In an age when Snooki was fist pumping on Jersey Shore and the Kardashians were numbing us with the ridiculousness of their way of life on Keeping up with the Kardashians, there was one man who was a man among reality TV men.
He polished off six-pound, 5,000-calorie burritos in record times. He plowed through hot wings slathered in jalapenos, serranos, habaneros, and chili extract. He demolished a 10-plus-pound pizza piled with meat, cheese, and veggies with but one second left on the clock. And he did it all with charm, humor, and class.
We are speaking, of course, of Adam Richman, former host of cult culinary series Man v. Food. Possibly one of the greatest television shows of our time, Man v. Food premiered in 2008 on the Travel Channel and ran for four seasons with Richman as the host.
But, as with many epic feats of television and food, there were (and still are) plenty of rumors floating around about the show. Some, like rumor Richman lost 70 pounds after resigning from the show and posed naked in Cosmopolitan U.K., were absolutely true. But other gossip is misguided, confusing, or just plain false. To defend the honor of our favorite foodie, we’ve debunked these false facts that everyone believes about Man v. Food.
Richman started as a competitive eater
Richman may have engaged in competitive eating contests during the show, but he never trained nor considered himself to be a competitive eater. As he explained in an interview with Independent, "[Competitive eaters] are unionized, I have nothing to do with that." He repeated the sentiment again in an interview with 411mania, "I’m not a competitive eater. I have no aspirations to be, and I don’t mean that as a slight against competitive eaters. The simple fact is that if I eat at all the day before I have a major, major obstacle going against me when it comes to the big challenges."
Before being cast as the host of Man v. Food in 2008, Richman underwent zero competitive eater training. Rather, Richman earned a BA in international studies at Emory University and went on to train as an actor at the Yale School of Drama. Richman graduated from Yale in May 2003 and went on to land bit roles in shows like Joan of Arcadia, All My Children, and Law & Order.
Before appearing on Man v. Food, Richman never participated in a competitive eating contest. Before the first episode, Richman consulted doctors for advice on the strange, food-fraught quest he was about to embark on to ensure he was beginning with a baseline of good health.
He had to complete a food challenge to be cast on the show
In order to be the man in Man v. Food, one would think you’d have to demonstrate your dominance over all things edible by conquering food challenges in front of a panel of Le Cordon Bleu-educated judges. Not so.
When Travel Channel decided to introduce the show, they announced only that they were looking for someone who knows regional food and likes to eat a lot. Richman knew he fit the bill, and so peppered his agent with emails until he got the audition.
The audition itself took six rounds, including screen tests, interviews, and reference checks — but no competitive eating contests. For the most part, interviewers simply wanted to hear Richman talk about food. During certain sessions, Richman ate a few things — though nothing close to the spice or quantity that he would face down the line. During the final screen test, Richman was taken to Katz’s Deli — to his immense delight. As Richman explained during an interview with Heeb, "I walked into Katz’s and that smell was like ambrosia. And to be given a reuben and fries and slaw and whatever from Katz’s deli for free — it wasn’t a challenge."
The fearless foodie never had to prepare for (or recover after) a challenge
With his unrelenting charisma and infectious enthusiasm, Adam Richman made competitive eating look easy (most of the time). Based on his attitude and camera shots alone, it’s easy to believe the fearless foodie never had to do much more than loosen his belt and tie on a bib to prepare for a competition.
Richman may have given off an air of effortlessness, but the assiduous eater did quite a bit of preparation for each challenge — at least when he could fit it into his schedule. The day before a quantity challenge, he would typically eat little or nothing at all. The champ would also drink lots of water and club soda to stretch his stomach and keep himself feeling full, Richman explained in the interview with 411mania. But above all, the hungry host would work out "like a beast" the night before and the morning of a challenge. With certain contests, Richman would avoid coffees, soda, and other acidic beverages to protect his stomach.
After a challenge, there was recovery period. Richman would typically do a cleanse and climb onto a treadmill.
Richman lost the Munchies 420 Café wing challenge fair and square
Anyone who happened to watch season two, episode seven witnessed Richman’s particularly gruesome defeat at the hands of some exceptionally spicy wings. The challenge in question was the Fire in Your Hole challenge at the subtly named Munchies 420 Cafe in Sarasota, Florida.
So intense was the Fire in Your Hole Challenge, it had a 95 percent failure rate and the staff refused to reveal what the challenge entailed to Richman or his crew before filming. Once the camera was rolling, the challenge was unveiled: 20 minutes to eat 10 hot wings drenched in ghost chili sauce, one of the spiciest in the world.
The challenge was painful to watch. Richman bravely polished off two wings before waving the white flag. And indeed, Richman was visibly in some serious pain, sporting watering eyes and red lips even after locking himself in the cooler.
But as it turns out, Richman may not have lost the contest fairly. Two unknowingly miked employees were overheard on tape, when sneaky staffers revealed they’d poured a bottle of Jet Black Ghost Chili extract into the wing sauce to "blow him out."
"The reason why I’m especially mad, it’s not because of my record, I don’t give a s**t about that," Richman recounted in an interview with Hot Ones on First We Feast. "It’s that it’s cavalier and very dangerous. They weaponize ghost chili extract in police grenades in India."
Richman loved all the food he tried during his shows
Again, Adam Richman consumes everything he eats on his shows with such gusto (with the sole exception, perhaps, of the aforementioned ghost chili wings), you would think that every single dish he ever tried was the best he’d had in his life.
