Adam Richman, one of the more serious of eaters around, is the host of The Travel Channel's hit show Man vs. Food Nation. In each episode he travels to a different city and coaches a local through food challenges, tackling everything from a six-pound barbecue sandwich to a super spicy pizza.
We recently chatted with him over the phone to find out his pre-challenge routine to get warmed up, his favorite spot for mint chocolate chip ice cream, his last bite on earth, and more.
So how did you land such an enviable job, eating for a living? I'd like to think I do more than eat. I had an acting background and a culinary background. I started a regional food journal when I was traveling across the country back in '95. And I was in the right place at the right time.
Do you prepare for a challenge? Or just dive right in? Now I'm really coaching locals through it all. But when I take on a challenge, I prepare fastidiously. I make sure my metabolism and digestion are right where I want them.
We know competitive eater Kobayashi employs a full body wiggle, the "Kobayashi Shake" to help ease food down. Other competitive eaters load up on cabbage to expand their stomachs. Your techniques? I don't put myself anywhere near guys like Joey Chestnut or Kobayashi. I'm not a competitive eater. What I do is a very different animal. Keeping my caloric intake really low, doing cleanses before and after, sprint work, leg and back work all really help.
What was your favorite challenge? Alaska, for sure. It was a big dinner, but there were multiple elements, which made it really interesting.
Would you do it again? (Adam laughs.) No, no, no.
Obviously, Man vs. Food is quite an American concept, but would you ever consider taking it abroad? It's all about the locals that create the food glory associated with a challenge, and we've found challenges in Germany, Japan, Mexico City, everywhere. There are many challenges around the world. I do a lot of traveling on my own. Big travel junkie. I would love to broaden the show's horizons.
As a native New Yorker, which restaurants would you recommend outside of the realm of extreme eating? Essa Bagel on upper Broadway has great old-school bagels. M. Wells is all kinds of awesome. I'm not really a sweets guy, but the Chocolate Room in Brooklyn has this mint chocolate chip ice cream that's a gift from God. It's my favorite dessert on earth. Pastis is good for brunchy stuff. It's always a fun time, and it's great for people-watching. Oh, and Buttermilk Channel in Carroll Gardens. It's so, so good.
So I know you tackled a milkshake challenge in St. Louis. Is Ben&Jerry's Vermonster on the horizon for you? Probably not. I did some ice cream challenges. Some were successful, others not so much. They are so bad for you that I try not to do too many. Plus I'd be afraid it would turn out like the challenge I did in New Orleans where I ate 180 oysters. It might turn me off ice cream.
You are clearly a Serious Eater, but how about cooking? What do you make when you're not tackling these challenges? When I come off the road, I don't do all that much cooking because I'm only home for a day or a day and a half, but I love to cook. I cook for Thanksgiving, at grilling gatherings, and I've had classroom training in how to make sushi, so I love making sushi. It's like edible art.
Last bite on earth? Definitely my mom's spinach pie. There's no crust at all. I don't know where she got the recipe from. When I would come home from college, she would ask if there was anything I wanted other than spinach pie. It's really just out-of-this-world-good.