The much-loved competitive eating show, Man Vs Food, has returned to The Travel Channel this summer for a brand new series. All the familiar nuggets of foodie joy are there – comforting, deep fried carbohydrates; towers of tender, sticky brisket; super-human levels of spice and, most probably, a hefty supply of napkins. However, there’s one element of the fifth, current series, that hasn’t gone down well with MVF fans. That being, the new host of Man vs Food IS NOT THE HOST OF MAN VS FOOD. The gig, of course, previously belonged to food fanatic Adam Richman who has eaten his way through the very best dishes of America during the past nine years.
Not only has he tackled the toughest eating challenges in pretty much every state in the U.S, but he’s also tracked down the world’s hidden foodie hotspots and he’s got halfway to hunting down the best sandwich in America. Safe to say, this man likes his food. However, interview after interview, the attention of the reader is drawn not to the countless cuisines he’s tasted, but to the way he looks. Or, more specifically; “why isn’t he morbidly obese?” *sigh*. Now that Adam has turned his hand to the actual creation of deliciousness for us ALL to enjoy, as an ambassador and taste developer for meat sauce brand, Meat Lust; there’s even more reasons for us NOT to ask about his sodding weight and to focus on the stuff we can actually eat instead.
“Part of the beauty of my job is that I am constantly exposed to new flavours and new things,” he tells me, “I love certain sauces and certain ingredients but I also love how flavour can be intensified depending on how recipes are executed.” The Brooklyn native is more hands-on recipe wise than he has ever been before in his new role as meat sauce connoisseur. But don’t be fooled – despite what you might think, a stonking plate of pork belly isn’t necessarily what he’s serving up himself. “I’m an omnivore,” he informs me, “I like eating meat, but I like eating vegetables and fish as well. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have a preference.” Adam’s varied platter of food stuffs surprises me somewhat, given that he spends most of his time on the telly with a face full of BBQ ribs.
“That’s like assuming that Paddy McGuinness walks around trying to set people up all day, or that Keith Lemon is always making breast jokes at Holly Willoughby.” The tired tone in Adam’s voice gives me the impression that he’s getting kinda fed up of being asked about the content of his diet and presuming (wrongly) that he won’t go near anything unless it’s deep fried. The most popular Google searches featuring Adam’s name contain the words, “health” and “diet” – why are we all so bothered?!
Annoyingly, Adam did actually embark in a “SHRED 30 KG IN TEN MONTHS” type diet in preparation for his appearance in charity football match, Soccer Aid, last year. Not that this compromised any of Adam’s appetite when it came to, “fine food, cooked by good people. “Off-set, I’m not doing that everyday,” he says, “when I was dieting and exercising leading up to soccer aid, I was still filming my show. I was eating at places where there was unbelievable comfort food and enjoying everything that I tasted on camera, but not off camera.” Now that Adam’s diet regime is over – and thank god for that – he’s returned to appreciating the unique experiences that exist alongside a plate of great tasting food, which he tells me is what his latest show, “Man Finds Food” is all about.
“YOU GOTTA TRY EVERYTHING, WHEREVER YOU ARE”
“If you’re in Memphis, you gotta try fried chicken; if you’re in Brooklyn, get Pizza from the counter. You gotta try everything wherever you are, from Manchester to Massachusetts.” Adam’s words ring pretty true to me, given that up until about a year ago, the decision of what to eat was solely based on whether my brain deemed it “healthy” or not. Only recently have I wholeheartedly begun to base my decisions on a whole host of co-existing factors again. No longer am I bound by the claustrophobic vision of an eating disorder. The ability to order a traditional Umbrian pizza – complete with two types of cheese – in rural Italy; or experience the In & Out burger drive through in Los Angeles – or even buy a box of popcorn at the cinema; are all precious privileges that I will never again take for granted.
Growing up in Brooklyn as a theatre school kid, Adam had plenty of time to get to know the Brooklyn foodie scene and holds, “food that reminds me of childhood” very close to his heart. Of course, “mum’s chicken soup”, among other family favourites, played a pretty major role – and still continues to do so. “I’m constantly impressed by my mum’s cooking. The way she’s always incorporating new flavours and ingredients to make something incredible – she’s a brilliant woman. We all do it – we attach a lot of value to what we eat,” he adds.
If anyone’s aware of the passion that arises from food discussions, it’s me. All it takes is one Instagram post that nods to our appreciation for a good hunk of steak for the #veganbrigade to wish a plague on both our houses. But according to Adam, it’s not just grounds of health or ethics that get the foodie fighters going. “I thought I had gotten some hate in my life, like when Tottenham win, for instance,” he tells me, “but when I did that sandwich contest in America and selected one over another city’s sandwich – I experienced language and sentiment that made me literally drop my jaw.
“People wanted death, disease and disaster to befall me because I didn’t pick their city’s sandwich. It was truly truly shocking.” Obviously, the only way I could think to react to Adam’s story was to immediately demand that he give me the information as to the whereabouts of this dreamboat sandwich. He couldn’t remember the specifics, but I’m guessing that pastrami was involved. Whilst we were on the subject of “bad sentiment”, I wondered if he’s ever experienced the wrath of the clean eating Instagram warriors – spouting carbohydrate hatred with their Matcha breath. Whilst Adam tells me that he’s (thankfully) been spared the burger-bashing, he’s aware that such a judgemental community exists. Having documented most of his dieting days on Instagram, I’d have expected Adam to have dropped the #cleanliving hashtag at least once. Although, despite the presenter’s “health” kick, he’s still – and will always be – about good, tasty (usually fried) food. “To judge anyone who wants to eat pizza, brisket, burgers – whatever it is,” he says, “just because for me, at that moment, I can’t eat it within my lifestyle, it has no bearing on the fact that that food is wholesome, good and made by good people. If they’re not hurting you – then it’s NONE of your business.”
“UNLESS THEY’RE ARE A MEDIC, IT’S NOT THE RIGHT
APPROACH FOR YOU”
“Unless you are a parent or a medical professional,” he says, “no one is going to provide the right approach for you. Genetics play a massive role, individual lifestyle plays a massive role. People are socially influenced by other people, which is profoundly toxic for leading a healthy, sane life.” What about his influences? Is he aware of the western demonisation of gluten, and more importantly – is he jumping on the bandwagon? “A lot of dietary restrictions are, in some cases, for health, but some are done because they’re a’la mode, you know – in fashion. ‘I’m paleo’, ‘I’m Keto’ – whatever. The thing is, whatever you are, you are.” For Adam, it’s not so much the fad diets themselves that he finds irritating, but rather, people’s tendency to tell everyone and their fucking mother about their preferred dinner.
“If I see someone turning up to a church,” he says, “I’m not going to be like.. hey hey I’m jewish! If you wanna eat vegetables, then that’s your choice, if I wanna eat a plate of chips then that’s my choice. Choose the choice you want.” Obviously, I find myself punching the air in passionate agreement with Adam’s food philosophy, and then; just to solidify my respect for him, I ask what he thinks of sweet potato brownies.
“I didn’t even know a thing existed.”
Can we have a round of applause, please?