Famous television foodie Alton Brown will be in Wichita on Tuesday for a stop on his “Edible Inevitable” tour, but there’s a chance Wichitans will run into him before he takes the stage.
Brown, a food scientist, chef and author made famous by his shows “Good Eats,” “Iron Chef America” and, more recently, “Cutthroat Kitchen,” likes to investigate the towns he visits before he takes the stage, and fans who follow him on social media will get clues that will help them track him down.
So how does a chef fill two hours on stage? Brown, whose sense of humor is as sharp as his knives, called recently to talk about his stage performance – a “culinary variety show” he describes as a direct descendent of his “Good Eats” series, which aired on Food Network for 13 years.
Here are some appetizer-sized bites of information you’ll want to ingest before the show, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Century II’s Concert Hall.
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1. The tour is 10 years in the making.
Brown said he has no trouble filling his time on stage because he’s been planning it for at least a decade. He couldn’t fit it in when “Good Eats” was in production, he said, but finally found time last year. The third leg of his tour launched Tuesday in Athens, Ga. – not far from Brown’s home in Marietta.
“It came out of just 10 years of doing live demonstrations,” he said. “I started keeping a list of things I wish I could do or wish I had time to do or money to do.”
His list must have gotten pretty long. The live show is said to contain puppets, songs about airport shrimp cocktails and Easy Bake Ovens, comedic commentary and a few explosive cooking demonstrations, including one in which he makes “jet cream.”
2. The show requires audience participation.
Those cooking demonstrations are the highlight of the show, Brown said, and they’re so enormous, he needs help from the crowd.
Someone from Wichita will be on stage with Brown on Tuesday.
“There are two very large, very, very unusual food demonstrations that will require audience participation,” he said. “That takes up most of the two hours.”
3. Despite the ponchos, he’s not Gallagher.
People who sit in the first few rows of Brown’s shows are given ponchos to wear.
His on-stage cooking demonstrations do tend to get messy, Brown said, but he wants to clarify that he is nothing like Gallagher, the comedian known for smashing watermelons on stage.
The first two rows get ponchos as more of a precaution, he insisted. Brown has no intention of making a mess. He simply got tired of paying audience members’ dry cleaning bills, which used to run about $150 a night.
“I try to keep that mess on stage, but depending on the theater and airflow and what not, it usually doesn’t,” he said. “And there is always going to be some lady in the front row wearing white pants even if it’s clearly not white pants season, and she will be upset that particulate matter has ended up on her pants.”
4. He’s not as good at music as he is at cooking.
Brown learned to play the guitar when he was a kid and has always loved it.
But his television shows didn’t allow him to explore his musical meanderings as much as he wanted to, he said. He loves his tour in part because he can do everything he couldn’t do on television.
Brown said he had to reteach himself how to play the guitar when he decided to make music a part of his performance, and it’s become his favorite part of the show.
“It’s the part where things could go most wrong,” he said. “And that’s the most exciting part.”
5. Kids love him.
Brown says his live shows are usually crawling with kids, and the fact that much of his fan base is elementary school-aged was surprising to him, he said. It turns out that children ages 12 and under love “Cutthroat Kitchen,” a show where chefs are asked to sabotage each others’ cooking efforts.
“It’s very popular with elementary and middle school-aged kids,” he said. “They love how people throw things at each other and like to watch how they get out of it.”
And parents needn’t worry. Though the show includes irreverence and at least a few fart jokes, it’s completely family-friendly.
“The show is really designed to be a family show,” he said. “It’s for everyone from kids to grandparents. No one is going to be offended. Everyone is going to have a good time. It’s family entertainment, and that’s something that’s been lost in the last few years.
6. He may or may not remember chef Jason Febres.
Back in August, Wichita chef Jason Febres competed on “Cutthroat Kitchen,” finishing second after an unfortunate run-in with a manual ice cream maker known as an ice cream ball.
Does Brown remember him?
Sort of, he said. The ice cream ball incident sounded familiar. But he has met dozens and dozens of chefs during his run on the show, which first aired in summer of 2013 and just finished filming a fifth season in Los Angeles.
“I’m mostly concerned with the game,” he said. “Somebody could be from Mars, and I wouldn’t remember.”
7. The stage isn’t the only place Brown will be in Wichita.
Brown loves food, and he loves checking out food across the country. When he visits a city on tour, he said, he makes it a point to visit local eateries – and often posts on social media about where he is. Occasionally, he’ll put on “flash” book signings and offer latitude and longitude points to help fans figure out where.
“I get to see a new place almost every day,” Brown said. “I’ve gotten around. A lot of these places are brand new, and a lot of the joy in it for me is I do get enough time during the day where I get to go out for a few hours and investigate what’s going on in town. Sometimes I’ve had fans offer to drive me around to different places.”
(Alton, if you’re reading this and staying downtown, might we suggest Doo-Dah Diner, Old Mill Tasty Shop, Espresso to Go Go, The Donut Whole and Picasso’s?)
8. He’s a social media-ologist.
Teasing fans about his daytime whereabouts is not the only way Brown incorporates social media into his tour.
On this leg, he’s found a way to include audience question-and-answer sessions using Twitter.
“I’ve always wanted to do a Q-and-A, but Q-and-A’s are really difficult things to work out,” he said. “So we’re doing one that is Twitter based. We’re geotagging the theater so we can do different hashtags.”
During his show in Athens on Tuesday, Brown posted on Facebook a photo of the audience from his on-stage perspective and invited members to tag themselves.
He’s already communicated with Wichita via social media.
On Oct. 12, he posted a photo of a handwritten note that read, “Hey, Wichita. Your Century II Concert Hall may never be the same.”
If you go
Alton Brown Live: ‘The Edible Inevitable Tour’
What: A culinary variety show performed by celebrity chef Alton Brown
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas
Tickets: $49.50 to $71.50 at www.wichitatix.com or by calling 316-303-8100