Fall. Leaves on their autumnal sojourn to the ground accumulate in yards and breezeways. The welcome return of mild sunny days that make the oppressive heat of a summer in the Southeast seem like a bad dream. The less random chilly nights that make you reunite with that favorite coat or sweater, even though it’s still not needed, not yet. With all that nostalgia steamrolling us towards the holidays, it’s only natural that food is given a special distinction in the annals of fall activities. So much so that Alton Brown is traveling the country with a variety stage show celebrating the culmination of fall — the Holidays. His multi-city “Beyond the Eats – The Holiday Variant” kicks off at Greensboro’s Tanger Center on Nov. 16.
“It’s a very nostalgic time,” Brown says in an interview. “It’s also a time where you know food and culture all align very spectacularly.”
Brown has been cooking for TV audiences for decades. Best known for his award-winning show “Good Eats,” Brown combines accessible recipes with scientific know-how and humor. Serving as host of numerous cooking shows, Brown has also authored many books on the subject and has been hosting stage shows since 2013. His live shows contain a healthy mix of variety, incorporating live music and audience participation into large and inventive cooking demonstrations.
“The demos that we do are very large and very impractical,” Brown says. “For instance, in our last two ‘Beyond the Eats,’ we built a popcorn popper that was a rocket ship 13 feet tall that had concentric circles of interior air poppers that popped into a central manifold that then was blown out onto the audience with a compressor.”
In another spectacle, Brown describes an 8-foot-tall Easy Bake Oven that was “powered by 70,000-watt rock and roll lights.”
He declines to describe in detail what awaits the audience in this year’s show but offers some hints.
“The one that we have in this show is equally preposterous, but even I think more brilliant,” he says. “It’s very large, sucks up massive amounts of electricity, and cooks one of my favorite foods en masse in a very short period of time. I am not going to say what it is.”
Asked about his favorite part of touring, Brown doesn’t hesitate.
“The audiences,” he says. “We do a lot of audience interaction. We have a lot of volunteers on stage and they really kind of determine a lot of how any given show is going to go and how the audience reacts to us.”
Sure enough, in past shows volunteers are seen interacting with Brown on stage in many of the larger-than-life demonstrations.
“We’re also going to spin these giant wheels, like game wheels, volunteers can spin them to build the sauce that we are going to put onto this particular food,” Brown says.
With the holidays approaching (and a holiday show), Brown is more than happy to extoll his go-to recipes and remark on the ones that he still tweaks. He describes a pecan pie whose latest version combined a Rye whisky and bitters into the recipe, much like an Old Fashioned cocktail.
“Three of us sat down to taste it and we ate the whole freaking pie and I mean it’s that good,” Brown says with a laugh. “I still stand by my standby, my standing rib roast, which is one of our most popular holiday recipes as well as several iterations of our roast turkey, which people tend to turn to. The standing rib roast is the only tradition that I actually cook every single year. I cook one standing rib roast a year, and I cook it up Christmas Day and it’s freaking amazing, which is probably why I only do one.”
“Alton Brown Live! Beyond the Eats – The Holiday Variant” will open its multi-city tour at the Tanger Center in Greensboro on Nov. 16. Tickets available at altonbrownlive.com. “Old Fashioned” Pecan Pie Recipe here. Holiday Standing Rib Roast Recipe here.
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