One thing you learn quickly when talking to Man v. Food‘s Adam Richman is that he isn’t Guy Fieri. Where Fieri’s permastoked ’90s food dude persona seems indistinguishable from his inner self, Richman makes no pretense of being the kind of guy who dreams about the world’s hottest buffalo sauce or wakes up thinking about 10-foot hoagies. While the show that made him a personality may arguably be part of the same wave of food programming as Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, Richman makes an unlikely populist.
For one thing, he came from the theater program at Yale, where he got his master’s degree, rather than the kitchen at Johnny Garlick’s. Which isn’t to say the guy doesn’t love food, it’s just that when he tells me about his food journal where he compiles lists of places to eat and food tips people have given him, he admits that it wasn’t just about food, but also a way to “make external observations that sort of allowed me to unlock a kinetic inner life.”
That he doesn’t softpedal his inherent earnestness and intellectual nature could be either a different layer that we didn’t see on Man v. Food or partly a reaction to our perceptions. It’s easy to imagine wanting to be more than just the guy who eats intimidating food and then sweats, but it also seems fairly genuine.
In his new show, Secret Eats — premiering with back-to-back episodes tonight on the Travel Channel — Richman promises to show us “unique foods, available only to those in the know.” The show was originally supposed to premiere back in 2014, though it was pulled after Richman got into a flame war that started with an Instagram commenter taking issue with his use of the hashtag #thinspiration (which is apparently associated with pro-anorexia blogs) and escalated into him using the dreaded C-word, which is not something a TV personality can get away with anymore, even in a comment section.
We talked last week, and Richman was forthcoming with how the incident affected him, describing it as “the darkest time.” Luckily for him, that period seems behind him now as he focuses on Secret Eats, in which he promises, George Zimmer-style, “You’ll find places you want to eat and dishes you want to eat every episode. I guarantee it.”