After Friday’s 8 p.m. finale, “Good Eats” is history.
You know Alton Brown as a quirky Bill Nye-Julia Child-Mystery Science Theater hybrid, who uses a diet of science, history and to deconstruct ingredients and dishes so you and I could understand them. His “Good Eats” program lasted 250 episodes and turned out original programs longer than “Emeril Live,” which supposedly is the Food Network’s gold standard.
But when I interviewed him for a story in The Record in 2003, I caught one little glimpse of another part of him — a Christian who thought he could still get closer to God. It was maybe 15 seconds at the end of a two-hour conversation over breakfast at a New York hotel, but I made a happy mental note: Alton Brown = Born Again. He’s one of us.
“Good Eats” is not a Christian show, but it is free of the inuendo you’ll see and hear on other shows (I think of Emeril massaging a bologna and pretty much anything Guy Fieti says). Alton didn’t wear a cross around his neck, but there was an apparent effort behind the lens, where his staff and family would have seen his Christian witness at work.
“Atlanta” magazine interviewed him in 2007, and ended a long profile with this excerpt:
In 1992, Brown says, he found God, or maybe God found him, but he blundered away until he became a born-again Christian. “The single biggest life-changing thing for me is I just got baptized last year. Everything else pales in comparison to acceptance of Christianity. That’s number one.” He keeps a Bible in his dressing room now, not to show he’s pious but because he needs the help. “At Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, baptism is a full-immersion thing, and we joke that the water didn’t spit me back out.” Although he was on the cover of the August 2006 issue of the inspirational magazine Guideposts for a story about the connection between food and faith, Brown is not about to start a career as a celebrity proselytizer. “I keep praying I’ll be able to do my job and I’ll be useful,” he says.
In an interview with Eater, he was asked how faith and religion play into his professional life:
“I hope everything. One of the things I pray for on a daily basis is that whatever God wants me to be doing, it’s reflected through my actions, how I deal with other people, the way I do my job. And I hope I do it in a way that pleases Him.”
In hindsight, I wish I’d pursued the line of questioning back then, if for no other reason than my own curiosity. But there’s a whole lifetime ahead for that.