As a host of many hit Food Network shows, food expert and TV personality Alton Brown has taken off in many directions – and has even earned his wings as a certified pilot! While circling across America for Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour, a stage show featuring his culinary science antics and quirky humor, Alton shared with us his insights on traveling, food finds and flying.
SHERMANS TRAVEL: How has the experience of flying a plane changed your perspective on air travel?
ALTON BROWN: There is simply nothing like looking out the front of an airplane… out of the cockpit window. It’s a very different view… moving forward. But being a pilot, especially an instrument pilot, working inside the ATC system changes everything because you know how aviation really works. And by the way, in my plane, I leave my phone on during take off.
ST: What would you serve to your passengers?
AB: I’m known for my outstanding shrimp cocktails and spiced nuts.
ST: Airplane food gets a bad rap. What would you do change meal service?
AB: Decent china and cutlery. Plastic utensils and cheap trays make everything taste worse.
ST: What has been your most memorable travel experience?
AB: My most memorable was the first time I flew myself from my home field in Marietta, Georgia to Los Angeles. Americans tend to travel either by car or by airliner, neither of which gives you a real idea of what America – the land – looks like. [Speaking as a pilot], everyone should have an opportunity to see this place from about 5,000 feet off the ground. It’s a stunningly different perspective.
ST: How many days out of the year do you travel for business? What have been some of your favorite food destinations that you’ve visited?
AB: I’m probably in the air a solid 20 days a year; that is a solid 480 hours in-flight. My favorite places are always the unexpected dives, usually near small airports. But I’m not going to name names because I’d really like the undiscovered to stay that way.
ST: What are your must-haves when you travel and why?
AB: Saline nasal spray, because I’m convinced a dry head gets sick quick; noise reduction headsets. In the cockpit they make all the difference in the world — in the cabin, too; water, and lots of it, and my iPad. It runs all the aviation software I use for flight planning and even back-up navigation to on-board instrumentation.
ST: What is your packing style?
AB: Minimal. I hate checking luggage. If I’m heading off to a multi-day shoot, I ship all of my wardrobe ahead, and travel with only what I need for a day or two. And when I fly commercial, I almost always wear a suit.
ST: When traveling, how do you scout out places to eat at?
AB: I walk… a lot.
ST: What tips do you have for finding, well, “good eats”?
AB: Talk to locals and try to research before you go. Word of mouth is still the best way to find a meal.