When Alton Brown was 5 years old, he made what he thought were plain-old s’mores for his family, but he didn’t get to eat his because he dropped it on an ant hill.
But after listening to the adults laughing and talking about his chocolate/roasted marshmallow/graham cracker combo from the safety of his room, not getting to eat his first s’more wasn’t entirely a disappointment.
“I cooked food, I made people laugh,” Brown said. “I wanted to do more of that.”
More than 50 years later, Brown did exactly that for two hours at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Thursday with the “Holiday Variant” of his “Beyond the Eats” live show.
Hilarious and oddly educational, it was a true variety show entirely about food, opening and closing with Brown singing and playing guitar with a three-piece band — the finale: “12 Days of Unitaskers,” kitchen tools with a single duty that he hates.
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The s’mores story was a 20-minute monologue that got funnier and funnier — let’s just say what little Alton thought he found in the medicine cabinet wasn’t chocolate — part of a stand-up style bit on his culinary regrets.
There was a game show he called “Eat This!” in which three volunteers from the audience answered multiple-choice questions, then did tasks — identifying spices by their smell, locating the cuts of meat on a pig, and pulling the ingredients for a “free range” fruitcake from a pantry — to greater or lesser, but always funny success.
Brown opened the second act of the show by dissecting an air fryer, showing why it doesn’t really fry, then declaring “fried (as in oll) food is perfect” — and pulling out a giant “Jet Fryer” that used material from a hardware store, culinary store and marine store — a ship’s wheel to spin the chicken wings, superheated to 500 degrees, inside.
While the wings cooked, Brown delivered a lesson on hot peppers and Wilbur Scoville, the pharmacist who, in the 1800s, developed the heat scale for chili peppers that is still used today.
Then another volunteer got to sample some very hot sauces, mixed together on stage and poured on the freshly cooked wings.
You’re not going to see that in any other show. Nor is it likely that there’s any other comedy show that’s entirely about — or at least related — to food.
And there’s simply no talent like Brown to perform it — a smart, funny “food entertainer” who’s a master at working an audience, thereby giving the foodies in the seats a thoroughly entertaining evening.
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