NEW YORK — If Alton Brown, the Food Network celebrity, offers you a cocktail, refuse it. Maybe you are parched. Maybe you are in alcohol withdrawal. Maybe you have thought that clinking glasses with the host of “Good Eats” and “Cutthroat Kitchen” would be a fine thing. Even so, don’t do it. Never forget that this is the man who coined the term “evilicious.”
In Brown’s mostly charming and occasionally stomach-churning show, “Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science,” now making a brief stop on Broadway, he invites a woman from the audience to join him for an onstage tipple. As there’s little entertainment value in simply stirring up a Negroni, he devises a game to select cocktail components. At a recent performance, his volunteer was assigned tequila and pumpkin spice liqueur. Then Brown added a secret ingredient: mouthwash. Cheers?
It would be unsporting to say just what Brown does to make this cocktail more palatable or exactly how, in the second half, he levels up a simple snack food into something a lot more explosive. (Each experiment is a riff on shtick in his earlier “Edible Inevitable Tour.”) This one-man variety show combines cooking lore with physics, chemistry, comedy and a live band. The cumulative effect is a little like having Harold McGee’s cherished kitchen science tome “On Food and Cooking” read aloud by Gallagher. Those seated in the first couple of rows should probably be fitted with aprons. Or shields.
Brown, a Southern polymath with a pilot’s license, a gun license and a host of vocations, has always been a welcome presence in food television. His persona is part nerd and part gentleman, part mastermind and part bro. He is a know-it-all who just might know it all, and if some of his material isn’t precisely gourmet, he has the smarts and the delivery to put it over.
His current show doesn’t have much in the way of a governing structure or theme. It’s a chance for him to “spend 2 1/2 hours doing stuff no one will let me do on TV,” he says. This translates to an evening of culinary science, Dad rock jams, flatulent puppets and a Twitter Q&A. (Q: “What is something you enjoy eating that might surprise people?” A: “Cap’n Crunch.”) While Brown, who cuts a somewhat dapper figure in a collared shirt, V-neck sweater and oddly shiny pants, prowls the stage, a large screen hovers above him, magnifying every move for those in the cheap seats.
Yes, the show is wildly indulgent. It is also a hoot. On the night before Thanksgiving, when most people should have been home making pies (or was that just me?), the superfan-filled Broadway audience devoured it, even a novelty song about turkey-brining. If Brown could move through the material faster, he could offer more of the gonzo experiments and lightly barbed interactions he excels at. His work with audience volunteers is dexterous and mischievous, mean without ever being exactly cruel. Unless you are a 10-year-old who announces you don’t like the bacon your dad cooks. “One day your dad is going to die, but bacon will always be there for you,” Brown counseled. Evilicious.
“Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science” continues through Sunday at the Barrymore Theater, 243 W. 47th St., Manhattan; 212-239-6200, altonbrowntour.com. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.