Alton Brown, a Food Network personality who has done just about every show out there, is now taking a turn with the network’s latest cooking extravagance, The Next Iron Chef: Redemption. In a quick, 15-minute interview, I talked to the oft-described “nerd” or “geek” of the food television world about the new show (which airs November 4), what he wants to see, his work with Justin Warner of Do or Dine, and why Welch’s makes the best grape juice. Nothing about this man is dull; I just wish I could have gotten 15 minutes more.
I have to say, I am excited about your work with Food Network Star winner Justin Warner. What’s it like to work with him?
We are finally really getting to work on his show. Food Network was great and didn’t rush us into being foolish. I can tell you what the working title is; it’s Justin’s Excellent Adventure. It should get produced around the end of year, maybe in February or March, and it’s going to be prime time on the Food Network. At first, it will be an hour special that may or may not be a series. [Justin] is special and I know it. I don’t want to mess it up. It’s one of those things about being a mentor, screwing up yourself is okay, but screwing up someone else is something different.
What do you think about his restaurant Do or Dine?
I don’t have a lot of business in Bed-Stuy, so when I am there I go all out. As for Do or Dine, I love it. Everything about it appeals to me.
What cooking show would you like to see on the Food Network, or any other channel for that matter?
I have tried out a lot of genres. One of my goals in the last few years was to make every genre of show on Food Network. That’s why I got in on the Next Food Network Star; it’s different from Iron Chef, which is, well, basically a sporting event. Good Eats is a scripted, one-camera sort of thing. I have tried every hat.
As someone who has hosted, judged, and been on so many shows, what are you hoping to gain from The Next Iron Chef: Redemption?
Well, there is redemption for one thing. Redemption is an interesting thing. Here we have a bunch people who have already been in the competitions, so they know what they are getting into. Some got close enough to detect wisps of victory in the air, and others barely were on it. Everyone has something to prove and they are obsessed in a way. There is nothing as interesting to observe as an obsessed character. Then, there is thought of redemption. Proving you can do something that you had failed to do before.
Do you think you are a good fit?
Good fit? I don’t know. I have no idea—that is up to the viewers. [The Food Network] keeps asking me to do it, so I try no t to look that one in the eye. You start asking those questions…eh, you just go do it. But, I know enough about food and cooking, and if you are going to have a competition show about food, there are worst people to have in there. I know a lot and I have been around for every Iron Chef episode.
Aside from The Next Iron Chef: Redemption, what else can we look forward to from you?
I am doing two projects I am gassed about. One is producing Justin’s show, it will be an on the roads of food sort of thing. The other is Foods That Made America, a five-hour series on the foods that allowed America to become the country that it is. Basically it’s historic story telling as we talk about the top five things about how they changed American food. I don’t think food history has been done well. So I am going to talk a shot at it.
Where did you get the idea to use Post-It notes on your twitter?
I started doing that during Food Network Star, but I don’t remember why. I stared sticking them on TV or computer screens when I was trying to taunt Giada De Laurentiis or Bobby Flay. I would stick Post-Its by their pictures just for fun. As for Twitter, I don’t like the 140 characters impute, so I stared with the Post-Its. I have gone thorough lots of Post-Its.
Ha, do they sponsor your habit yet?
No! They got their own Twitter account that would analog tweet like I did. They even used my name! That annoyed me, so I went off Post-Its and did index cards for a few weeks. But, I missed the Post-Its so I went back. I still just buy them at the drug store like everyone else. Only Welch’s sponsors me, though they don’t pay me to tweet about them. I end up tweeting them just because I have so much juice from them. So I end up tweeting things I make with it, like this cocktail I made with gin, tonic, and grape juice. I have loved it [Welch’s grape juice] all my life. I jumped at the chance to work with them.
It’s kind of sweet…
They don’t add sugar. That is an urban legend. All they do is use real juice. They got eight hours to pick, skin, and seed. Then it gets low pasteurized so it doesn’t ferment.
Wow, I had no idea. That brings me to another stereotype, the food nerd. I have heard you referred to as that. What do you think?
Food nerd? Well yeah, I would be one of those. I would count. If not the king of the food nerds, at least high royalty. I have earned that. People who get into food on the science angle are nerdy. We are different, quirky, and not like everybody else.