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.
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.
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.
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.
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!