#TheUnknownHustle: Alton Brown

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Good Eats premiered almost 20 years ago on July 7, 1999. But before Alton Brown became the culinary world’s very own Bill Nye, he started his career behind the camera as a cinematographer.

In an interview with the Television Academy, Brown said that he "barely graduated" from high school and bounced around three different institutions of higher learning before he ended up studying film at the University of Georgia. And when word got out that a much-loved local Athen, Georgia band called R.E.M. was working on a new album, Brown made sure that he would have a shot at working on their next video.

"It was the only time in my life, I think, that I strategically positioned myself somewhere for a job," Brown told the Television Academy. "I had gone to work for the company that I knew R.E.M. liked to use for videos… I thought, 'If I get a job at this company, I can wait and I can get one of these [jobs].' And it happened." Brown served as director of photography on R.E.M's video for "The One I Love." The gig led to jobs at MTV, then work as a commercial director, but Brown was hungry for something more.

In an interview with The Bitter Southerner, Brown, who became interested in cooking in college "specifically to get dates," would watch cooking shows on set, but found them boring. “I had all those years of bad high school to back me up on this,” Alton said. “That if you don't entertain, if you're not engaging, people don't learn shit.” So Brown quit his job, enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute and set out to create a show that combined science, food and humor.

Over the course of its 12-year run on the Food Network, Good Eats scored a Peabody Award, a James Beard Award and commercial success. This month, Brown announced the premiere of his upcoming sequel series Good Eats: The Return coming to the Food Network on August 25.

Brown made a crucial career shift in his 30s to share his creative vision and love of food with others. But Brown says that none of that would have been possible had it not been for his work on R.E.M's video.

"Without that," he told the Television Academy, "my career would not have happened."

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