June 2, 2015

5 Questions with Adam Richman of Man Finds Food

Adam Richman has traversed the country in search of culinary gems, eating challenges and America’s best sandwiches through his popular Travel Channel series Man vs Food and the Best Sandwich in America contest.

Of course, Philadelphians know that he named DiNic’s roast pork the best sandwich in America so he clearly knows his sandwiches.

His new show, Man Finds Food will air a Philly-focused show tomorrow night, June 3. Several sneak peak videos and photos are posted on the Travel Channel website.

We had the chance to catch up with Adam to discuss Man Finds Food, Philly’s food scene, a Philly-based dumpling idea and even some soccer.

It was a refreshing interview as Adam is a down to earth food hunting celebrity who clearly has much love for Philadelphia.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation. Hope you enjoy!

Tell us about Man Finds Food and what you’re hoping to provide viewers with the concept? 

AR: The greatest thing about Man vs Food was that it gave people a little bit of a road map for iconic good, quality local eats that are revered by locals so you don’t fall into tourist traps. Man Finds Foods is more representational than presentational. So Man vs Food was all about the spectacles and the big challenges and stuff, but Man Finds Food is much more about what is actually in the city and showing places that locals themselves may not know about or dishes instead of very famous ones.

The other thing is showing my crew. Breaking the fourth wall by making the search for places as real as possible and being honest about the way things taste or where they are. Man vs Food was like telling you where to eat, where Man Finds Food is like giving the keys to the car to everybody so everyone gets to know what the special thing is.

Philadelphia’s food scene continues to grow each year.What would you tell the rest of the country about what’s going on in Philly, what the scene is like and what they might want to check out? 

AR: Most people are always going to mentally think cheesesteak and soft pretzel because it’s what they know. It’s the same way with New York - you think of pizza and a dirty water dog or a bagel. To marginalize the cuisine of modern day Philadelphia with those two classics, albeit delicious, is wrong. People do not really realize about how Morimoto impacted Philadelphia or how the restaurants around Rittenhouse Square have really grown by leaps and bounds.

For me I guess, I would at least tell people to think beyond nearby cities such as D.C., New York or Boston, as they are getting so full of chefs because of so many people going to culinary school in all these cities. Other cities like Philadelphia are going to get amazing, young, hungry culinary talent looking to set up and make a name for themselves.

Philly is young vibrant city and a really cool place. I love the BYOB notion of a lot of the great restaurants. It’s not just a matter of value add, but the notion that you can have a very special bottle of wine that you are saving for a great occasion.

I love the range of stuff that is popping up in Philadelphia. I went with a friend of mine and some people in my crew to a place called Vedge when we were filming and ironically enough my director went to a place called Charlie Was a Sinner the same night. The thing is, we had been filming fried chicken and other similar foods. It was so cool that, independent of each other, not knowing where the other was going, my director went with her friend and I went with my friend to plant-based restaurants just because the food is so kickass. I think that is a great way to look at Philly. I think it’s so cool to change people’s expectations in thinking about Philly.

You previously named DiNic’s roast pork the best sandwich in America. What do you think separates Philly from other cities when it comes to sandwiches?

AR: Number one you have a city with a tremendous university population so sandwiches are obviously a tremendously affordable option number. Second it’s the perfect meal on the go and whether you live in Bella Vista, Conshy or King of Prussia you’re going want something to take with you.

There is also a tremendous meat tradition in Philadelphia going back to the meat packing [days]. Obviously the proximity of Reading Terminal to Mennonite farmers that are in [Pennsylvania] and the access to fresh meat and produce helps, too. The notion of a hearty sandwich is really popular and I think you know we live in a day and age where everything from soda to mustard has been made into an artisanal fashion, so the idea of "farm fresh" is going to translate to everything from tater tots to sandwiches.

I also think because everyone in Philly has their favorite cheesesteak or their favorite place that I think there is going to be a little bit of defiance of the average Philly chef to try to show, “hey we are not just cheesesteaks.” To show that the culinary skill in Philadelphia can stand toe-to-toe with anything

You have new book out called Straight Up Tasty: Meals, Memories and Mouthfuls from My Travels. What would you highlight that a Philadelphian might appreciate from the recipes or about the book in general?

AR: There’s a lot. For example, you mentioned that I named DiNic’s roast pork sandwich my best sandwich in America. So what I did was reinterpreted that very sandwich as dumplings with roast pork, broccoli rabe and provolone (Bradd’s note – why hasn’t this been done yet?? We’ve made a cheesesteak into everything, but I don’t think I ever had a roast pork dumpling which is surprising since it’s so good and iconic Philly. Get on it Bing Bing!).

The book is straight up tasty meals, memories and mouthfuls from my travels. I am not a chef. I don’t have a restaurant. I didn’t go to Johnson & Wales or CIA, but I have been working in the industry off and on since I was 12 years old. I have been in thousands of kitchens in the past six years or so just doing my show, so I've been just paying attention and asking questions.

The book’s recipes are essentially recipes I played with at home for years from things that were inspired by something I tried on the road. I reinterpreted some dishes in really fun ways, too. I wanted to make a cookbook that was for anybody who wanted to explore and play with food, flavor and experience, but was afraid and felt it was intimating. I wanted to help those who had been made to feel their cooking wasn’t any good. I really just wanted to make it about fun and flavor that’s why I called it Straight Up Tasty.

Little side question for you since I know you’re a big soccer fan who even had the opportunity to play in Old Trafford, Manchester United's stadium. As a Tottenham fan, what do you think of Harry Kane and do you think he’s going to stay or end up at a big club?

AR: He won’t go and they won’t let him. I think they learned their lesson with Gareth Bale, where truthfully a good coach would have built a team around him instead of solely relying on him and using him up like AVB (André Villas-Boas).

Harry Kane, I think, appreciates when he scores that he is one our own. He knows the role he plays as a London kid and the role he plays as a Tottenham factory man so no I don’t think Kane is going anywhere. He knows he’s got a young coach and a good supportive team around him and knows if we get rid of the lumber that is weighing the team down, we have a very formidable team for next year

Bonus Question. Anything else you want to mention?

AR: I hope people watch not because I am the host and I want ratings, but because every business that has ever been on a show of mine gets a massive financial boost from all the business they receive as a result of the exposure. My point is that being able to watch Man Finds Food puts money in the pockets of small to medium independent business. It’s something you can’t ignore that’s really special.

I hope people tune in and not just enjoy a really kickass show, but get a chance to really and truly appreciate a really fun really pleasurable exploration of their city and see Philly shine for something other than the typical soft pretzel, cheesesteak or Eagles game.

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