Adam Richman is quite verbose. With a knack for storytelling (and impersonations), a childlike curiosity for the ways humans express their individuality, and, let’s face it, a set of cheeks made for TV, it’s no wonder the chatty host has landed two new shows — NBC’s Food Fighters and Adam Richman’s Fandemonium on the Travel Channel — that are both in production at the same time. The guy can talk, and he’s fun to listen to.
Returning to New York City in between “living these two very different lives — [as a] studio game show host in LA and sort of crazy traveler on the weekends,” Richman will host this Friday’s Comfort Classics at the New Taste of the Upper West Side for the third year in a row. He hopped on the phone with us to talk (and talk) about the journey he’s been on ever since Man V. Food and what we can expect on his two upcoming shows (like why one is a “meritocracy”).
Richman spent a generous amount of time sharing every conceivable detail about Food Fighters and Fandemonium, and even weighed in on the Top Chef New Orleans BP money kerfuffle. He talked about finding his place in the world of food TV, saying, “I could rhapsodize about wild west salmon, but there’s nothing I could say that Eric Ripert can’t say better. There’s nothing that I can do about king crab that a marquis chef in Anchorage couldn’t do better. Do you need Adam Richman?”
See how he answers that rhetorical question, and all of our actual questions, in the Q&A right here:
The Braiser: You have two new shows coming up, tell me what your life is like right now.
Adam Richman: It’s a little crazy, but my whole thing is, it’s way better to be busy than the alternative, you know? I don’t think anyone really goes through the hardships of, like, unemployment, food stamps, unpaid apprenticeships, and student loans, and all that stuff; you don’t do it to not be successful.
The other thing is I like hard work. I like the challenge and there’s a kind of inertia and velocity to travel that I think is kind of exhilarating. And if you have wanderlust, which I think I do, living these two very different lives — [as a] studio game show host in LA and sort of crazy traveler on the weekends – it’s a really cool thing to experience.
So you are literally producing both shows at the same time?
Well I’m executive producer and host of the Travel Channel show, I’m just the host for NBC. The thing is I’m also currently working on my second book, so that’s in the editing phase and a digital series is coming out, so I’ve been editing and writing for that, and doing lots of charity stuff in between. So yeah, it’s busy, but again it’s good busy. It’s the type of busy that I know I can look back and go ‘hey, I was super productive in a positive way and I like that!’
Tell me more about the digital series that you mentioned, I hadn’t heard of that.
I’m keeping it kind of mum ’til it’s released. I don’t mean to hold my cards unduly close to the vest, [but] I don’t know what I am and am not allowed to talk about. I don’t know if the entity that’s publishing it wants to do a big roll-out, so I wanna just be respectful of the folks I’m collaborating with.
Is that the case with Food Fighters, because there’s not that much out there about that show?
Well, we just had the upfront so I think maybe [NBC was] just holding their cards a little close to the vest until it was officially released in a network capacity. But it’s awesome, I’ll tell you everything about it. Essentially we have tryouts all over the country. We find the best home cooks in the country, and they bring five of their signature recipes that they consider to be their best, and they go up against five professional chefs of varying skill levels, and the professional chefs attempt to recreate, or do their version of, these home cooks’ recipes. There are five showdowns per episode and for every chef you beat, the home cook has a chance to win some pretty life-changing money, with the grand prize being a hundred grand.
It’s really kind of groovy to me to see someone’s mom, someone’s dad, someone’s grandma, aunt, uncle, getting recognized for having culinary merit for these great dishes that they make at home.
So the format is going to be…
So one home chef with five recipes, goes against five different professional chefs, in ascending levels of expertise. The higher level of difficulty of your opponent, the greater the prize purse, if you will.
Can you share what chefs are signed on to play?
I think that they’re still firming them up. When I left rehearsal this morning, they were having a big pow-wow. Again, I’m just the host on this one. I’ve heard very big names bandied about, but I don’t know who is locked in, and that’s very dependent on NBC and Electus Productions. But if I come across a great chef, and I certainly know a number of them, I’ve given names and numbers and put people in contact.
The names that I’ve heard are marquis names that I think even those not in the food world would recognize, from the sort of pop-culture world.
So they might be chefs who are already on other shows?
Oh, without question or pause. In fact, I can almost guarantee that the fifth round chef, the final battle in every episode, that chef, I would virtually guarantee that most of America would have heard of them.
There’s gonna be different ones for each episode. I don’t want to say so-and-so is doing this show and they’re not just because I’ve heard their name in passing, but the names I’ve heard repeatedly in passing are what I think a lot of people would consider to be marquis culinary talent, if nothing else than from an audience draw perspective.
Is there anything else about that show you’d like to share with our readers, or anything that excites you about it?
For me, it’s they are having these open casting calls all around the country. So home cooks all around the country are gonna get a chance to tryout, compete, hopefully be on the show. That’s what gets me jazzed because so little of this world…allows any kind of open tryout of any kind.
Also as someone who’s learned most of his culinary skill either on the job or at the hands of great home cooks, I’m just really excited, and I think America can get excited, about the fact that these are people that would be instantly recognizable — because they are someone’s mom, someone’s grandma or aunt — [will] get the chance to shine on the national stage and be given equal credence and equal footing with the marquis, trained culinary talent.
Who are some of the home cooks that have influenced you in your life? Is there someone you’d put up to be on the show?
Like any good Jewish boy, I gotta say Mom. But the thing I have to say, where my mom really could flourish on the show, is that the home cooks that I’ve seen… We don’t live in a day and age where the home cook is just like meat loaf, Tuesday taco night, and maybe a salad with raspberries in it or something.
This interview first appeared on The Braiser. Click here to keep reading.