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updated 11/9/2010 11:23:56 AM ET 2010-11-09T16:23:56

Brooklynite Adam Richman has traveled around the country meeting chefs and trying different restaurants as star of the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food,” often consuming huge portions. He’s just written a book on American culinary history, “America the Edible.” He spoke to TODAYshow.com about what he sees as the best and worst food trends, how he handles heartburn, and more.

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Q: Places like New York and San Francisco are known for their culinary offerings. What city do you think is the best-kept foodie secret?

A: I don’t really think it’s a secret necessarily, but Cleveland is a really great hidden gem. It has gotten a bad rap because of its history — going into default, the [Cuyahoga] River fire, bad sports teams — but it is the heartland, it’s near great farmland, there’s the historic West Side Market, and you get more bang for your buck there. Some of the best culinary minds, like Michael Symon [of “Cook Like an Iron Chef”], get inspiration there. Cleveland is a special place that often gets overlooked.

Story: ‘Man v. Food’ star Adam Richman: How to eat in Brooklyn

Q: Looking back at American culinary trends, is there anything that you find particularly surprising or interesting?

A: Actually, something that’s happening right now. If you had asked me 10 years ago, I never thought there would be a move to artisanal, small-batch goods. Now you can get artisanal everything — pickles, coffees, house-cured meats, mustard. The pendulum has swung back to this kind of food, and it gives me the greatest hope for the future, especially because we’re living in a time with issues like polluted Gulf Coast seafood and food labeled organic that may not really be organic.

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Q: What’s the most played-out trend?

A: Gourmet high-end burgers! These $40 burgers with foie gras and truffles and all of that flies in the face of one of the most proletarian foods around. It’s overpriced, overdone and just not worth it. Also, the whole molecular gastronomy thing that places ... in Chicago and [chefs like WD-50’s] Wylie Dufresne are doing. It’s pretty, and it’s deeply clever, but I just don’t know that it’s filling. I’m not going to pay $200 for some foam; if I’m going to spend that much, I want to know I’ve eaten well.

Q: With all those huge portions you eat so quickly, how do you deal with heartburn?

A: It’s all about being proactive before a challenge. Everyone thinks I’m just shilling Zantac, but it’s really what I use — I used to use it even before they paid me for it. I drink lots of water beforehand, especially if I’m eating something spicy or caustic. I also limit coffee, soda and anything abrasive.

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Q: What’s been your toughest challenge?

A: Hot wings in Sarasota — it was the only spicy challenge that I ever lost.

Richman forfeited the Fire in Your Hole Wings challenge at Munchies 420 Café in Sarasota, Fla., saying that the wings were “made with a sauce straight from hell.”

Q: What would you have for your death-row meal?

A: That’s a tough one … I think I would ask for a buffet so that I could keep going back while I hope for an appeal.

Q: That’s a copout. We need details.

A: Well, it would be a really delicious buffet … I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Video: Man v. American cuisine

  1. Transcript of: Man v. American cuisine

    AL ROKER reporting: Regional cuisine is often thought of as the heart and soul of a city. But when you're not a local, finding the best food can be a real challenge. Adam Richman is the host of the Travel Channel 's "Man v. Food ." In his new book " America the Edible " he spills the beans on how you, too, can be a savvy food traveler. Adam , it is good to see you.

    Mr. ADAM RICHMAN ("Man v. Food"): It's an honor to meet you.

    ROKER: Hey, you know, so you travel all around. If you can distill it down -- I mean, you've got some tips for us. But what's the one thing you've learned that kind of has held you in good stead in traveling across the country when it comes to food?

    Mr. RICHMAN: I think if there's one main rule, it's always go outside your comfort zone .

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. RICHMAN: And I think, sure, travel, you know, in and of itself takes you outside of your comfort zone . But it's very easy to fall into the same patterns. So I think that go to the, you know, the sort of ethnic neighborhoods, the Chinatowns , the Little Italys , the Latin Quarters .

    ROKER: It's the places you don't go when you're home.

    Mr. RICHMAN: When you're home. Exactly right.

    ROKER: Because you're traveling.

    Mr. RICHMAN: Constantly, exactly right. And I think even, like, just talking to locals you wouldn't ordinarily talk to...