But, according to an interview with Mirror, not everything he ate on the show went down so easy. According to Richman, chawanmushi — a type of steamed, savory egg custard with prawns, mushrooms, soy sauce, and fish cakes from Japan — and jellied eels from London were difficult to choke down. Richman also recounts his time in Alaska, when he valiantly consumed fermented fish heads, reindeer pizza, and whitefish ice cream. According to our hero, eating Alaskan moose nose was as gross a feat as it sounds.
Beyond a few oddities, Richman generally keeps an open mind when it comes to trying different foods. As he explained to Mirror, he struggles with consuming anything that is still alive, as with insects or squid in Asia.
Everyone loved Adam Richman and Man v. Food… obviously
As massive Man v. Food fans with secret crushes on Adam Richman, we have a hard time hard imagining anyone feeling differently. But he did have his share of critics. Most famously was the late, great, Anthony Bourdain (though if we’re being real, who was Anthony Bourdain a fan of?).
During his nationwide tour, Close to the Bone, Bourdain slammed Richman and the entire concept of Man v. Food in general. "Why did we watch the show?" Bourdain questioned the crowd boldy. "Admit it. You wanted him [Richman] to die."
The notoriously brazen chef and travel host went on to claim that the show is popular in countries like Afghanistan, Iran, and Libya. "The show confirms their worst suspicions — that Americans are fat, lazy, slothful [and] wasteful," declared Bourdain. He then described a goat herder in one such country watching Man v. Food and thinking, "America is a terrible place. I want to join ISIS."
But of course, Richman knows his audience isn’t haughty food types like Bourdain (may he rest in peace). "That’s cool — ’cause I’d rather be the people’s champ," he said in an interview with Digital Spy.
Health concerns were the reason he quit Man v. Food
Word on the street was that Richman was forced to resign as the "Man" in Man v. Food for health reasons. Some speculated that the champ was so unhealthy that his doctor demanded he cease filming, while others asserted his body simply couldn’t expand any further.
But as Richman explained to reporters from BBC, "The rumors about health concerns stopping the show are untrue."
Richman explained that he simply didn’t enjoy the feeling of having insanely spicy or excessive quantities of food inside of him. Richman said that stories about him falling ill were "completely fictional" and those who spread the rumors were "the sort of percentage of sick people who almost wanted to believe that [illness] happened to me."
Beyond this, Richman simply wanted to explore new territories. As he told BBC, "I just wanted to do off the grid restaurants, to showcase the amazing BBQ scene here [in the UK] and to find the best sandwich in America and so on."
Richman will always choose pizza over Greek yogurt
In one momentous episode during season two, Richman tackled a 22-inch, 10-pound pizza stuffed with pepperoni, ground beef, and bacon, cheeses, and veggies. With the help of partner Greg Maloomian, Richman was able to conquer the two-person Stuffed Pizza Challenge.
One would assume a man with superhuman abilities (and perhaps a superhuman love) for consuming pizza would always take a slice of pizza over sissy healthy foods. Like carrot sticks. Or a kale smoothie. Or Greek yogurt.
But the former "sissy" dish was exactly what Richman chose after his crew ordered pizza during a recent road trip. This was after Richman had retired as Man v. Food host and dropped a ton of weight.
"The crew got a bunch of pizzas, and it was all I could smell," he told People Magazine. "It sucked. But I had a Greek yogurt with raw almonds, water and an iced coffee, and I was satisfied."
Richman became vegan after Man v. Food
Three years later and a whopping 70 pounds lighter, Richman was the subject of many a rumor that he’d gone through unnatural lengths to drop his excess poundage. He reciprocated by explaining his healthy new image was the result of 10 months of exercise and clean eating.
Among rumors circulating were that Richman had gone completely vegan. Vegan — the man who once attempted to eat a bucket of 50 chicken wings and an eight-pound sirloin steak platter.
Turns out, the rumors of Richman renouncing meat, dairy, and eggs forever were false. "I honestly have begun to feel bad for those buying in to the tabloid rumors suggesting I’m anything but an omnivore. It’s ridiculous already," Richman tweeted.
Richman further elaborated on Instagram that he occasionally will forgo meat and dairy to lose weight for soccer. "To paraphrase Mark Twain, The reports of my ‘becoming vegan’ have been greatly exaggerated. Come on guys, tabloids just want headlines!" he posted on Instagram.
And to convince remaining non-believers, Richman followed that post with an Instagram collage of himself chowing down on an IN-N-Out Double-Double with Animal Style Fries.
Richman supports the new Man v. Food host
After voluntarily and honorably bowing out, one would think Richman would be a fan of his replacement, new Man v. Food host, Casey Webb. To give you some back story, Casey Webb hails from New Jersey, was a food service veteran, and was working as a bartender in Brooklyn when he felt the Man v. Food calling.
Webb’s career as Man v. Food host kicked off in 2017 during the show’s fifth season. But while Webb was affable and passionate about food, the world wasn’t very happy about losing Richman as their host. Once Webb took the spotlight, the social media outcry was loud and a but harsh. One fan commented on Richman’s Instagram post, "I turned on MvF yesterday and was disappointed by the choice of your replacement. That guy has nothing on you!"
Fair enough. But Richman surprised everyone by responding to this fan — and his reply was a little saucy. " "Replacement? Lol — nah. Just someone driving a stolen car," wrote the former food champion. Can we say, uh burn?