Alton Brown: Celebrity Chef, YouTube Streamer?

As I started to settle into a post on-campus Swarthmore life, I found that I had a bit more free time on my hands now that my regular extracurriculars have been put on hold. The name of this column, “Tepid Takes With Jake,” has been in the works for a while now. The name owes its origin to the wonderful Anatole Shukla. My initial plan was to share some thoughts relating to everyday life at Swat, but since we’re not there anymore, I thought it might be nice to share some thoughts about what I’m doing at home. While I’m stuck inside, this means the things I’m watching, reading, and doing to keep sane.   

In this inaugural edition of the column, I’d like to talk about my favorite TV chef and noted unitasker hater: Alton Brown. Alton is known for a bunch of shows that I don’t care about haven’t watched including Iron Chef America, Feasting on Asphalt, and Cutthroat Kitchen. He is also the creator and star of Good Eats — a cooking show that focuses on the science and history of cooking (I’m making it sound less fun than it is). In these strange times, however, Alton has rapidly been putting out content on his youtube channel. On March 17, with literally no fanfare, he streamed himself, his partner Elizabeth, and their dogs making dinner. It was a wonderfully peculiar experience.  

Gone was the polished TV presenter working off a script in a kitchen set. Instead, we had a tipsy man throwing together an ad hoc meal in a grainy and poorly lit kitchen. It was phenomenal. Clearly new to the medium of live streaming, Alton and Elizabeth did their best to interact with the chat. With no chat moderator, however, the 1000+ member chat was a bit more negative and unruly than the Browns may have wanted it to be. 

Most cooking shows I watch on the internet (Binging with Babish, Bon Appétit’s plethora of shows, etc) still retain a lot of the “old media” polish while incorporating a “new media” feel. For example, the show “It’s Alive” has some strong videography as commonly seen in “old media,” but has an informality, irreverence, and silliness that gives it a very strong “new media” feel.  This first edition of “Quarantine Kitchen” — what the Browns are now calling their stream — was firmly a “new media” piece of entertainment. It was a nice change of pace to see Alton Brown just relaxing at home with his family and helping to make dinner. 

Watching a streamer as a mode of media consumption has always been a weird one for me. Depending on the day, it can either be excruciatingly boring or really enjoyable. It certainly isn’t as riveting as watching a TV show, reading a book, or playing a game. However, while at home and unable to cook with my friends, I found it comforting to see that just like me, Alton is trying to make the best food he can with the supplies that he has at home. 
If you want to check out the archived stream (~34 min) you can find it here or if you want a less tipsy, more well-lit Alton who cooks steak in mayo you can find this week’s archived stream (~48 min) here.

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