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. RICHMAN: ...I think is also something that's wonderful.

    ROKER: All right, let's get started. You say use social media. You got it, you're on Facebook , you're twittering, why not use those?

    Mr. RICHMAN: Exactly. Especially if there's a city where there's a tremendous university population or it's really, like, forward-thinking, very tech savvy population.

    ROKER: Hm.

    Mr. RICHMAN: You know that there's going to be a lot of people holding forth on their favorite bars, restaurants.

    ROKER: Hm. And to expand off of that, you say also to talk to the locals. But you got to pick the right locals.

    Mr. RICHMAN: Exactly right. Because if you go to the hotel concierge and they tell you a place, they've told every hotel guest that since the dawn of time.

    ROKER: Sure.

    Mr. RICHMAN: And sometimes, not in all cases, there's a little bit of a reciprocal relationship that a hotel has with certain restaurants.

    ROKER: Somebody's palm is getting greased.

    Mr. RICHMAN: Yeah.

    ROKER: Yeah.

    Mr. RICHMAN: I mean, I'm from Brooklyn , you know, I know how one hand washes the other.

    ROKER: We know the deal. I know a guy.

    Mr. RICHMAN: I know a guy who knows a guy who'll get you a pizza. Exactly. So the thing is it's, you know, talk to the people that are the salt of the earth and the real lifeblood of the city.

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. RICHMAN: Talk to the municipal parking lot attendants, talk to the bellhops.

    ROKER: If you're in a hotel, I was going to say, talk to the bellhop or one of the maids or the porters.

    Mr. RICHMAN: Exactly right because those are the people for whom, like in Maryland , a crab cake is not a regional dish, it's a taste of home.

    ROKER: Sure.

    Mr. RICHMAN: And they're probably used to mom's kitchen.

    ROKER: You say also the farmers market, check those out.

    Mr. RICHMAN: Absolutely. Well, yeah. Because the thing is, first of all, it's going to be local produce, local livestock. But more often than not, the good chefs are going to shop from them. So you see...

    ROKER: In fact, you found one of my favorites in Cleveland .

    Mr. RICHMAN: Love it, West Side Market .

    ROKER: Oh, it's the best.

    Mr. RICHMAN: Incredible.

    ROKER: We've done live from there. It is so unbelievable. I'm...

    Mr. RICHMAN: It's like "Fantasia."

    ROKER: It's the food fantasia.

    Mr. RICHMAN: It is, exactly. That's the Disney movie I want to see.

    ROKER: They -- actually, they do train the mice to pull things out. It's fantastic. Now, you also talked about going outside of your comfort zone . But...

    Mr. RICHMAN: Absolutely.

    ROKER: But, you know, is it important to have a strong sense of adventure?

    Mr. RICHMAN: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I think talking that walk on the wild side -- I mean, obviously I encourage everyone to be safe and make smart and savvy choices...

    ROKER: Sure.

    Mr. RICHMAN: ...when you're in a new city, a new environment. But you have to pretend that you are an explorer. I really do think that there is an element of, you know, being like a culinary conquistador that you have to embrace because if you keep eating, you know, variations on the same stuff you always eat, you never broaden your horizons. And who knows, there could be that one condiment, that one ingredient that blows your mind. And even if it just is an ingredient in your new meat loaf...

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. RICHMAN: ...it's going to be amazing.

    ROKER: And the fact is you can actually travel in your own hometown by going outside of your comfort zone .

    Mr. RICHMAN: Absolutely.

    ROKER: It could be right under your own nose.

    Mr. RICHMAN: Absolutely. I do it in Brooklyn . I mean, I'm a Brooklyn boy born and bred, you know, from birth to earth. And, you know, whether it's going to the Red Hook Ball Fields and seeing the amazing variety of foods there, going to Sunset Park and having an authentic Chinese experience, Bensonhurst and having phenomenal Italian food , it's really just about embracing the other.

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. RICHMAN: And taking a risk.

    ROKER: Adam , thank you so much .

    Mr. RICHMAN: The honor is, as I said.

    ROKER: Again, it's a great book. The book, " America the Edible ." Good to see you, pal.

    Mr. RICHMAN: Thank you. Congratulations on the marathon.

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