From ESPN's Eric Angevine: Adam Richman, host of the Travel Channel series "Man v. Food," grew
up in Brooklyn idolizing athletes. In the first two seasons of his
show, he has participated in eating challenges across the United
States, including in college football hotbeds such as Austin, Texas,
and Columbus, Ohio. He has run the food triathlon in Durham, N.C., with
NFL star Dhani Jones as a teammate. And, in an episode that will air
Wednesday, Richman indulges his passion for baseball by visiting three
minor league ballparks that dole out bizarre variations on classic
ballpark food, in true "Man v. Food" style.
Page 2 talked
to Richman about how to eat like a man but still meet women, what a
bacon cheeseburger inside a doughnut tastes like and how he differs
from Paul Newman.
Page 2: The concept of your show is
something that every guy recognizes. It's basically, "I double-dog dare
you to eat that giant hamburger." How did you end up accepting dares
for a living?
Adam Richman: I'm glad you picked
up on that because that's exactly the vibe. It's not like, "Let's roll
out the giant eating machine!" The aplomb with which I approach these
challenges is just like you and your boys on a road trip -- you see
this cool place to eat, you pull over and suddenly you see a sign that
says, "Finish the ______ and everyone in your party gets a T-shirt."
Then your boys start punching you in the arm and saying, "C'mon! You
can totally do it!" And then it becomes this shared story.
always wanted to say this if I got interviewed by ESPN: You just have
to play them one game at a time. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose
and sometimes it rains. I'm just happy to be here, and hope I can help
It's weird; I never did an eating challenge
before the show started. I had a food background and an acting
background, and I found out about the opportunity to host the show
through my agent. I auditioned and ended up with this great job. I
didn't know I could do it; they didn't know I could do it; and, quite
frankly, I still sometimes wonder if I can live through it.
make it clear at the beginning of the show that you are not a
professional competitive eater. How does an ordinary guy prepare for
one of these challenges?
Prayer. Have Zantac, will travel.
is, I eat extraordinarily healthfully when I'm not doing a challenge --
which I think is the biggest component to any success I've had, in
terms of staying alive and staying somewhat appealing to the fairer sex
through Seasons 1 and 2 of "Man v. Food."
really big, and, for the big-quantity challenges -- people think I'm
full of it -- exercise. I do a very heavy leg and back workout, which
gets my metabolism just screaming. It really helps.
Competitive eaters are often pretty lean.
speaking. That's because adipose tissue [body fat] restricts the
expansion of your stomach. That's something I've learned while doing
the show. So you want as little fat on your stomach as possible.
How long does it take to recover?
Depends upon the challenge. It's a different recovery from quantity than it is for spice.
Aside from the eating, you also get to tour American towns large and small. How do you choose your destinations each season?
speaking, the challenges are our point of departure. There's no episode
without a challenge. Once we find a good challenge, we contextualize it
with the other episodes to find out what will make a great season. From
there, these cities have varied options of where else to go, a nice
culinary panoply of things to try. The other stuff comes through due
diligence and research.
I see Springfield, Ill., on
your list of upcoming episodes. How'd that town get slotted in with the
likes of Austin, New York and Honolulu?
challenge in Springfield is one of the oldest in America. I always say
it doesn't matter whether I win or lose, it's all about being part of
the culinary folklore of a city -- and since this is one of the oldest,
it was something I couldn't really pass up. It's also a place that
people don't usually go on vacation, but it's an important part of our
country. It's the boyhood home of one of our most iconic presidents
[Abraham Lincoln]. It has an identity. For better or for worse, to
shine a candle on a place we can take pride in is something we can
The sandwich in Springfield is called "The
Horseshoe," which is just found in south-central Illinois, and I don't
think it's ever been shown on TV before. So the opportunity to showcase
a new food is really cool.
If you're on a real cross-country road trip, you're going to stop in places like that to eat.
That's the thing! It's just on Route 66. The original corndog is from Springfield, and the birthplace is still standing.
of the challenges boil down to a "Cool Hand Luke"-style "eat a lot of
something very fast" or "eat something very hot and somehow manage to
finish it." Which is tougher?
