everything that I do in the two-hour show is stuff that I'd never be allowed to do on television. We do dip into science, but it's kind of like asking, 'Does knowing how gravity works make riding the roller-coaster any less fun?'
"I really do it for myself," he adds. "I tell people at the beginning of the show that it's not designed for their pleasure; it's designed for my pleasure."
Using wit and humor to share general knowledge and explain certain things in great specific detail has long been part of Brown's style.
Critics and fans seem to appreciate Brown's approach. In 2004, Bon Appetit magazine named him the "Cooking Teacher of the Year." In 2011, Brown earned the James Beard Award for "Best TV Food Personality," as well.
Brown says he's been cultivating and fine-tuning material for the Edible Inevitable Tour for years. He'll present several food demos, multimedia segments and theatrical asides throughout the two-hour performance.
While old-school fans of Brown's "Good Eats" already appreciate and respect Brown's sage style and vast knowledge, anyone who casually enjoys traditional and modern cooking can learn plenty from the Edible Inevitable Tour stage show.
"First and foremost, this is a culinary variety show - a show that's very large and very strange with some never-seen-before food demos involving some very interesting rigs and technology," Brown says. "There are puppets. I'm performing 'food music' live with a trio handling punk, blues and songs that are all over the place."
The tour's latest press release mentions a few song titles, including "Airport Shrimp Blues" and "TV Cookin' Ain't Like No Other Cookin'."
"It's not gratuitous by any means," Brown adds. "But I wanted to do a show where 'Good Eats' fans would be very delighted ... and if you weren't a 'Good Eats' fan, too."
According to Brown, the Edible Inevitable Tour is anything but straight-forward. Things may get messy (he says ponchos will be provided for attendees in the front row). Topics will vary. Elaborate props will be used. And there might be a quiz.
"It's really a truly theatrical variety show," Brown says. "I actually modeled it on the old Jackie Gleason and Dean Martin variety shows with skits where food is involved instead of shooting people out of a canon. There's a lot of audience interaction, so it's going back to that idea of 'there's something for everybody.' It's very much about being right there with the audience, so I like the feel of smaller theaters and performing arts centers."
While Brown says his new road show is pretty tightly arranged and choreographed, there is a little room for adjustment here and there, depending on the city it's in.
And he's already quite familiar with Charleston's high-end restaurant scene and it's more casual side.
In 2006, Brown launched a brief travel series called "Feasting on Asphalt" on the Food Network in which he rode his BMW motorcycle from town to town, searching for eccentric diners and small, under-the-radar food stands to find delicious treats. In the first episode, he swung through Mount Pleasant and dined at Jack's Cosmic Dogs and the Pitt Street Pharmacy.
"I've been fortunate enough to meet a lot of the chefs and restaurant people there," Brown says of the Holy City. "Charleston has this amazingly vibrant culinary scene, so I expect that there'll be some Charleston flavor to how the show goes.
"When I'm visiting a city, I look for simplicity and authenticity," he adds. "I love Gullah and Lowcountry cuisine. I'm not so needing to be impressed by a chef's cleverness. I'm not fond of molecular gastronomy. I'd rather have honest food. I don't need to be wowed. I'd rather be fed by good local fare. If I can swing by Jack's Cosmic Dogs or get some chocolate pudding over at Hominy Grill, I'll be fine."