During his cross-country quest to find American road food for his new Food Network documentary series, he ran out of gas in western Colorado and was stranded for several hours.
"I ate crickets," says Brown, who travels by a BMW 1200 motorcycle for the limited series "Feasting on Asphalt." "I caught crickets and I cooked them and I ate them. They tasted kind of like barbequed peanuts, pretty good once you get past the legs. You really need to pull off the back legs before you eat them, I think, because they get stuck in the teeth."
Thankfully Brown feasted on other things, too, as he traveled from Savannah, Ga., to the California coast for the four-part series that will air Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET through Aug. 19.
"I wanted to spend a month on a motorcycle finding what's left of real American food, to tell the stories of the people who are still out there doing it," says Brown, who regularly hosts the Food Network show "Good Eats."
His biggest discovery? "The big shock is that there are still a lot of Americans out there that are friendly and more than happy to invite you into their homes and cook things for you," he says.
In a small town in South Carolina, Brown learned specifically about the power of food, the connection it forges between people — especially strangers.
"We were trying to find a place to spend the night and we found this little motel that was being run by a young Indian couple," he says. "The wife invited me back and gave me a lesson on cooking a curry. I didn't even know at the time (but) a true authentic curry is always a spiced yogurt soup thickened with chick-pea flower. She gave me a lesson in curry making, she poured it into coffee cups and we drank it. Not only was it one of the top 10 things I've ever eaten — ever — but the level of hospitality that it was served with was just stunning."
Brown, 44, who was a cameraman and commercial director before becoming a TV chef, says one of the best parts of the trip was stumbling upon cities he never even knew existed.
"There is a South Park, Colo.," he says. "I never knew that. I thought South Park existed only in a cartoon world. But there actually is and it's extraordinarily beautiful."
Brown says that he and his crew discovered at least three new things a day on their travels.
One of the worst parts of his trip may have been when he ate gravel.
"I was thrown from my bike about 20 miles outside of Las Vegas on a gravel path," he says. "I was on a relatively large German sport-touring bike and we'd been riding for about eight hours, everybody was dog tired. I got down into a little ditch and tried to gun myself out of it and things went down hill … I broke my collar bone and busted up some ribs."
The foodie had to wear a sling after the accident but kept on going, even though he had to ride in a car for the rest of the trip.
"But the bike's OK," he says. "Just a few thousand dollars worth of damage but, you know, don't drop motorcycles if you don't have to. They don't bounce."
By Amy Bonawitz