‘I’m not normal’ — the quirky genius that is Alton Brown
NEW YORK (AP) — Alton Brown thinks about food differently than you do. You don’t get obsessive with hummus. He does. You don’t research the long, weird history of nutmeg or put sumac in everything. He does.
You never considered having spaghetti in the morning. He did — and made it delicious. “Why aren’t we having pasta for breakfast? I don’t understand why we don’t do this?” the TV chef and writer asked recently.
You can find Brown at the intersection of food, science, history and theater. It’s a weird place, as even he admits: “I don’t fit in anywhere.” He has a restless, inquisitive mind and a chemist’s rigor. He blends his own red pepper flakes and yet knows how strange that is. “I’m a freak,” he confesses.
Brown returns this fall with two typically idiosyncratic offerings: A cookbook of the unexpected stuff he eats at home and a live variety show that hits Broadway with a mix of unusual food demonstrations, puppets and songs.
“EveryDayCook: This Time It’s Personal,” his eighth book and first in five years, has 100 quirky recipes, from mussels in miso to kimchi crabcakes. The recipes were adapted from memory; some were scribbled on cabinet doors.
“Ostensibly, it’s a self-portrait in food,” he says. “That is what I eat and cook. If you were to come over to my house, it would be something out of that book. I think I was at a point in life where it was time to do a self-portrait.”
How Brown came up with one dish — his breakfast carbonara — is instructive: It was an accident. He had been intending to make biscuits and gravy with sausage but burned the biscuits. So he threw some leftover pasta into the gravy.
“I started thinking, ‘Wait a second, this isn’t that far away from carbonara,'” he recalled, and stated adding more ingredients. “All of a sudden, I had a different dish. That was born of a complete goof on my part.”
It was only after he saw the book’s photos — all taken by his assistant using an iPhone — of the way he likes to serve his food that Brown, as he politely notes, “was made mindful that I’m not normal.”
“Not everyone plates their chips and salsa in a 1974 Mercury hubcap. Not everybody plates crackers in a Kodak slide carousel. I had not really reckoned with how odd I am,” he says. “If you don’t like this book, odds are you don’t like me. Because that’s pretty much me.”
There will be more of Brown on view on Broadway when his touring show “Eat Your Science” lands at the Barrymore Theatre. A former actor with a theater degree who did summer stock, Brown models his shows on “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” and describes it as “culinary vaudeville.”
“I can finally say to my mom, ‘Yes, my theater degree did matter,'” he jokes.