The Food Scientist: 20 Things Foodies Don't Know About Alton Brown

Everyone has a favorite Food Network host. There are some who love Bobby Flay, some who prefer Giada De Laurentiis, and even people who like Guy Fieri (although we can't figure out why). However, out of all the hosts on the Food Network, Alton Brown stands out as one of the most endearing, creative, and hard working. The host of Good Eats is a huge fan of food and created his flagship show for the network as a way to do a different kind of cooking program. Brown dove deep into what makes food so special and didn't stop at just explaining how to prepare a dish. He actually wanted to help audiences discover the science and history behind each ingredient. Along the way, he also packed the show with hilarious side characters, running jokes, and, of course, delicious recipes.

The Georgia native has come a long way in his career and has made an indelible mark on the world of cooking. His no-nonsense approach to food has garnered acclaim and awards. Along with hosting Good Eats, Brown has also served as the commentator on Iron Chef America, a judge on Next Food Network Star, and the host of Cutthroat Kitchen. His most recent project, Good Eats Reloaded, finds Brown revisiting past ingredients from the show and presenting new recipes and facts about them. While all of the food is interesting enough, it's Brown who makes it really pop. He's had plenty of his own experiences that have informed how he approaches both food and entertainment. These are 20 things foodies don't know about Alton Brown.

20 He has a pilot's license and flies regularly

via katjaneway.blogspot.com

Aside from being a man who knows what he's doing in the kitchen, Alton Brown also knows what he's doing when navigating the skies. That's because Brown is also a pilot and even owns his own six-seat, single-engine Cessna. In fact, when Brown goes on promotional tours, he often flies to the different cities himself. He even had to sell a motorcycle in order to afford a new GPS for his plane, which cost around $20,000! What does Alton Brown eat when he flies, though? "We eat a huge amount of shrimp on that airplane," he told Conde Nast Traveler. "Shrimp cocktails, shrimp salads—we also have more than our fair share of egg salad sandwiches and a lot of nuts."

19 He appeared on Broadway

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Alton Brown may have done Good Eats on television, but he didn't want to stop there. He took his love of food to the theater when he produced his own show, Eat Your Science. The incredibly creative theater performance, which included songs, food, and culinary science experiments, even played at the famous Barrymore Theater on Broadway. In an interview with WBUR, Brown said, "I always wanted to reinvent or kind of push the boundaries or find the edges of the map when it comes to culinary entertainment." While most Broadway performances want the audience to put their phones away, Brown encouraged people to keep their phones out and tweet questions to him during the show.

18 He likes to snack on Crunchy Cheetos

via instagram.com/altonbrown

You might be tempted to think that someone like Alton Brown would only eat the finest foods out there or, at the very least, would prefer only healthy snacks. However, that assumption would be wrong. One thing that Alton Brown loves to munch on? Crunchy Cheetos! In fact, he put the above photo on his Instagram page with the caption "I've decided this is the best flavor on earth. I'm not proud. In fact... I'm a bad bad man. Don't judge me! Fine... go ahead... judge me." Don't worry, Alton. None of us are going to judge you for getting into a bag of Crunchy Cheetos. In fact, we wouldn't even judge if you ate the entire bag by yourself.

17 He voice a character on Spongebob Squarepants

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Alton Brown doesn't just appear on his own television show. He also made a stop to Bikini Bottom when he voiced a character on Spongebob Squarepants. The character named "Nicholas Withers" also happens to be a television host. However, Withers hosts a show called "House Fancy," in which Squidward's home is judged against the home of his nemesis, Squilliam, to see who has the fancier home. Brown has played the role in a few recurring appearances and really seems to imbue the character with his signature personality. Brown has also played himself on The Simpsons and a character named "Yum LaBouché" on Big Hero 6: The Series.

16 He has his own line of bow ties

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It's pretty rare to see Alton Brown on any of the shows he hosts on the Food Network, including Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen, without one of the defining parts of his signature look: a jaunty bow tie. The fashion accessory has definitely made its place in Alton's wardrobe. In fact, he owns over 200 of them. He's such a fan of the accessory that he's actually started his own bow-tie line with clothing company Hook & Albert. The bow ties, which cost $65 each, have food-inspired names such as "sweet and sour" and "blueberry compote." He even put a video up on his YouTube channel showing the proper way to tie one.

