Alton Brown, the father of celebrity cooking shows, explains how millennials created a food television revolution

Alton Brown illustration

He may be a 54-year-old father of one, but don’t think for a second that Alton Brown, celebrity chef and host of Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” is out of touch.

Take his newest cookbook (his eighth), which is an homage to simpler cooking. It’s called “EveryDayCook.”

Each recipe in “EveryDayCook” accompanies a glossy photo taken on an iPhone 6s Plus. It calls to mind the Instagram-era we live in, highlighting the fact that everyday tools can create beautiful art. (Brown also says in the book it was a way to have complete control over the shots.)

Business Insider recently spoke with Brown about the new book and how food television has become much edgier since the days of “Good Eats” — Brown’s nerdy, gonzo-style foray into the TV industry that first aired 17 years ago.

Unlike his earlier books, Brown says “EveryDayCook” is less of an instruction manual and more of a catalogue of good-neighbour recipes. Many of them are straightforward, but with a twist. For instance, there’s nothing special about the nitrous pancakes aside from the fact you’ll need a nitrous oxide foamer to achieve the proper fluffiness. Other recipes are tamer, like his take on Brussels sprouts — or as he calls them, “Pygmy cabbages.”

“To me, cooking every day keeps me very grounded,” he tells Business Insider. “I believe in cooking every day, and the recipes in this book are everyday dishes.”

In many ways, “EveryDayCook” also reflects how savvy Brown expects his reader to be. It assumes that even if people no idea what amaranth is or how to use an immersion blender, they’re willing to find out if the basic recipe isn’t too complex.

“When ‘Good Eats’ started, I was constantly reminded to keep things simple. Keep it so that somebody’s who never cooked before could jump in at any point and do this,” Brown says. “We no longer need shows that say ‘This is an onion.’ We all know it’s a frickin’ onion.”

While shows a decade ago focused mostly on basic, at-home instruction — the kind of format Julia Child helped create — today’s food media landscape stretches across TV, the Internet, and social media. Chefs compete on primetime for big cash prizes, vie for their own TV shows, and smoke weed while they wax poetic about Australian fine dining.

Brown chalks the shift up to three factors: the changing ways media gets consumed, the rise of food culture, and millennials’ preference for bolder, edgier programs.

Millennials are the largest generation in the US, so it may have been inevitable that whatever they happened to latch on to would become the prevailing tone of the industry. As Joe Pinsker noted in the Atlantic last year, their penchant for new experiences and responsibly-sourced food means many would fall into the category of “foodie.”

Brown would like to take some credit for that.

“I’d like to think that the draw ‘Good Eats’ had was that it funny and visually edgy,” Brown says, emphasising that the show never tried to be edgy from an attitude standpoint because he always wanted it to be kid-friendly.

Fast-forward 15 years and those kids are now adults in their 20s and 30s — the very people who are Instagramming their duck confit and tuning in to watch Viceland. “I’d like to think that I cultivated, safely and healthfully, a long-term audience,” he says.

Brown hasn’t exactly been watching from the sidelines over the last decade. He served as expert commentator for “Iron Chef America,” hosts the culinary game show “Cutthroat Kitchen,” headlined the stage show “The Edible Inevitable Tour” for the last two years, and plans to follow up with a similar show, “Eat Your Science,” on Broadway this November.

And now 11 years since “Good Eats” went off the air, Brown says he’s ready to embrace the new frontier of food media with a show tentatively called “Alton 2.0.” It will live entirely on his website,, and he won’t divulge its premise just yet. He’s planning a larger announcement as 2017 draws closer.

The food-loving masses will just have to wait for their guru to step back into the spotlight.

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