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May 14, 2020

Cookin' in the Quitchen

Alton Brown and his wife are making the best of their new situation in Quarantine Quitchen.

Paula Hendrickson
  • Alton Brown and Elizabeth Ingram

    Alton Brown and Elizabeth Ingram of Quarantine Quitchen

  • Alton Brown and Elizabeth Ingram

    Alton Brown and Elizabeth Ingram of Quarantine Quitchen

  • YouTube

With much of the world hunkering down at home thanks to a pesky pandemic, people are seeking new ways to entertain themselves.

On March 17, Food Network's Alton Brown decided to livestream he and his wife, Elizabeth Ingram, making dinner.

"A couple of cocktails had been enjoyed, and we were getting ready to cook dinner," Brown says. "I thought, 'Hey, why don't we share this with whoever happens to show up?'"

"He literally turned on the camera while we were cooking and said 'We're live,' Ingram adds. "If not for the quarantine, we would never have bothered to do this."

"I hit the YouTube Live button, so she didn't really have a choice," Brown chuckles. "Luckily she was a super good sport about it."

Fan reaction to what was initially dubbed The Browns Make Dinner, was so positive that the couple decided to make it a weekly event. Now under the name Quarantine Quitchen, livestreams begin each Tuesday at 7:00pm Eastern on YouTube.

Quarantine Quitchen is in many ways the antithesis of Brown's meticulously researched, scripted, and executed cooking series, Good Eats. That's one reason viewers say they love it.

"A lot of people like the mistakes. They like when we slip up and cuss. They like when I'm not professional," Brown says. "Our only rule, at first, was that unlike all my other Food Network shows, not only would there be no script, nothing would be planned or premeditated."

Every now and then, they even perform a song.

"So clearly there's a tiny bit of planning," says Ingram, who occasionally peppers the show with tips like cooking and freezing fresh produce when you get it home because it preserves nutrients and buys you more time between grocery runs.

"It's just part of the conversation," says Ingram, a designer who's unaccustomed to being on camera. "We film it mostly at our [kitchen] island, which is typically where are when we entertain. He's cooking and I'm cooking and we're talking.

"I try and pretend that's all we're doing and try to ignore the fact that there are X-many thousands of people on the other end of this little device. I really try to treat it like we just have a couple of friends hanging out on the other side of the island."

Their banter and playful bickering is the heart of Quarantine Quitchen. An intuitive cook who favors healthier foods, Ingram prepares soups, salads, and vegetables—typically without measuring anything—while Brown handles meats and carbs.

"She's a really good cook, but it drives me crazy," Brown says. "She made this cauliflower curry, and I was like, 'This is one of the best things you've ever made. It's got to be written down.' But she's like, 'Yeah, well, I've been making it for years.'"

With viewers are clamoring for the recipe, Brown plans to write every detail down the next time she makes it

"It'll be really close to the same thing the next time you eat it, I promise," Ingram responds.

Brown seldom watches his shows once they're made, but loves playing back Quarantine Quitchen.

"I'm not aware of everything she's doing, and she never knows when I'm mugging to the camera if she's behind me. When we watch, it's like a whole new show for us.

"I've found myself more entertained by watching Quarantine Quitchen than any Good Eats episode—because I know every single thing that happens on Good Eats, nothing happens that I don't put in there—but on Quarantine Quitchen, Elizabeth might be back there rolling her eyes or making a comment I missed."

That playful spontaneity is founded in trust and respect. And viewers have taken notice.

"They love Elizabeth because she taps me down and keeps me in line," Brown says. "She's becoming more popular than I am, which is fine."

Easter weekend, they did a special breakfast edition to coincide with the start of a Good Eats marathon on Science Channel. The marathon, in turn, promoted the season two premiere of Good Eats: Reloaded, which airs Mondays at 9:00pm Eastern on Cooking Channel.

"These are probably the best 13 Good Eats episodes we've ever done, even though they're Reloads," Brown says. "What we've put into the new segments—which is 70 percent of each show—is far more advanced than anything we've done before."

He says the pandemic moved some cable providers to temporarily open up higher-priced tiers to all subscribers, making Cooking Channel available to more people than ever before.

Given how a lot of celebrities are now livestreaming or broadcasting from home, warts and all, Ingram wonders if the pandemic has created a paradigm shift: "Once people have had a taste for this level of intimacy, is it going to go away just because we can go outside again? I'm not sure it will."

Fans have asked if they plan to continue livestreaming once quarantine has been lifted. "We're thinking about it because we're getting to the point where we're really having fun and looking forward to it," Brown says.

"Quarantine Quitchen is the most fun I'm having right now," he adds. "Having Elizabeth there to slap me down when it's needed is a real blast. And it's energized me, creatively. I never thought that would happen in my own kitchen with a telephone."

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