What Alton Brown Credits For His (And The Food Network's) Success

If you were born between the years 1965 and 1980, you probably know the autonomous Gen X lifestyle. It was the first generation that both parents worked full time. The genesis of pizza delivery and other fast food surpassed home cooked meals. But, it wasn't that this generation of parents didn't cook for their families; It just wasn't as on the regular as the previous "Leave it to Beaver" era. Still, it was likely that you learned your way around the microwave well before you could reach the rotary dial phone hanging on the kitchen wall.

Although Alton Brown was born in 1962, he saw the writing on the wall for his adjacent generation and those to follow when launching his Food Network show "Good Eats" in 1999. He said on "Larry King Now" that the show was different in the way it assumed an intelligent audience with a mission to entertain. The show's studio even had a sign above the door that read "laughing brains are more absorbent."

Fun fact: Brown took this mission to heart way before his Food Network debut. It's how he got dates. He told King that if he offered to cook for a girl, she was curious enough to accept the date. On another note, when King asked him about how people learn to cook, Brown had a thing or two to say about it — including the evolution of cooking shows.

The key to Alton Brown's success

"Are people born cooks?" King asked Brown on "Larry King Now." And Brown replied, "It certainly helps to have an innate sense of it ... If you were to learn from your mom ... really absorb that knowledge that she had, I think that is literally genetic." However, Brown also said he believes he can teach the skills of cooking. He describes "being able to taste food, and then being able to put the food together in a way that is pleasing to other people" as key ingredients for a good cook.

As cooking skills getting passed down through generations becomes a thing of the past, it's why Brown says he even has a job — and why Food Network exists. "We, at least for my generation, lost that connectivity, that generational connectivity, because all of our parents worked. So, no one taught us how to cook," he explained.

That waning of generational connectivity essentially wrote his career's script of audience engagement. "If I happened to infect you with some knowledge along the way, then great. But, I never lost sight of the fact that the first job was to entertain for half an hour," he noted. He recognizes that the path to becoming a great cook has shifted and is paved by influence, which could explain why followers flock to social media for the latest cooking trends like Brown's method for grilling steaks.