The Truth About Bon Appetit's Brad Leone

If you've ever been captivated by the idea of fermentation and doing things like cultivating your own scoby or making your own kimchi, chances are you've heard of Brad Leone, Test Kitchen Manager for Bon Appetit, who also moonlights as the host of It's Alive with Brad. The series that follows Leone around the kitchen as he makes fermented food and drinks, and its unlike any other YouTube cooking show you might have seen. It's full of spills (dropping kombucha); thrills (will the fermentation work this time?); and chills (Brad has spent time in a walk in fridge); in fact, there are few dishes with an element of fermentation that Brad hasn't tried to make on Bon Appetit's YouTube channel – from churned cultured butter, and fermented garlic, to brewed beer.

Brad Leone has always enjoyed cooking. When he decided to move to New York to go to cooking school, he also landed an internship with Bon Appetit. "It was sort of a glorified dishwashing job—I was the test kitchen assistant, so I did all the shopping, all the cleaning and certainly all the dishes. After that, they offered me that position and, of course, I took it. My plan was just to get in and work my way up," Leone tells Imbibe Magazine.

Brad Leone wears two hats at Bon Appetit

As test kitchen manager, Leone does kitchen-management stuff like ordering supplies, cleaning, shopping and sourcing ingredients, as well as budgeting. The other part of his job involves hosting Its Alive with Brad, which Leone says he didn't plan to do. Leone says: "A few years ago, Bon Appétit didn't really have a big YouTube presence, and the videos that we did weren't very personality-driven—just hands-and-pans kind of stuff. I guess they wanted to gear away from that, so they trained us how to act on camera, and everyone did little test videos" (via Imbibe Magazine). It took a while before Leone's tape finally saw the light of day, and when Bon Appetit's senior management decided to give Leone's show a shot, it picked up a cult following and today- It's Alive has more than 50 shows behind it. 

But Leone admits the show remains a lean and mean: "It's a three person team: Vinny (camera guy/producer), Matt H. (main editor) and myself. It's a fun, unscripted show about kitchen fermentation experiments and out-of-the-kitchen food adventures. It's great. Just watch it. We have fun. We usually show a dog. Good clean education entertainment," he tells Wayward.

Brad Leone has taken the show on the road

Leone's appeal lies in the fact that, like all of us, he can make mistakes. "I wanted to make a Lambrusco, so I took some wild concord grapes and juiced them. Mashed them up nice, the old school way. In the secondary fermentation, it was in a capped bottle for a couple days, and it looked like it was flat. I wanted to see what was going on, and I don't think I chilled it. The whole glass bottle blew up the second I touched the top," he tells Bon Appetit. "I couldn't even find pieces of the bottle. It just disintegrated. Sounded like a 12-gauge went off in the test kitchen. I could have lost my entire face, and that's the money maker, so yeah, pretty scary."

Brad Leone has big plans for the show. He's taken it on the road and turned it into a travel show because, as he puts it: "I'm also a big fan of exploring where food comes from and the stories behind it. I mean, people will order Thai takeout with that umami fish-sauce flavor we love, but they don't know where it comes from. A lot of foods and flavor profiles come from fermentation. There are generations worth of information and hard work, and being able to tell those stories of the people behind them is really important to me" (via Imbibe Magazine).