We all know the fun-loving Adam Richman from Travel Channel’s Man Vs. Food, but his era in the food challenge world is over and he’s exploring other parts of the culinary entertainment world. His upcoming new show – Adam Richman’s Fandemonium – will cover food at the most popular regional and tourist events around the nation – a strangely untapped theme. Tonight, he’ll be hosting Comfort Classics for the popular New York City event, Taste of The Upper West Side. We chatted with Richman on his favorite restaurants, twitter and attempting to calorie count even when you’re a man vs. food…
NP: So we always start out by asking someone what their ideal food day would be…
AR: I recently lost fifty pounds, so if I was not watching my girlish figure, this would be my ideal food day. I would probably…oh this is a tough one. Would this be my New York ultimate food day?
NP: You can go anywhere you want. You can go for lunch in Thailand and dinner in New York.
AR: I love you for this. So, whenever I think of breakfast, there’s a short stack of lemon pancakes. Then I would probably have Gorilla Coffee and a Bloody Mary fromAlchemy. Then I would do some sturgeon from Barney Greengrass and sable fromRuss and Daughters with a toasted bagel with cream cheese, red onion, tomato, and a New York Times.
Lunch is Szechuan Gourmet on 39th street. I’d do their Cumin Lamb, the Filet with Chili, Pork Belly and Leek Chili. I just had that yesterday! And dinner…I would probably do dinner at Brasa in Minneapolis. I would do their Slow Roast Pork with Green Sauce, a side of their spinach and their fresh guacamole. I think I can order a side of Mac n’ Cheese at Slows Bar-BQ in Detroit, Michigan. If I’m not dead at that point, dessert would be a hot fudge sundae from The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn – specifically their homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Then after that I would probably eat Dim Sum and preach to a rabbi or something.
NP: That’s great. I was going to ask you this later in the interview but you had said something about losing weight, and I saw your twitter says ‘Quite done with food challenges, thank you.’ I wanted to ask you why it says that and what one has to do with the other?
AR: When I was doing Man Vs. Food, I fluctuated a decent amount back and forth weight wise. There are a ton of calories in those challenges. And the schedule! You don’t have a lot of time to work out; you don’t always have a lot of time to burn off those calories. So as to what my twitter profile says, there are just so many aspects of food entertainment that I wish to pursue and explore. I would like to make a very clear distinction that – despite the fact that I am aware and appreciative of how that show [Man Vs. Food] brought me to popularity and put me in a realm where I realized my dreams and had so many opportunities – I’m not really doing that anymore. People still are constantly trying to get me to go to a restaurant. They send very antagonistic messages – challenging me to do this and that food-wise. It’s very aggressive and it’s like, I’m not doing this anymore. I haven’t done it for nearly half a decade and I don’t think I could do it again. It’s not an absence of gratitude to that show, but I’ve flexed that muscle. Time to move on.
NP: I totally understand. I’m excited for the new show. Adam Richman’s Fandemonium. Tell me a little bit about that.
AR: I’m a fan of fans, especially in this economy. Those who dedicate every weekend of their lives (or every day of their lives) to devoting time, energy, money and passion to having the best costume, the best tailgate, the best face paint and knowing the traditions and the players. I think that there’s something to be celebrated there. In Fandemonium, I basically go to all kinds of major events – from renaissance festivals, to sporting events, to cultural events like concerts and so on. I find out how fans celebrate and what drives their passion. What is it about this event? What is it about this culture? What is it that separates the real fans from the posers? What is it that brings you back year after year, and makes you sacrifice the things you sacrifice to continue being the fan that you are? I always think of a way to give back to them. I have to say, it’s really kind of special. You realize that these events are much more than just a chance to hang out and party – they’re actually like a rally cry. They’re actually very spiritual. Some are partly a pilgrimage, and I think that’s incredibly special and cool. And there’s going to be delicious food of course – the barbecue and the ingenuity of cooking on engines and crazy things! But it’s also about respecting their traditions, learning their traditions, taking part in initiations and really diving into the same culture with no commentary or mockery, just respect and an open mind.
NP: I feel like it’s surprisingly unexplored actually – events on TV.
AR: I used to work for Madison Square Garden TV, and I saw in any given week, fans of the Rangers and Knicks and fans of Jay Z. Every single fan is passionate. They are so different; they come from such different backgrounds with such different incomes. You realize that passion is the great equalizer. It’s pretty great.
NP: This is the third year that you’re doing your Comfort Classics event for Taste of the Upper West Side. Could you tell us what the event is about?
AR: It’s the great chefs – names you’ve heard of and names you haven’t – bringing out amazing incarnations of very iconic stuff – burgers to tacos and so on – along with some very original dishes. It basically gives people who don’t go to that neighborhood very frequently a chance to see a neighborhood that has shaped the dining scene tremendously and that really allows the whole culinary vibe. I think that’s always super special. There’s plenty of food to go around and none of this crowded, hectic zeal of ‘Oh I need to go to different places and venues to appreciate the party.’ It’s going to be really special.
NP: Who are some of your personal favorite Upper West Side chefs and what are some of your favorite spots?
AR: Marc Murphy has done terrific stuff. I think Five Napkin Burger is great. Obviously, Barney Greengrass and Zabar’s. I like Flor de Mayo…
NP: Do you think the Upper West Side has had to change because of how much more is happening in areas like Williamsburg and the Lower East Side?
AR: Yeah I do. I think that culturally we have a much more educated culinary consumer. The Upper West Side used to be wealthy, old money (down at the Dakota) and the Columbia University folk. I think that now [on the Upper West Side] a lot of the ethnic groups that would normally not be accessible and reachable are now completely and totally reachable and accessible. I think that because Soho, Union Square, Gramercy and Meatpacking get so much attention in the restaurant space, that [diversity] really is kind of a point of pride for Upper West Siders.
The [other] nice thing about the Upper West neighborhood is you don’t have to open chains. You can open a one-off small restaurant like the ones on 1st and Avenue A. You can do that up in the seventies and eighties. You can push the envelope and you can create something very special. It’s a neighborhood that has a flavor and a taste.
NP: From all the places you’ve traveled, if you could predict America’s next upcoming neighborhoods, where would they be and why?
AR: That’s a great question. I love Chicago. I like King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. I feel that people are going into my childhood now in Brooklyn and acknowledging some of the best Asian food ever. Oklahoma City had a bunch of great Vietnamese restaurants. I think that there’s a lot of great restaurants in Fort Worth, Texas. I think that’s becoming a new special area. I’d like to see more stuff happening in Spanish Harlem. I think Brickell in Miami and West Miami. In Bushwick [in Brooklyn] places like Roberta’s pop up and really poise themselves as avant garde. I think in Hawaii, the Kalihi neighborhood is special. There are a few restaurants in downtown Rochester, which is kind of a bleak city, that are really incredible restaurants and are growing by leaps and bounds. I think that they’ll end up being really quite special.