Adam Richman spends the first several minutes of our interview discussing the best way to get places in L.A., as most Angelenos do. He can't count himself one anymore, but he used to live here, coincidentally one block from this writer's current residence.
Now, however, Richman is a citizen of the world. He travels most of the year filming, for Travel Channel's Man vs. Food and his newest gig, Adam Richman's Best Sandwich in America, which premieres tonight.
As is his shtick, on camera, Richman is usually seen downing mass quantities of food -- piles of pancakes, hundreds of spicy chicken wings, burgers the size of basketballs -- and as such, he's become known as the guy who stuffs his face unrelentingly. That's barely the surface of him, however, as we discovered during our lengthy conversation. He's a dedicated food anthropologist, author, actor and baseball fan. He's kept a food journal for years. He speaks multiple languages. He has a master's degree from Yale, for goodness' sake. To write him off as a glutton is to shortchange him immensely.
He also, for what it's worth, is a really friendly guy. Turn the page.
Squid Ink: How many weeks would you say you travel per year?
Adam Richman: [Whistles.] Quite a bit. I would say, conservatively speaking, 40. And that's work-related travel, so if I go away on my own ... but generally speaking, January through September is pretty much straight filming, with a couple days off here and there.
SI: Does that wear on you at all? It must.
AR: Sure, sure, it does. Air travel, first of all, you increase your tendency to get sick because you're breathing circulated air and you're touching surfaces that multiple people are touching. But I'm king of the hand sanitizer and the Emergen-C packet.
It's funny, it took me getting a job where I eat some of the most indulgent foods on the planet to actually lead a healthy life when I'm off-camera. So just eating well and staying hydrated when I'm not filming have proven instrumental in keeping me healthy.
But the other thing is, it takes a toll on your personal life. I have a lot of friends who I don't get the chance to see. I have a couple friends who've had babies who I haven't gotten a chance to see, other people I haven't been able to see in a couple of years. So that's difficult.
Much to my mom's chagrin, I'm a single, childless man.
SI: When you are filming, what do you eat on the days you're not obligated to wolf down massive piles of food?
AR: I eat very light. When the crew breaks for lunch, I have a salad -- no cheese, no croutons, no sour cream. Just chicken, no tortilla strips in it. Just vegetables, chicken, dressing on the side, please. And unsweetened iced tea.
SI: Does it take a lot of self-discipline to order that way?
AR: Oh my God, yes. Oh my God. You go into these kitchens with great food, and they have these hotel pans with all the fixings for pizza, or all the different things for burritos and they're already premade, or you go to a barbecue place and they have hot pans full of pulled pork, and sliced brisket, and mac 'n' cheese, greens, and whipped mashed potatoes and sweet potato fries right there. And the chef wants me to eat.
But the things is, I can't do it. I just can't. Sometimes I have to spit a bite out because it's going to be too much. On the show, I'm in almost every shot, and if I get slow or sluggish, it has terrible ramifications for the shoot day.
Also, I want to be around for a while, and I think the healthier I eat now and the healthier I stay now, the greater chance I have of staying in this business and staying healthy in it.
SI: Has it taken any of the joy out of eating for you? Does eating just feel like work at this point?
AR: I was actually just thinking about this the other day. Like, the hamburger has become in so many ways so demystified to me because I've had burgers all over. Now, does that mean that I don't love the classic burger? Of course I do. But the things is, I never order them anymore. If I go out to a diner, the first place I'm always invariably looking is 'salads.' I know that's kind of boring or whatever, but I realize that kind of stuff, that comfort food stuff, I don't crave that anymore.
Ironically enough, my agent took me to Umami Burger when I was last in L.A., and we went for it with great zeal and gusto. But that doesn't change the fact that I ordered the beet salad. I still Umami'd it out. I had the Umami burger and I tried a few more...
That's the funny thing about L.A. Everyone is so beautiful and gorgeous and lean, but you guys have In-N-Out, Umami, the amazing Father's Office in Santa Monica ... there's that one place on Venice that does those amazing bacon and avocado burgers [Howard's Famous Bacon & Avocado Burgers], The Shack in Playa del Rey, the hickory burger at Apple Pan. There's tremendous burgers to be found all over Los Angeles.
When I go to L.A., I have to go to Zankou Chicken for a shawarma plate. I have to. I love, love In-N-Out. Double Double Animal Style.
SI: Do you count L.A. as one of your favorite food cities?