Information Diet: Alton Brown

Food Network star has no qualms about binging on books, magazines


Age 50

Accomplishments Creator and host of Peabody Award-winning Good Eats on Food Network; host of Iron Chef America; mentor on The Next Food Network Star; recipient of 2011 James Beard Award for Best TV Personality

Base Atlanta

What’s the first information you consume in the morning?

I’m a pilot, so I’m obsessed with weather. Believe it or not, I look online before I look outside. I go to the aviation forecast for wherever I am, and the FAA and National Weather Service sites.

What do you read or watch or listen to at the breakfast table?

I do the breakfast cooking, so I don’t usually get to sit in the morning. I used to listen to NPR, but now I listen to classical music—Vivaldi in particular.

Are you a TV junkie or on an airtime-restricted diet?

I directed TV commercials for the first part of my career, so I know about the smoke and mirrors of that world. I could go weeks without looking at a television. We don’t have a DVR, so either I see something when it comes on, or I miss it. The exception is any miniseries made by the BBC, like this season’s run of Sherlock.

Before bed, do you bite into a novel, graze on Twitter or fast until morning?

I always travel with a pile of books. I’m reading The Art of Flying, which is one of those books that pilots read a great deal. I usually have some sort of food research going. Right now, I’m reading Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg and a book by Jacques Cousteau called The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus. And I’m rereading Moby-Dick. I reread it about once every three years, always in the summertime.

Do you read food magazines?

I’m a bit of a magazine junkie, but I don’t really delineate between food and nonfood magazines. I’m not going to read something that’s just got a bunch of recipes in it—I’ve got more recipes than I can use for the rest of my life. I like Saveur a great deal and Gastronomica, but a lot of the best food writing is in popular magazines like The Atlantic and The New Yorker and regional magazines like Garden & Gun.

Give us the skinny on your favorite cooking app.

I use the timer apps. I’m actually working on one for myself because I don’t really like most of what’s out there. But I’m not going to get recipes through an app. I’m a research person, and apps sometimes make things too easy.

What’s your biggest digital indulgence?

I am embarrassed to say how much money I’ve spent on iTunes. I’ve kind of put myself on a diet. Once a month, I buy a $20 iTunes card, and that’s my allowance.

With such a bloated media universe, how do you cut out the fat?

I don’t spend any more time online than I have to. It’s like swimming in the ocean—odds are, you’re safe, but the longer you stay in, the more sharks are going to come around. You have to get in, get what you need, get out.

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