An Interview with Adam Richman
Presenter Adam Richman is sourcing the best restaurants in the USA, hidden in plain sight…
Adam Richman built his reputation as the human hoover behind the addictive series Man Versus Food. Here, his call of duty is to consume large qualities of American cuisine in family-run joints under strict time limits. Crowds flock to his mass eating efforts. His photo is tacked to the ‘winners’ wall in restaurants up and down the United States of America.
Adam has won himself a cult audience in the UK too. Since ending his competitive eating era some six years ago, he’s back with two new shows, Food Fighters and Man Finds Food. Adam reveals that Food Fighters is a celebration of home cooking: “We have home cooks from all walks of life. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, stay at home mums, grandfathers, newlyweds. They all provide their best family recipes and go up against five professional chefs. The chefs don’t know what dish they’re about to make,. The home cooks don’t know which chef they’re about to compete against or where their expertise lies. There’s an element of strategy involved.”
Once again, Adam appeals to the foodie public. Alhough his enthusiasm and charisma as a presenter is enough to draw viewers in. After studying Drama at Yale, and journaling his every restaurant experience since his college years, it seems the man was made for the food entertainment industry. But just why are food-based shows so enduringly popular?
“I just think people want to know more about food”
“Take a show about football or rugby,” Adam explains. “If you don’t like football or rugby you won’t watch it. Or if it’s a show about politics and you’re dissatisfied with the current political climate you won’t watch it. But if you want to sustain life alone you must eat. So there is a universality and a universal appeal to food and to culture.”
What’s more, our approach to food is becoming more refined: “You’re dealing with a day and age where people are more informed eaters, grocery stores are carrying more variety, we have a better understanding of organic and free range produce, and I just think people want to know more about food. We don’t all care about who plays in the Premier League but many of us do like to eat.”
It bottles down to a sense of inclusiveness: “I can watch somebody sky diving and find that fascinating but I can’t just go and do a sky dive – but I can watch someone make a really terrific pasta dish and then I can go and get the ingredients and try it myself that evening,” he explains.
In fact, Adam’s passion for good grub has taken him on a journey across America in his latest programme too. “Man Finds Food is essentially an exploration of delicious and off the beaten path hidden restaurants. We’re about finding places that are local legends, iconic places that had been loved for generations, and places that even the locals don’t know about,” he says.
“I’m extremely partial to my home town of New York City”
But just how does he source restaurants for the show if by definition they’re hidden away? “Some are word of mouth, some are ones I myself have been to and I have a lot of other friends in the restaurant business around the United States so sometimes they’ll tell me about a place. The production team is awesome and sometimes the research comes through their friends too, they’ll find certain places. Some come naturally. For example in Hawaii there’s a bowling alley that serves amazing food; we had gone to profile one foodstuff, only to find they actually had a five course gourmet meal on certain Tuesdays and that wasn’t even initially what we had come to cover. So we had these secrets being revealed on camera.”
Adam encourages Brits to try the plates the States have to offer, though he’s aware that tastes can be subjective: “Cities that I’ve found to have great variety and great food – of course I’m from New York and I’m extremely partial to my home town of New York City – New Orleans has amazing food, then Chicago, Austin and San Francisco are probably my favourite eating cities or at least some of them.”
And Adam’s made time in his UK trip to taste what we have to offer: “I’ve been to some really wonderful restaurants and I had the chance to go to M.Manze in London for pie mash and liquor which was wonderful. I tried terrific stuff in Borough Market – salt beef, fish and chips, and I’ve been to some wonderful establishments in Chinatown. I haven’t been to greasy spoons but I think the grease is in the eye of the beholder.”
‘Man Finds Food’ and ‘Food Fighters’ is on Food Network