15 He was the cinematographer on an R.E.M. video

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Good Eats has always been one of the most creative cooking shows on television, and a lot of that stems from the fact that Alton Brown is an incredibly creative person when it comes to filming things. It's no surprise then that he got his start in cinematography, particularly in operating Steadicams. Learning how to operate Steadicams actually got Brown his first gig in which he worked on the music video for R.E.M.'s "The One I Love." When he was younger, Alton Brown actually wanted to direct films but ended up getting stuck doing commercial work for most of that part of his life.

14 He shot his cookbook on an iPhone

via instagram.com/altonbrown

In 2016, Alton Brown released a cookbook entitled EveryDayCook, and it may be his most personal work yet. Inside, he offers a variety of recipes culled from his own culinary journeys. While many cookbook authors will hire someone to take gorgeous photos of their food, Alton Brown preferred to do the work himself. Not only that, but he actually shot all of the photos in the book on his iPhone. Brown writes, "A lot of attention went into the photos, which were all taken on my iPhone (take that, Instagram) and are suitable for framing." The book includes recipes for dishes such as Green Grape Cobbler, Crispy Chickpeas, and Savory Greek Yogurt Dip.

13 He was stumped by avocados


You might think that there wouldn't be any ingredient that could stump Alton Brown. However, the Good Eats host admitted that he struggled to come up with ideas for that favorite fruit of millennials, the avocado. Back in 2010, Brown told the Athens Banner-Herald"I had a devil of a time with avocados at first. It's like, 'OK, avocados. First, we're going to make guacamole, and then we're going to, going to...'" However, Brown eventually realized that thinking of the avocado as a fat would help him to figure out what to do with it. "We did a show where we turned avocados into a butter, an ice cream, and a cake frosting," Brown said, "It just took me a while to get my mind around it."

12 He won a Peabody Award for Good Eats

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Good Eats is more than just a fun and informative cooking show. It's also a prestigious award winner. The show collected a Peabody Award in 2006 for "being omnivorously educational and great cheesy fun." The Peabody is regularly awarded to outstanding works in radio, television, and online media. The award foundation was established in 1940 when the National Association of Broadcasters realized that there was no award equivalent to the Pulitzer for broadcast radio. Brown thought it was pretty cool since the award was presented by the Journalism school at his alma mater, the University of Georgia, a program to which he was not accepted when he applied.

11 He replies to tweets with Post-It Notes

via twitter.com/altonbrown

Alton Brown is a guy who knows how to utilize social media to the fullest degree—but not in the way you might expect. Anyone who's a fan of Good Eats would know that Brown does things his own way, and his Twitter page is no exception. Being a star of the Food Network, Alton Brown obviously gets a lot of people tweeting questions at him. Rather than replying in the traditional way, Brown takes a more analog approach. He writes his answer on a Post-It note, sticks it to the screen, and takes a picture of it. His replies are often frank and hilarious, such as when someone asked him why he uses the metric system for measurements, and he wrote back, "no fractions, no decimals, no problem!"

10 He also won the James Beard Award, twice

via instagram.com/altonbrown

The James Beard Foundation was created to "celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone." It's one of the highest honors that can be given to a chef, and Alton Brown has won the award not once but twice! His first James Beard Award came in 2003 for his book I'm Just Here For the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking. He then won the award again in 2011 for Good Eats. It would be a particular honor for Brown because his favorite cookbook was written by none other than James Beard himself.

9 He listens to music while he cooks


Sometimes, music is the only thing that can help you get through something, whether it's a full day at the office or the five-kilometer run you hate doing but keeps you in shape. For Alton Brown, though, music isn't a way to help him get through something but rather to enhance the experience. That's why he likes to always listen to music while he cooks. Speaking with Food Network Dish, Brown said, "I have music on in the kitchen all the time. The last 10 things I cooked were probably to mid-'70s Elton John." His musical tastes are all over the map, though, with Brown adding, "I'm anywhere from opera to Led Zeppelin—and everywhere in between."

