Last November, I got to experience one of the greatest events in any amateur cook’s life: I got to see my culinary idol perform a live show. In the Pantheon of Food Network, he is not Zeus, but if I were to assign him Greek deity status, he would be Hermes, that wily messenger who invented music and medicine in the first hours of his birth. I’m speaking, of course, about Alton Brown, creator of such iconic shows as “Good Eats,” host of “Iron Chef America” and “Cut Throat Kitchen,” and one of the judges for “The Next Food Network Star” and “The Next Iron Chef,” while also acting as a regular contributor to several other food-centered programs and a staple for the Food Network Thanksgiving Special. Thanks to him, I made a perfect Thanksgiving turkey for my parents and husband on the first try. That’s not supposed to happen. The first roasted bird is supposed to be a disaster you laugh about years later with your therapist.
Brown’s latest endeavor is a live show he calls “The Edible Inevitable Tour,” which is touring the country over the next several months and made its latest stop in the Virginia Beach Sandler Center this last weekend. Brown opened the evening with an explanation that the show was not for the enjoyment of the audience. No, he said the show was “constructed for my pleasure” because the television industry has a way of restricting his imagination.
The show featured many different forms of entertainment. He instructed the audience about the different forms of yeast, which was very scientific and quite entertaining with the inclusion of gaseous sock puppets to demonstrate the primary purposes of this important ingredient. He played a few humorous songs with the aid of an electric bassist and a drummer. The trio played “The Meat Goes On,” a slight adaptation on a 70s hit song, the angry punk-rock “Easy Bake” about a boy who just wants to bake, and “Pork Chop Blues” where Brown broke out a tenor sax to fully illustrate the soul-grinding agony of over-cooked meat. He played one more song as an encore, a piece he had written for his five-year-old daughter to explain how easy it is to cook. It was entitled “Cooking is Quite Simple Lullaby,” and ironically proved the complete opposite point. The crowd loved it.
Brown spent a good part of the first set doing culinary stand up, primarily based on a speech he had given years before and had adapted over time. It was called “Ten Things I’m Pretty Sure I’m Pretty Sure about Food” and it was hilarious. He started with a long rant concerning chicken fingers that ended in an anecdote of his daughter’s first sleep-over. The results of his literal interpretation of his daughter’s chicken finger demand was many angry phone calls from the mothers of some genuinely frightened little girls. He also gave an impassioned plea for parents to teach their children to cook as soccer balls are completely inedible. He shared a delightful story from the early days of “Iron Chef America” which involved trout ice cream. He gave excellent marriage advice, vis-à-vis, “The best cook on Earth is…your wife.” I will never look at oregano the same way again. By far his best advice was to never eat shrimp cocktail in an airport. He even sang a country song about it, cowboy hat included.
By far, the most enjoyable aspect of the show was the cooking demonstrations. Using his homemade “Jet Cream,” a device built out of water cooler bottles, a couple of fire extinguishers, duct tape, and a steel frame, he made chocolate ice cream in ten seconds. The front two rows of the audience had to wear ponchos for that portion of the show. Later on, he demonstrated how to properly stretch pizza dough, which included some excellent tosses and the activation of the five second rule only twice. He then piled the dough with pizza toppings like marinara, cheese, pepperoni, and seventeen pounds of blue crab, and baked the pizzas in his solution to the under-whelming baking power of the Easy Bake oven. It is called the Mega Bake. It reaches temperatures of 640 degrees Fahrenheit, puts out 54,000 Watts, and can be seen from space if he cranks it up to ten, which he can’t because there isn’t enough power on the grid in this area. The pizza took three and a half minutes to cook.
Awesome is too tame a word for the show. Brown gave his fans an experience beyond anything achievable through TV and books. We got to see him banter with volunteers and drunken hecklers. We got to laugh with him and cheer for him. We got to see him pull nutmeg out of his vest pocket. It was just wonderful and I wish I could go again this minute to see it all again.
For more information about the tour and tour dates, visit http://www.altonbrowntour.com.