NBC is taking a chance on Adam Richman. The network is going full steam ahead with Food Fighters, debuting 8 p.m. Tuesday. The Man V Food star, who plays host on the new cooking competition, was extremely polite on a recent conference call, a far cry from last month when Richman engaged with various social media users who opposed the slimmed-down foodie’s use of the hashtag #thinspiration, a pro-eating disorder term. Using expletives to lash out, he even suggested one woman “grab a razor blade and draw a bath.” Travel Channel subsequently shelved another one of his shows, Man Finds Food.
The New Yorker, 40, addressed the incident briefly but steered the conversation — with the help of an NBC moderator — toward Food Fighters, televised showdowns between home cooks and professional chefs, including Miami’s own Lorena Garcia on the first episode. The amateur victor can win up to $100,000.
Can you explain the premise?
So, basically, the home cooks bring five of their best recipes and go against five mystery chefs. The chefs ascend usually in level of sort of ability, accomplishment and training. These final chefs in each of these food fights are true titans of culinary skill. And the thing is they don’t know what dish they’re making until just before the food fight; they come up with a strategy based upon that chef’s expertise.
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What is your signature dish, and how well would it stack up on this show?
That’s a toughie. My miso roasted vegetables are pretty well known. My pulled-pork egg rolls; that’s another one that people tend to really like. I make a particular sort of spicy salmon sushi roll that some friends of mine have requested. And Grandma’s sweet and sour meatballs, but that’s her recipe. I am just a conduit for Grandma’s awesomeness.
What do you hope the viewers get from watching?
I grew up worshiping and respecting the home cook. My mom makes the best blank, I look forward to Grandma’s blank. I mean, for every kid that ever took Thanksgiving leftovers back to college, you have those dishes. It’s about the best of all of us. It could be your mom, it could be my mom. The stories are so real and so human.
Can you talk about how the world of food on TV changed since you got into it in 2008?
I think it has by virtue of the fact that there’s room for someone like me. There are marquee chefs, prodigious culinary talents out there that have had extensive training in the United States and abroad. But then suddenly you’re finding guys who just have been doing four generations of backyard barbecue, have shows and websites; guys like me that have been working in the restaurant industry since they were 13 years old and picked up the lion’s share of what they know on the job. There’s also a significant personality-driven element to it that kind of goes beyond the food.
You shed a lot of weight last year. How do you manage to stay healthy?
A lot of it is just keeping sort of calorically vigilant, for lack of a better term. I’m still going to appreciate something fried or maybe a baked good. But it’s about being kind of shrewd when I choose to indulge and just staying relatively active. It’s just even the difference of parking a little further if you’re driving somewhere, just making sure you get in a certain amount of walking, a certain amount of movement.
As you’re doing more high-profile shows, you’re more in the spotlight than ever. How do you handle everything, being tracked so closely ?
It’s a wake-up call. You go from zero to 60. That’s the trade-off. I love eating around the world and around the country. I’ve been fortunate enough to fuse my passion and my profession. NBC has been so amazing to me. And there is that feeling of, like, I just got called up to the majors. I’m sure any major league or major league athlete will tell you that there is a degree of comportment that comes with being a minor league ballplayer that changes when you go to the Yankees, you know?
What would you like to say to all the supporters of your work?
I really do know how very fortunate I am to do what I do and to have done what I’ve done. I don’t have a big culinary degree or a fancy restaurant with my name on it. I just got me. And for anyone that’s ever supported me and been there, believed in me, from the bottom of my heart, I’ve just got to say thank you.