About a year ago, I had the pleasure of spending time with the one and only Adam Richman at Emory University here in Atlanta. We chatted about how he gained his culinary perspective, and how the Man v. Food phenomenon changed American food culture forever. He now hosts Food Fighters on NBC, where home cooks battle culinary superstars in an escalating battle for cash prizes. The show is great fun, and proves that home cooks (like me!) really do rock!
I reached out to Adam again to keep our conversation going. Here’s what he had to say:
Michelle: Amateur vs. Pro. You’ve eaten with the best of the best in both camps. In your experience, does either side have the advantage when it comes to culinary chops?
Adam: Honestly, it really does depend upon the dish. Obviously, chefs have vast amounts of pure technique. That skill translates to many kinds of recipes, but sometimes, in the case of Food Fighters, that elevated technique and advanced approach to cooking, sometimes is the undoing of these culinary masterminds-there is a tendency to do too much, when a simpler approach is the one that will prevail. Home cooks tend to work from a much more simple, unadorned, “do it by feel” sort of place.
Michelle: You’ve eaten just about everything in the world of great food, from face-burning ghost chiles to mountains of fresh oysters to seasoned and succulent pastrami. But everyone has a favorite comfort food. When you find yourself at home, looking for something comforting and familiar to eat, what’s your go-to food and how do you like it prepared?
Adam: Nachos will always have a very dear place in my heart. When this simple dish of bar food is executed well, it is not only delicious, but every bite, depending upon what you get in it, is different. That said, I seldom make it for myself. I tend to order in from my favorite places in Brooklyn, which are usually Asian, Latin or Mediterranean in nature. It bears noting- it’s pretty hard to resist the siren song of a well cooked ribeye for a perfectly crispy french fry.
Michelle: Americans love their food, and we know they love eating out. But where is America headed in terms of food preparation at home?
Adam: With the incredible mass appeal of popular food culture, food shows on every network from NBC, to MTV, we have a much more informed diner, a much more clued-in eater, and a much more savvy food shopper. Home cooks are pushing themselves, and trying recipes that are far more elevated than one might think the average home cook would attempt. Organic ingredients are becoming more readily available, and infinitely more affordable. And ingredients once thought gourmet, are now as commonplace as ketchup.
Michelle: And now that you’re “in the ring” with champs on both sides of the kitchen, what’s your advice for the rest of us food lovers?
Adam: when it comes to making a great recipe, unless you are dealing with a very complicated dish, or something like baking where the specificity of measurements and proportions are essential, follow your heart, and do not be afraid to fail. Start with stuff you know, and branch out. It’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but Rome was not built in a day. Like Bill Murray says in “What about Bob,” take baby steps. Before you know it, the impossible becomes possible.
Michelle: Thanks so much for sharing your insight, Adam. You’re a great inspiration for all of us to try new things in the kitchen – and in restaurants!
Read Adam’s book America the Edible, A Hungry History from Sea to Dining Sea.