The Marvel Life

The Marvel Life: Baron Ambrosia

The Cooking Channel star talks about taking inspiration from Spider-Man, the origins of his own adventures and more!

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Photos courtesy of Cooking Channel

By James Viscardi

Baron Ambrosia: a film maker, an explorer, a purveyor of good eats and, most importantly, a super hero.

Baron Ambrosia (courtesy of Cooking Channel)

He may not go toe to toe with the likes of Galactus, but with foes like Grandmaster Mele Mel and Badaxster, the Baron must rely on the delicacies of local establishments to provide him with the strength he needs to save those towns. On his Cooking Channel show, “The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia,” Baron finds himself tangled in stories of mystery, comedy, intrigue and games of crab roulette with John Waters!
Marvel.com caught up with the Explorers Club member to chat about how he got into comics, where the idea of “The Baron” came from and more.

Marvel.com: Everyone has a great “getting into comics” story, what’s yours?

Baron Ambrosia: I started off with classic CONAN THE BARBARIAN and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comics, which lead to a life of collecting. My fascination with comics was almost immediate, so much so that every Sunday we’d go to a flea market where I’d spend hours flipping through the comics for sale. Whenever we went on car rides I would have a bag of comics in the back with me and you wouldn’t hear a peep. Some other parents would ask “What’s he reading for the summer?” and my mother would reply “Comic books,” and they would advise her against it. In first or second grade during a parent-teacher conference my teacher asked my parents what I was reading because I had the best vocabulary they’d ever seen. I was using words like stealthy, mundane, blistering, excelsior—they didn’t understand where I was learning them at this age.

Spider-Man

Marvel.com:  Do you remember your first comic?

Baron Ambrosia: My first comic was definitely a CONAN THE BARBARIAN issue. My father had a few from when he was a kid about Westerns but my first one I had received in the mail from my grandfather. I wish I knew the number off the top of my head. Marvel was definitely my universe though.

Marvel.com: Speaking of the Marvel Universe, what was your first introduction to super heroes?

Baron Ambrosia: It was definitely Spider-Man and that was when I first started buying back issues. I have some tattered old issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN before issue #100; I have about up to #350. I also made sure to grab every [SPECTACULAR SPIDR-MAN] and every WEB OF SPIDER-MAN, too

Marvel.com: Now, every good hero has an equally impressive villain. With someone like Spider-Man though, he’s got one of the most recognizable rogue’s gallery in the biz—any of those stick out as favorites?

Baron Ambrosia: I love every villain from Hammerhead to Mysterio. I really dug other Marvel Universe villains too; the ones that weren’t really Spider-Man villains but they popped up in his book every now and again. But I mean, when you have a villain doing crazy things like Doctor Octopus marrying Aunt May you can’t go wrong! Finding issues like that would cause me to drool.

Marvel.com: So right now, Spider-Man is pulling double duty as solo hero, and a member of the Avengers who are currently locked in battle with the X-Men. Were you ever much of an X-Men fan growing up?

Avengers Vs. X-Men

Baron Ambrosia: I was never really into the teams because it always ended up so elaborate. I am enjoying Avengers Vs. X-Men though because to me it’s reminiscent of Secret Wars. It’s fun once in a while to get everyone together to do something really big. But man, Spidey needs to get his act together. He’s just looking at the whole thing and saying “Oh, what a mess.” I feel like the Wolverine fans love this with all the action he’s getting. [Laughs]

Marvel.com:  So it seems like solo heroes are the books you gravitate towards more, right?

Baron Ambrosia: Yeah, because even in my own life if I’m going out, I’m going out as a one man army. Just like The Punisher. I mean it’s good to have a team and function as a unit but you need to be able to take things on your own as well.

Marvel.com:  So let’s shift a bit to your show, “The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia.” Where did the idea for show come from?

Baron Ambrosia: Well it all started from an underground film we did, based on G.I. Joe villains, exploring dark underground science fiction stuff for a number of years. I love science fiction, G.I. Joe and the sense of adventure that you get from single issues of classic comics. They were stories that were very colorful, dark and outrageous at times. So after that, I went to school for film and I did a mini documentary about this condiment producing insect in Vietnam. It was an awesome experience, but when editing was though, it felt very dry. I felt that I was pushing the envelope with the other things we were doing and I wanted to bring the two together. I love research and adore the hunt, so I was thinking it would be more interesting to tell this true story with kind of a fictional flair. We took our film styles, went out, found good information, travelled all over and then wrapped it up in kind of a fictional setting. So the information you’re getting is true but you’re getting it in this wonderful fiery package.

Baron Ambrosia (courtesy of Cooking Channel)

Then a few of my friends said that I should host a show about myself since I was always dressed really colorfully in these suits and have that purple car. I thought that was a little self-celebratory. Like “Hey, I’m Justin. This is what I do,” so I thought instead, what if I created this character based off of my real life but a character we could have a bit more fun with. Make up a fictional history and throw some villains his way, very much like a super hero. The great part about Spider-Man was the unpredictability of those stories. Was another clone going to show up? Would it be Gwen Stacy? We have that kind of thing in this universe too, like you never know when Burgermeister is going to return from the dead for the third time. You have this rogue’s gallery when you’re working in a world of fiction that you can constantly summon on these story elements and bring them in and make something as simple as tacos in Oakland, California more interesting.

Marvel.com:  So then, how did you get into food?

Baron Ambrosia: We wanted to do documentaries about food and I wanted to travel around to experience the elements of food as an explorer and as a researcher. Food was always one of my passions. This was the best way to take this idea and make it the star of what we were doing. Unlike Indiana Jones where he’s chasing after these artifacts, our artifacts are cuisine. The cool thing is these treasures are accessible to our viewers. So the difference between a movie and our show is that after [watching] Indiana Jones you may not be able to go find the Ark but you can sure as hell go find this raw lamb meat in Allentown, PA. You see the Baron’s adventure on the show but it’s just incentive for you to have an adventure of your own. The places we’re celebrating are just average neighborhood places being presented in a cinematic way. I hope it leads our viewers to changing the way they look at their community. These things may seem ordinary and average but they’re not; they’re outrageous, wonderful and delicious.

Tune each week to catch “The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia,” Fridays at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT on Cooking Channel. Be sure to visit CookingChannelTV.com for more information.

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