Alton Brown has hit an all-time high—on and off the screen.
Sitting down with PEOPLE for the most recent issue, the Food Network star swings a vintage saber and cleanly cuts the neck off a bottle of sparkling rosé out the back door of his Marietta, Ga. loft and pours himself a glass.
“I’m just too lazy to do it the other way,” he says of his unconventional uncorking method, the subject of one of his most popular YouTube videos (with more than 3 million views). It’s the kind of impressively nerdy skill that fans of Brown and his show Good Eats have come to expect—and demand.
In August, Brown, who has been a fixture on the Food Network since 1999, brought back Good Eats: The Return—combining his trademark mix of history, cooking, campy costumes and pop-culture laced puns—for its first new season since 2012.
“I always planned on doing the show again,” he says—but he knew he needed to find the time and the inspiration to start. “It’s not a true artistic endeavor unless I do it for me—and if somebody watches, great. This is now for me.”
For much more on Alton Brown, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
He’s not just enjoying a new-found confidence in his professional life though, but also his personal one.
In 2015, after 21 years of marriage, Brown split from his second wife, DeAnna Brown. Part of starting over meant finding a new home. He bought a three-bedroom industrial loft two miles from where he films and in 2017 hired interior designer Elizabeth Ingram to make over the space.
Although Brown is an often-recognized celebrity in the area, Ingram, 53, had “no idea” who he was when they met. “She thought that I was the guy from Molton Brown soap,” says Brown. “I slowly turned every meeting we had into a date.” A month before renovations were finished, they were engaged; they wed last fall and now live in the apartment with their dogs Scabigail and Francis.
Ingram’s “hippy-vibe” has had a calming effect on him, he says. “I was like an old creaky ship when I met her,” says Brown, who used to describe his personality as “evilicious.”
“Living with someone who’s a creative, changes things because it changes the nature of what you can share and what you can expect people to understand,” he says. “I think having somebody you can talk to, which I haven’t always had in my life, is a big deal.”
Watch a Clip from Alton Brown’s Good Eats: The Return
Brown isn’t the only one who has noticed the softening of his hard edges. “I’ve been amazed at how many people who have known him a very long time have told me that he seems really happy and relaxed now,” Ingram says. “There’s something very sweet and humble about him—right underneath the snark.”
“There have been times where I’ve worked to avoid the rest of my life. I don’t do that anymore,” adds Brown. “Before, I was only worth whatever I was working on at any given moment in time. Now I think I like me better.”
Good Eats: The Return airs Sundays at 10/9c and 10:30/9:30c on Food Network.
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