The Truth About Food Network Star Alton Brown
Alton Brown is a complicated guy.
At the same time he presents food in a scientific,
technical, and sometimes over-the-top, geeky
sort of style, he also manages to do it in
a way that’s not just informative, but accessible.
Here’s what you might not know about Food
Network’s smartest showman.
“You can’t do this with a fork!”
A difficult childhood
In 2016, The New York Times got the notoriously-private
Born in Los Angeles, Brown and his family
moved to Georgia when he was 7.
“As I kid I was addicted to two things.
And I’m talking kid like 3,4,5 years old.
One, NASA… and then Jacques Cousteau.”
But it was just a few years later that his
father was found suffocated in their home.
And while it was officially ruled that he
took his own life, Brown believed his father’s
death was at the hands of someone else.
Brown’s mother went on to marry four more
He isn’t close with his step siblings or his
mother, and he added,
“My mom didn’t have a lot of respect for me
until I became famous.”
The perfect recipe
According to the Bitter Southerner, Brown
graduated high school at 16, and went on to
direct TV commercials, where he got his first
exposure to cooking shows.
“[…] I was like, ‘God, these are boring.
I’m not really learning anything.’
I got a recipe, OK, but I don’t know anything.”
So, he sat down and came up with his own formula
for a cooking show.
“I remember writing down one day: ‘Julia Child
/ Mr. Wizard / Monty Python.’
[…] Everybody thought I was insane.”
“I had a really miserable time in school and
I just believed that if you can entertain
people, you can infect them with knowledge.”
The secret ingredient is…
Brown makes “smart” look pretty effortless,
but when he first started on Iron Chef America,
he says he didn’t know what half the ingredients
He’d already been filming Good Eats for a
few years, but he told the Bitter Southerner
that when he got the call for Iron Chef, he
was out of his element.
“Today’s secret ingredient is… mortadella.”
“I showed up to do that job, it’s like, ‘What
the hell is any of this stuff?’
[…] I’m like, ‘I shop at Kroger, OK?’
You don’t get 16 different kinds of freaking
kelp at Kroger.”
Hammering out two episodes a day, Brown needed
to learn so much, so fast, and talk about
it on the fly that, afterward, he said,
“As soon as I was done using it, I flushed
Controversial diet plan
As you might expect, Brown took a scientific
approach to losing 50 pounds.
“I actually made up this diet that was composed
of four lists.
And it was more about the foods I had to eat,
rather than foods I wasn’t allowed to eat.”
But while he may have nailed his own meal
plan, he wasn’t so kind regarding other people’s
In 2008, he told the East Bay Times that many
overweight fans tell him they love Food Network.
And he added,
“[…] did you eat the TV?
There’s only four of you and you can’t ride
in an elevator together.
I’ll probably make fat people angry, but we
need, as a culture, to be ashamed.”
Not surprisingly, he got some serious fallout
for those comments.
By 2015, he acknowledged it may be cheaper
to feed a family on fast food, and called
the divide “nutritional slavery,” according
to The New York Times.
But he still went on to say,
“Obesity is not a disease.
The second that our society starts thinking
that shoveling Big Macs into our face is a
disease, then we’re done, we’re done as a
Trading blows with Bourdain
It was rare that the late Anthony Bourdain
had anything good to say about his peers,
and in 2015 he directed a pretty harsh blanket
statement toward all of Food Network’s personalities.
He said while on tour,
“I love Ina Garten.
She’s one of the few people on the Food Network
who can actually cook.”
But when Brown talked to People, he didn’t
mince any words on how he felt, saying,
“I don’t have to defend my skills against
[…] When was the last time you saw Anthony
Bourdain actually cook anything?
I’ve spent 14 years cooking my own food on
television and I’ve never seen him cook a
After his comments, Bourdain apparently had
a change of heart, tweeting: “I have zero
beef with Alton Brown.
Smartest stuff on Food Network and a hero
to my daughter.”
Think you’ve mastered the fine art of multitasking?
Well, you’ve got nothing on Alton Brown.
In 2010, he described to Eater just what goes
on during Iron Chef America — and it’s all
about the hard core multitasking.
“This stuff just got real.”
First, Brown’s watching relay from eight different
At the same time, he’s got a laptop with an
ingredient database in it, and he’s also got
an iPad that he’s using to look stuff up.
Meanwhile, he’s got a culinary producer talking
in his ear relaying still more information,
and while all that’s going on, he’s presenting.
“I can shut my mouth off from my brain.
I can read one thing while I’m saying another.
It is my only marketable skill.”
If it all sounds manic, don’t worry.
Brown’s totally into it.
“It’s a kick.
It’s a rush.
Is there stress?
Yes, but it’s good stress.
I dig that hour.”