There’s no doubt about it: Alton Brown is a force to be reckoned with. Since first gaining recognition as host of Food Network’s Good Eats in 1999, he’s risen to the rank of elder statesman in the culinary television universe. He automatically lends an air of respectability to whatever he decides to grace with his presence, be it a couple seasons of Food Network Star, a commercial campaign for Welch’s Grape Juice, an episode of Mythbusters, or his very own live show. But this man of many talents is not all that he appears. Here are six things that you probably didn’t know about the Cutthroat Kitchen host.
He Doesn’t Hang Out with Chefs
“I am absolutely petrified by people in white coats,” he’s quoted as saying in From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network. “I don’t care if it’s a dentist, a doctor, or a chef. They all scare the hell out of me. I don’t hang out with chefs, they frighten me.”
He’s an Actor
It took Brown seven years to graduate college, switching schools twice, but he graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in drama. He’s done everything from Shakespeare to musicals, and while studying abroad in Florence he performed in Italian, even though he couldn’t speak the language.
He Started Behind the Camera
While performing was always his desire, his first professional work was behind the camera, as a cameraman. He was the director of photography on the video for REM’s song “The One I love,” and was a cinematographer and director for plenty of television commercials.
He Risked it All on Culinary School
After examining his passions – cooking, theatre, and science fiction, he decided his next move would be in front of the camera, as host of his own cooking show, one that combined Julia Child, Mr. Wizard, and Monty Python. So he applied to three cooking schools, got into one (the New England Culinary Institute), sold his house, and, after graduating, writing Good Eats scripts while working the grill at a North Carolina restaurant.
Food Network Loved Him on Day One
Most shows take a while to make their way through the pitching process and eventually get green-lit. Brown’s two pilot episodes of Good Eats (which had already aired to great reviews on PBS in Chicago) flew through the process, with both the programming and advertising departments signing off on a 13-episode order almost immediately. His big cheerleader was Matt Stillman, an ambitious young programming developer with a taste for the weird who also got Iron Chef on the air.
He Guest-Starred on Spongebob
Brown appeared in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants in 2008 as a game show host. He’s also appeared in two episodes of comedian John Hodgeman’s podcast Judge John Hodgman, as well as the Atlanta episode of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover.