Adam Richman is known to most television viewers as the man with the giant appetite in Travel Channel’s hit series “Man vs. Food” and “Man vs. Food Nation.” But what many may not know is that Richman has a long career working in almost every facet of the food business. He is also a world traveler, keeping detailed journals of the greatest foods he finds on his journeys.
Most recently, Richman has become the latest celebrity chef to team up with the folks from Bounty Towels for a food related promotion. This one is in conjunction with the Rose Bowl, where Richman will judge a competition called “Tastiest Tailgate Messes”, with culinary alumni of Rose Bowl participants Stanford and Wisconsin will prepare one of their state’s signature dishes.
We talked in depth with Richman about that competition in Part 1 of our interview. In Part 2, Richman talks about his upcoming book, television products, and tips for the home tailgater.
In addition to your work with The Rose Bowl, you also have a book coming called “Quest for the Best.” Does it have a release date yet?
It’ll be out sometime in 2013. We don’t have a set release date yet, you know how it is with editing, photo clearing, so on and so forth, but we’re shooting for mid-year 2013. “Quest for the Best” is about my journey to find the very best iconic dish that any city is known for. Where can I find the best deep dish in Chicago? Where can I find the best Key Lime pie in Key West? Where can I find the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia? We have chapters on finding the best clam chowder in Boston, the best bagel in Brooklyn, etc.
This was all inspired from my last book “America the Edible” when I tried to find the best lobster roll between Portland and the Lakes Region. And people really copped to this. They really get territorial about this. So we went looking for the best bone-in ribeye in Dallas, the best ribs in Kansas City, I don’t want to give them all away.
What we found was a lot of misconceptions got refuted, like local is always better. But we found that, kind of like this competition in Pasadena, these restaurants are much more than restaurants. If you’re in Philadelphia and I’m Pat’s and I’m Gino’s, that’s a flag planted in the ground, you’re making a statement about who you are.
So I’m always trying to find the best iconic dish. I want the best crabcake in Baltimore. So I’m going to include maps, I’m going to include addresses, and I’m going to include some recipes of my own so you can recreate these things at home.
That segues well into my next question. On “Man vs. Food” of course the sell was the big eating challenges but for a lot of us what was so cool about the show was that you found these little hole in the wall mom and pop shops that had been in people’s family for sometimes 100 years. So for someone going on vacation who wants to find that cool little quirky restaurant, what would your advice be?
Great question. I have a list of them in my book. But I love the fact that people now are breaking out of their comfort zones. I try to go to Hawaii as often as I can and it breaks my heart when I see The Cheesecake Factory is packed and there are some amazing eateries right around the corner for 1/3 of the price.
Here’s what I do. Don’t stick to conventional sources. Speak to the housekeeping staff, the maintenance staff, the parking attendant, not the people everyone does. You want to find people for whom a great crab cake is a taste of home, not an iconic regional delicacy. Also, go to places that don’t have big glitzy signage. If they’re spending a lot of money on a glitzy sign, they’re not putting that money back into the food. Another way I like to go about it is to deliberately leave the touristy areas of a city. If you’re around the museum or the theme park, you aren’t going to find the authentic. Those places are catered to tourists. Go out in the neighborhood. If you’re concerned, just ask a police officer what neighborhood is safe.
What I do, in every city I travel to for “Man vs. Food” or whatever, is hit up 5 places. I go to a coffee roaster, a comic book shop, a book store, a record store, because I collect vinyl records, and like a men’s store. But those places are my passions. I collect coffee, I love coffee. But the people in these places know the cool DJ gig, the cool art gallery, a cool place where a friend works at.
Another thing I do, and I have no kickback from this, just an honest recommendation, is use an app called Locavore, to find out what’s in season. Then a find a local farm that has that kind of produce and I’ll call them up and ask “who do you sell to? Where do you eat at? Who is doing justice to this food?” And it’s been such a path of incredible discovery. People ask “am I allowed to call?” Of course you are! These farmers love that people are taking interest in where their food comes from. So find out who is buying from the local farmers in season. But my biggest piece of advice is carry Purell, carry wet wipes, and write everything down. I have a pretty kick ass food journal, but the amount of places that have slipped away because I didn’t write it down or didn’t take a matchbook or a business card is just tragic.
What television projects do you have coming up?
I’m doing a special for the Super Bowl where I’m trying to find the ultimate fan for each of the teams in the big game and we’ll give them kind of an ultimate fan experience. It’s a little hush hush right now on the details but it’s really going to delve into fan culture, which is something I’m just enamored with. I’ve always loved fans and loved the nature of fandom, of our desire to be something more than ourselves. All the pageantry that surrounds game day.
I also shot a special coming up on Travel Channel called “Trip of a Lifetime” with fellow travel channel hosts Anthony Melchiorri, Bert Kreischer, and Samantha Brown. It’s this epic vacation giveaway. I don’t know how public they’re making that yet but people should be seeing that soon.
Since we started on tailgating, I’ll make that my final question too. As I said before, I’m down here in SEC country where bowl games are huge. What advice would you give for Alabama fans who want to throw a party for the Championship game or some of the other SEC games?
Keep in mind that a grill is a great heat source too. You can put a pan or pot on the grill. You don’t have to just be grilling. You can also be melting cheese, cooking vegetables, toasting things. You can be making a chili or sauce on the side. If you’re careful you can fry things with a little oil in a pan. Always remember plenty of garbage bags for sanitation and please don’t work around a fire source without some sort of extinguisher!
In terms of food tips, if you’re going to serve something plated, have more than enough forks. In terms of handheld foods, one thing that is always cool is to find unconventional ways to serve conventional foods. Like you can go to Staples and buy a stack of drink cones. Then you can make something like Swedish meatballs, even pre-cook them, combine then on the stove with a sauce, then put the meatballs in the cone and stick a toothpick in one. Then they’re portable, they’re biodegradable, you throw it in the trash and you’re done. Don’t let that you just have a grill limit you.
But the inverse is also true. You don’t want to go too far afield. For those Alabama fans, I lived in Montgomery for a year so I know barbecue is king there. So make some great kebabs if you want to do something different. Take some shrimp or some fish like tilapia or salmon fillets and cut them cubes and marinate them in something overnight. I really like Newman’s Own Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing and just stick it in the bag with the fish and let is soak. Take it out, put it on some skewers and while everyone else has barbecue, you have something else.
You can follow Adam Richman’s “Tastiest Tailgate Messes” at The Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day by following him on Bounty’s Facebook or Twitter pages.