Most Kitchen Gadgets Are 'Useless Crap,' Says Alton Brown. Here's What You Really Need
The 'Good Eats' host is coming back to TV this fall.
Sorry to break it to you, but most of the gadgets in your kitchen were a complete waste of money.
So says Alton Brown, the master chef and Food Network host who’s returning to TV this fall with a new version of his classic cooking show Good Eats.
Brown is a bit of a perfectionist, so he’s fine-tuning classic episodes and bringing them back after a seven-year break under the name Good Eats: Reloaded. He’s also launching a brand-new season called Return of the Eats next year.
Meanwhile, in between sharing with MONEY the first big thing he ever saved up for (which ultimately broke his heart), he revealed his true feelings about the Instant Pot, the secret to his creative productivity—and the reason why your kitchen is probably full of stuff you don’t need.
Here’s what Brown thinks you should buy instead.
MONEY: What do people spend money on in the kitchen that they don’t need?
ALTON BROWN: Ninety-nine percent of things that people buy in the kitchen they don’t need. The kitchen is the room most full of useless crap.
We buy massive amounts of stuff when what we really ought to save up for are a couple of decent pots and pans and two decent knives. It’s funny, we’ll say, Well, I don’t have $400 to spend on a knife. Well, yeah, but you bought six blenders in the last year and all these other ridiculous tools that don’t do anything for you. We tend to go for the quick fix in the kitchen, which I don’t believe in.
How do you feel about the craze over something like the Instant Pot, which promises to do a little bit of everything?
It depends on what kind of adopter of technology you are. I’m one of those people who adopts very slowly. The Instant Pot does what it says it does, but I’ll look at it and say, I’ve got a pressure cooker and these other tools that I know how to use. Why am I going to learn how to use another thing?
It takes a really long time to convince me to allow that kind of technology into my world. There are people that want to talk to Alexa and there are people that don’t want to talk to Alexa. I don’t want to talk to Alexa because I don’t want Alexa telling me what to do. Ultimately, know-how beats devices.
What’s the latest on the return of Good Eats? Is it coming back this year?
It’s happening as we speak. But I decided before I reboot the series entirely, I wanted to make a few small repairs to older episodes. So I’m actually doing a series called Good Eats: Reloaded that is going to take 13 classic episodes, and I’m going back in and changing the things that I wish I had done differently. Let’s face it, some of those shows are 18 years old, and I look at some of them now and I’m like, Oh crap, I really wish I had done this instead of this. I’m going back and making those repairs. Good Eats: Reloaded will be out in the fall this year and then the new series, Return of the Eats, we’ll completely reboot at the beginning of next year.
Exactly how are you making these repairs? Adding clips from the present day?
No, it’s a lot more complicated than that. We’re doing a huge amount of compositing, green screen work—and I’m not willing to tell you anything other than that. I can’t ever take the easy way out. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Let’s just say if there’s a more complicated way of doing something, that’s how I’m going to do it.
How do you balance so many different demands for your attention?
I don’t. I’m really shitty at it. I don’t mind telling you, I suck at it. It is a constant state of falling. I’m constantly falling down the stairs. And I’m a bad multitasker, so what’ll happen is that I’ll really get a fix on one thing and I’ll grab it, and then all of the other balls will fall to the ground and start bouncing off other cars or down the street or into the river. The people that work with me are all prematurely gray. Most of them have really bad facial tics of some type. It’s bad.
Do you ever have two days in a row that look the same?
Oh, gracious, no. I simply do not possess whatever gene that allows human beings to do that. But every day is a surprise. You know, sometimes there isn’t a system. I would love to tell you, Yes, I have all my projects laid out…no. I don’t know where my wallet is, OK? As I speak to you right now, I seriously don’t know where my wallet is. I don’t know how I live. When I am on one project and get my hands on it and my teeth into it, I’m good. But I live in a whirl of chaos.
That seems to work for you—you’re still producing and constantly creating.
For some people, creativity comes out of structure. This is true of jazz, where only by really understanding the structural theory of the music can you take wild flights of fancy. John Coltrane did what he did because he understood the structure. And then there’s the opposite [kind of person]. If you’ve ever seen a photograph of Francis Bacon’s painting studio, oh my gosh, it looks horrible. But you look at that and say sometimes, as people whirl around, the things they manage to grab and bring to them somehow allow their work to be significant.
I fear above all things being derivative. I believe in originality and creativity above everything else. Some people would rather be good than original. I would rather be original than good. If I can be original and good, great. But I’d rather be original and fail. And I find the only way I can do that is by having a certain amount of whirlwind. Not so much that you don’t get anything done, but you’ve gotta have some. You’ve gotta have some whirlwind.