Fans of the original Good Eats may remember all the elements that made the show great: quirky puppets, costumes and power tools all wielded by a friendly neighbourhood mad genius named Alton Brown who showed a generation how to cook, and cook right.
Now, Good Eats: The Return (airing on August 31 at 10 PM E/T) is bringing back the zany fun — and sound scientific principles — to the screen, two decades later. We caught up with Alton to spill the secrets on the new season of Good Eats: The Return, and how the show has developed through the years.
Premiering on Food Network in 1999, the original Good Eats ran for 13 seasons, covering off cooking techniques, gear, and gadgets all the while providing home cooks with a road map to explore the best way to tackle detailed recipes. Don’t think for a minute that Brown has been taking it easy since then: with host duties on Cutthroat Kitchen, Iron Chef Gauntlet and a live tour showing off his prodigious musical chops, he’s been as busy as ever.
Still, he couldn’t let the Good Eats concept alone for too long, revisiting his favourite episodes with Good Eats: Reloaded last year. Reloaded looked at essential topics such as roast chicken, chocolate, pie and burgers. “I had always planned on bringing Good Eats back, but when I realized I had the opportunity to go back and fix old shows with Reloaded, It got me started about a new visual language and working with the crew I had worked with for so many years,” says Alton.“It was a refresher course in certain ways.”
Now, with Good Eats: The Return, Alton is putting those key skills he’s learned to work on brand new episodes. He promises everything from a bread episode straight out of science fiction (“We’re doing a wild sourdough show that is set in a post-apocalyptic world, but it’s still in my kitchen. It’s after a zombie apocalypse and a nuclear blast and the reawakening of a giant dinosaur,” he says), to a new take on classics such as steak tartare. “We tell stories about food, and we tell stories about a very wide array of foods. And we won’t do a recipe if a story can’t drive it,” he says.
Fans can also expect a return of the tried and truly-tested recipes that made the original Good Eats a success. “I think that what people like with me is that they know that everything’s been vetted to death,” says Alton. “We’ve looked at the information six ways from Wednesday.”
To kick off the season, Alton visits a classic chicken parmesan recipe, based on high demand from the fans. He applied his trademark methodical approach, delving into the history of not just the dish, but the idea of Italian-American cuisine in general. “What we believe to be Italian food is 100 percent an American thing, which came out of a very specific immigrant experience. Chicken parmesan was an immigrant upgrade of eggplant parmesan, based on availability,” he says. “The problem is, if you treat chicken like eggplant, it becomes a very different kind of dish. So to get the most out of the chicken, you’ve got to reengineer the dish, which we did. But I never would have come to that unless I had understood the evolution, not only of the dish, but of the Italian American immigrant experience and the birth of Italian food.”
Good Eats: The Return is also coming back at a new time in food culture, where online sourcing and savvy viewers are changing how the show is made. “We used to have to call grocery stores to see if they had certain ingredients and now, we don’t have to worry about that anymore,” says Alton. “And because of things like the internet and social media, people know more about food.”
With this season’s episode on shakshuka, for example, this viewer knowledge meant that Alton could approach the topic differently. “A few years ago, no-one knew what shakshuka was — they thought it was a basketball player,” he jokes. “Now, everybody knows what shakshuka is, so there’s a lot more acceptable avenues that one can take telling culinary stories.”
One thing that hasn’t changed with Good Eats — and never will — is Alton’s desire to make family-friendly viewing for everyone to enjoy. “There are people that watched this show with their parents in 2003 who are now introducing their children to the show,” he says. “The highest honour is when people come up to me and say, ‘this was the one thing we watched together as a family’. I want to still make media that can connect generations under a roof. I always want this show to be viewed by people from age 4 to 400.”
Watch the first two episodes of Good Eats: The Return on Food Network Canada on August 31, 2019, starting at 10 PM E/T.