8 He has a mantra above his kitchen door

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Alton Brown is the kind of guy who likes to keep his cooking simple. Which is why, in his home, above the kitchen door, he keeps a mantra that reads, "Do no harm." This is Brown's personal mantra when it comes to cooking. What does it mean exactly? Brown told AskMen, "My number one rule for cooking is just to do no harm. You know, buy simple, good ingredients, and don’t mess them up." That's actually a pretty great lesson for anyone who wants to learn how to hone his or her skills in the kitchen. Sometimes, when it comes to making a great dish, less really is more.

7 It took 20 years for him to get his degree

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Alton Brown is an intelligent guy, but it still took him a little bit of time to get his bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia. In fact, it took him 20 years. This was due to the fact that Brown left the school one credit short of completing his degree (it was a French class) in 1985. However, because the university dropped the language requirement for Brown's particular program at some point in the 1990s, he finally was able to walk across the stage and get his degree. It just took him until 2004 to learn that he was actually clear to graduate.

6 Good Eats had three main inspirations

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Good Eats stood out from other cooking shows for its creativity, informative nature, and of course, the easygoing charisma of its host, Alton Brown. The show was built on three main inspirations, which, according to Brown, were Julia Child, Monty Python, and Mr. Wizard. Brown said that he thought it would be fun if he could combine those three things. According to NPR, Brown also said, "We've always thought if we could entertain and tell good stories, be very visually arresting, then people will soak up the information." The formula worked perfectly, as Good Eats became one of Food Network's biggest and most beloved hits.

5 He doesn't like to hang out with chefs

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Alton Brown may be considered by some to be a "chef," but he'd never use that term to describe himself. In fact, he doesn't really like people who do call themselves chefs. Speaking with the AV Club, Brown said, "All the people that say, 'I’m a chef,' generally aren’t. The good ones will say, 'I’m a cook.' Once people start putting, 'I’m chef Bob!'—yeah, whatever. I’m Captain Kangaroo. Have a nice day." He also doesn't like spending a lot of time with chefs. In From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network, he says, "I don’t hang out with chefs; they frighten me.”

4 He plays the guitar (and the saxophone)

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Alton Brown is a man of many talents. Not only does he cook, fly planes, and ride motorcycles, but he's also fairly musical. We mentioned how he likes to listen to music while he cooks, but he also enjoys making it himself with his band The Alton Brown Trio, in which he plays the guitar and does lead vocals. In March of 2018, the band released Bitter Like Me, an album of nine food-themed songs. The album includes tracks titled "Airport Shrimp Cocktail," "Easy Bake," and "Pork Chop Blues." Brown's musical talent doesn't stop at the guitar, though. He also plays the saxophone.

3 He has over 2,000 cookbooks in his office library

via instagram.com/altonbrown

Obviously, someone who works with food for a living is going to need to have a lot of cookbooks on hand. After all, they're one of the most important tools for any chef, providing inspiration and recipe tips that he or she might not think of otherwise. Alton Brown, in particular, has a huge collection of cookbooks. In fact, he has over 2,000 of them in the library of his office. His favorite out of all of them is The Fireside Cook Book by James Beard (yes, the same guy the award is named after). Brown says of the book, "It's a clear portrait of American cuisine at its post World War II height before the rise of California or fusion cuisine or any cuisine for that matter."

2 He loves artichokes but hates cooking them

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No matter how good a cook someone is, there's always one type of food that seems to really rub him or her the wrong way. That seems like it wouldn't be a problem for Alton Brown, who's usually able to take any type of food and turn it into something great. However, the one food item that he really doesn't want to bother cooking is artichokes. "While I like eating artichokes, I hate cooking them," Brown said in an interview with Food Network Dish. "It's so much work. Who decided we should even eat that?" In all fairness, artichokes are kind of a pain to cook.

1 He loves riding motorcycles

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Alton Brown loves more than just cooking and making Good Eats. One of his favorite things in life is riding a motorcycle. In an interview with Food Network, Brown said, "I would ride a motorcycle every day if I could." Brown got the chance to combine food and motorcycles when he made Feasting on Asphalt, a Food Network series where Brown explored the various culinary offerings found in the United States as he traveled the road on his BMW motorcycle. The show was an opportunity for Brown to showcase smaller restaurants that were being phased out by bigger corporate chains that had popped up all over the interstate.

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