Man Behind The Big Meals: Adam Richman

Man Behind The Big Meals: Adam Richman

In India, the ingredients for a hit food TV show are as follows: take one healthy serving of celebrity TV chef; marinade with a ‘story’ (saving India from obesity or turning around a failing restaurant will do); season with some nifty camera work and editing; and serve on a terrestrial channel during primetime, adding a conveniently timed book release as a garnish. Et voila: you have a hit.

It’s a recipe that’s worked wonders for Sanjeev Kapoor and a stew of other celeb chefs from our shores, but one that’s been ripped to shreds by one man, whose mission is to change food shows forever. His name is Adam Richman, his weapon is his belly and his opponent is food – and lots of it. His show is Man V. Food and it’s a programme that you either love or will fall in love with as soon as you finish reading this and will proceed to check out his best bits on YouTube.

The premise of Man v. Food is simple: Adam travels the US eating the grub you wouldn’t dare touch in quantities that would kill most normal human beings. A 2.04kg steak? No problem. A 3.18kg seafood platter? Sure, why not? Are chillies so spicy they’re used as a deadly weapon? Fuck yeah.

Hold on a minute… did you say deadly chillies? “Yeah! The ghost chilli I ate has been weaponised in grenades by police in India,” Adam tells FHM through chubby, cheery jowls. And of course, that particular weapon of mass destruction wasn’t his solitary spice challenge – other assignments have seen the big man guzzle a stomach destroying burrito and devour the spiciest sushi on planet Earth. Delia Smith, he ain’t.

So which of his tasks (there are 59 in total) have taken their toll in the most, erm, unpleasant gastro-intestinal ways, if you know what we mean? (You know what we mean.) “Of all the challenges, the spicy ones take a much greater toll, in terms of feeling their after-effects over a longer period of time,” he says. How so? “Your insides hurt. It’s like a chemical burn on the inside of your body.” And you thought that post-night-out-kebab-diarrhoea was bad.

It’s not just spicy grub that causes mayhem, either. “I think all [the eating tasks] pose their own set of challenges,” Adam says. “A large ice cream sundae has its own difficulties and a large burrito or a stack of pancakes has its own set of obstacles.” The difference between the burrito that gives you indigestion and the one Adam swallows with gusto is about 2ft and half a stone, though – Google ‘Adam Richman Burrito Challenge’ if you think we’re exaggerating.

Adam’s meals are so extreme he actually has to prepare his stomach beforehand. For the most testing challenges, that means a diet of “bananas, white rice and different types of antacid”. And it’s not just physical preparation either; in order to consume enough food to floor a regular glutton, Richman readies his mind using visualisation techniques similar to those used by athletes such as Wayne Rooney. “To see yourself accomplishing a task makes it inherently easier to do,” he explains. 

The best thing about Adam is that he’s just like you. OK, maybe little bit hungrier, but appetite aside, he’s just a normal bloke. He supports Spurs (“My great-grandfather lived in London”) and shops in Topman. But, unlike you, he gets high-fived by fans in the street, can get any seat at any table in any city and random strangers stop him in restaurants to call him a “ledge” (or “bro” back in the US of A). Not just normal folk, either: everyone from actor Nick Frost (now a personal friend) to The Wire’s Dominic West are admirers. “When I was in London,” he recalls, “I walked into the theatre and [Dominic West] went, ‘You’re Adam from Man V. Food! You’re a legend, mate.’” 

This is not a rarity – he’s stopped on a daily basis everywhere from New Jersey to Newcastle. So is it a surprise that a small-time show on a small channel hosted by a previously unknown presenter has made it so damned big in the UK? “It’s amazing,” he admits. “There were other shows on my network that got more attention, more money budget-wise, and I was just this unproven commodity. To know the show’s been a phenomenon around the world shows I’ve achieved a modicum of success at least!”

But before you start thinking about quitting your job to start eating for a living, think again. On any given day, Adam will have to eat more food than you would consume in a week, and we’re not talking salads and soups. One of his more recent expeditions saw him take on a burger so gargantuan it’s named after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But, as per usual, he came, he ate, he won. 

Now for the tragic news: Adam Richman’s monster food challenges will be no more. No, he hasn’t been hospitalised by a 1.76kg burger or a 3ft pizza, but after four seasons and 47 ‘wins’, he decided to hang up his fork. If you’ve never seen the show, fear not – there are always repeats on TLC. But why, just when his cult legend status was swelling like a cake in the oven, has he decided to quit? It’s not something he wants to talk about (he’s clearly as cut up about it as his fans), but the official line is that he’s exploring new foodie challenges in a slightly less hardcore show called Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich In America, which will soon be on your screens. (If you can’t wait, see below for Adam’s top sarnie recipe.) 

After that, the world is his oyster. How about a show sampling tandoori chicken and other Indian delights? “I would love to explore the regional foods,” he says. “I would love to do curries and kebabs.” ‘Man V. Kebabs’? Richman, you’ve just met your match.

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