Let me make a
distinction. The "Cool Hand Luke" comparison kind of works, but that
was about eating multiples of something, which is more like competitive
eating. I think "Man v. Food's" sine qua non is one big burger or one
big pizza, one big sandwich. So it's not 50 eggs. I'd have to eat an
I'm telling you right here, they're all
tough. I love my job -- the challenges, the actual experience. But the
actual doing is very difficult. If it were easy, it wouldn't be a
Do you ever get a chance to enjoy the way something tastes?
absolutely I do. Most of these challenges are freakin' ridiculous
because they taste so good. Half of the time when I win on these
big-quantity ones, I'm coasting solely on taste. Even with some of the
spicy ones, it's the taste that actually propels me onward. It's not
like I'm a rapacious eating machine; it's more like, "Damn! I want to
keep eating this cheesesteak! I want another bite!"
headed out to the ballparks in an upcoming episode. You can get the
standard hot dogs and peanuts just about anywhere, so what types of
unique foods are you focusing on?
were lots of variations on a theme. I love minor league ball. My
favorite sports are probably college hoops, college football and minor
league baseball. There are some major league teams I root for -- I'm a
Yankees fan, I'm a Dolphins fan -- but I love minor league baseball. I
always have, I always will. I find it to be truly the love of the game
made manifest. It's very much about the fan, very much about the
experience. Regardless of whether it's a franchise team -- like the West Michigan Whitecaps or the Charleston RiverDogs -- or whether it's an independent Frontier League team like the Gateway Grizzlies. It's athletes who play with all heart.
I find that the food in minor league ballparks is all about
personality, rather than price point, which is so endemic to the major
leagues. I'm a New Yorker, and we have these two teams that tank in the
postseason but just got new stadiums with top restaurateurs. Then you
go to someplace like Charleston, S.C., where they've done something so
brilliant as to give each hot dog stand its own personality
and its own signature dog. It makes each snack bar a destination
instead of just another place to plunk down your credit card and get a
beer or a hot dog in that little foil thing. DayGlo cheese sauce --
It's like, "You can get the Homewrecker dog over
here! The Hickory dog over here! The Carolina dog!" When was the last
time you were at a ballpark and got a hot dog with wasabi, pickled okra
and sweet potato mustard? Or Philly cheesesteak nachos, or a hamburger
between two halves of a Krispy Kreme doughnut? They can do that at a
minor league park, because it's about the experience.
I've heard of celebrities getting body parts insured. Have you considered taking out a policy on your stomach or taste buds?
have health insurance, but nothing crazy like Barbra Streisand insuring
her nose. If anything, I would assume it would be my teeth or my mouth
rather than my gut.
The bottom line is I'm still going to eat even if I'm not doing "Man
v. Food," but not those kinds of portions. That's the great thing --
because we generally shoot a challenge a week, we don't do a bunch in a
row, so I have time to recover. It's actually helped me adhere to my
diet more than I did before. My cheat days are built in, so I'm less
likely to be stupid. Sure, it sucks walking past the pizzeria in
summer, when I'd love to grab a slice. But I know before long I'll be
back on the road with chili, burgers, hot dogs and fries; it's like I'm
perpetually at a sixth-grader's birthday party.
know when I go home I can have vegetables and stuff. And when I'm at my
breaking point and I want to do something naughty, along comes "Man v.
Food" and I can indulge.
important for me to stay in shape. If I start looking really, really
bad, folks will start to worry, and they won't enjoy the show. Plus, I
want to have sex! So that motivates me.
Any plans to take the show outside of the U.S. in the future, or is sport eating more of an American phenomenon?
not just an American thing. There are no concrete plans to do that yet,
but we've uncovered a plethora of international eating challenges.
You've got Australia, Japan, Germany, Polynesia, China -- there's quite
a lot of them! There are cultures that extol these competitions.
There's been ample talk and investigation, but we're still trying to
figure out how it will work within the context of a season. I feel the
sheer expense and effort of putting together an international episode
is so huge that, for a half-hour show, we'd have to film multiple
episodes on one trip. Hope springs eternal for Season 3! My passport's
valid. I'm ready to go.
Given that we're in a
recession, your show seems perfect for someone who wants to discover
America on a budget. Is this a really affordable way to have a good
Absolutely, and I'm proud that on my show we're
not going to Guam or the French Riviera or Monaco or Trieste [Italy].
We're going to Pittsburgh or Springfield. These are the destinations
that don't require a travel agent or a reservation. They require
putting the car in drive and stepping on the accelerator. A family of
four can go to a place that's in their own backyard, and have meals
that are unique and special and made with love and tradition. They can
read the menu and speak to the waitress but still be in a place that's
different from home. It's too great of a gift to look away. As someone
who has worked in these types of restaurants and comes from
working-class roots in Brooklyn, I love that we're bringing an audience
to these mom-and-pop places and building a sense of national pride at a
time when that pride may be wanting. It's the best feeling in the world.