As a kid growing up in a diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn, Adam Richman was exposed to a variety of foods from classic Italian dishes to Syrian staples to Irish baked goods. “My dad’s philosophy was, ‘You don’t have to like it, but you at least have to try it,’ ”recalls the TV star, who competed in eating challenges in cities across the U.S. as host of Man v. Food.
To this day, he’s happy to sample anything — except a popular cocktail and dessert garnish. “I refuse to eat those bright atomic red maraschino cherries,” says Adam. “If there’s ever a Man v. Food with maraschino cherries, I’m going to say, ‘You can keep them.’ ” Here, the 49-year-old exclusively talks to In Touch’s Fortune Benatar about lessons in taste, his dream series, and the celebs who made him starstruck.
Any other foods you don’t like?
AR: There’s a Japanese fermented bean product called nattō, and I am “natto” going to eat that! It looks like someone else ate it, didn’t want it and went, “Enjoy.” I’m not trying to yuck someone’s yum or malign Japanese cuisine, but it’s not for me.
How did you first fall in love with food?
AR: We were exposed to all these flavors in my Brooklyn neighborhood. The Agostino family would be pressing eggplant and making caponata; the Sultan family would have kibbeh and shawarma and tabbouleh; and then the Irish immigrant family had colcannon and potato bread.
Sounds like quite a culinary education!
AR: My father had a law office near Chinatown, and I’ll never forget the day he took me for dim sum. This place had things like chicken feet and I remember going, “Ick!” My dad immediately shut that down. He said, “How many things do we eat that these people might not like? It’s disrespectful.”
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned as part of your work?
AR: Eating bananas before spicy food will help you later.
You host The Food That Built America, about popular brands, on the History Channel. What has filming been like?
AR: It’s a nice departure from eating 5-pound burritos! You realize how much these people bet on themselves. Heinz leveraged his in-laws’ furniture to get a loan, and when his business failed, they had to sleep on the floor. Now Heinz is everywhere. Rose Totino was so poor during the Depression she’d find orange peels with a little bit of pulp left to eat, and she went on to be a multimillionaire executive at General Mills.
You teamed up with Hormel Pepperoni to celebrate National Pizza Day. Tell us about that.
AR: I’ve sort of become synonymous with championing American food. Pepperoni is a food everyone loves that crosses educational, economic, professional and geographic lines, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s universally loved.
What’s your dream show?
AR: So many! I’d love to do a show about the food available at points of mass transit or at minor league baseball stadiums. I’d love to work with [chef and The Bear star] Matty Matheson, [rapper] Action Bronson or [chef] Kwame Onwuachi. A teacher of mine said, “Always work with people who are better than you so you always keep learning.”
On a Lighter Note … Adam Answers Our Burning Questions
Who had made you the most starstruck?
I did a benefit when Nashville flooded, and Nicole Kidman walked in front of me. I was frozen. I couldn’t say anything. I also got to meet three of my sports heroes: Gareth Bale, a soccer player, Mariano Rivera from the Yankees, and Dan Marino. I literally rehearsed in the mirror what I was going to say to Dan Marino.
What emoji do you use most often?
The shrugging guy, or the facepalm. That’s how life is in 2023, ain’t it?
What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life — said the Jew from Brooklyn! It’s nostalgic, I love the heart of it, and I’ve always loved Jimmy Stewart. I love that it’s a little bit of a history time capsule. That and Raising Arizona.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Eating peanut butter and/or Nutella straight out of the jar. And food delivery apps, because although I can cook and I’m blessed to have food in my fridge, sometimes I’m lazy or I don’t want what I have at home.
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