The culinary landscape changed a lot as the end of the 20th century faded into the 21st, and one major reason for that change was the emergence of celebrity chefs. While countless viewers have tuned in to watch chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Emeril Lagasse make magic happen in the kitchen, it was still watching a professional with years of study and some ridiculous innate talent do something most people could only wish themselves capable of.
Not so with Adam Richman. Viewers tuned in to see him for a different reason — we were all pretty sure that if he chose us to help him out on a food challenge, there’s no way we would let him down. He was the everyman, the one who took on challenges with wholehearted gusto. And that’s something we could do, and we did. According to Food Challenges, the popularity of Man v. Food led to restaurants around the world developing their own food challenges, and that’s an impressive legacy to leave. But Richman did leave, quitting the show only to be replaced a few years later with a new host.
So, what happened to Richman and what has he been doing since he disappeared?
Adam Richman caused some serious outrage on the internet
In 2014, it seemed as though Adam Richman was on the cusp of proving he wasn’t just a one-trick pony. He was still riding high from Man v. Food, and the Travel Channel had another show in the works with him. But his career was postponed, reported The Guardian, after an Instagram post went terribly wrong.
After the end of Man v. Food, Richman became determined to get healthier. He posted a photo of himself on Instagram, noting that he was going to need to alter the suit he purchased a year before. He also added a "#thinspiration" hashtag, and that’s when things went sideways.
Commenters immediately called him out on the use of the hashtag, noting that it was popularly used to glorify an unhealthy and extreme weight loss — not celebrate healthy goals.
It’s also worth noting that this wasn’t just a case of the internet overreacting, as the internet is prone to do. Social media platforms including Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest had all banned use of #thinspiration a few years prior, says Time, along with other hashtags that promote self-harm and eating disorders. Groups like the National Eating Disorder Association have spoken about how damaging the idea and images can be, and Richman acknowledged none of it in his post with the forbidden hashtag.
Adam Richman’s response to critics was less than ideal
It very quickly became clear that Adam Richman’s post had touched a nerve, and it’s no wonder — according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, somewhere around 30 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from an eating disorder, and someone dies from the disorder on an average of every 62 minutes. If Richman had just apologized and removed the hashtag, things may have gone differently. But he did the exact opposite of apologize.
His responses added fuel to the already hotly burning fire, and they were documented by the body-positive blogger Adipose Activist. They were shocking stuff.
In response to one commenter, he wrote, "… don’t come at me with childishness when a hashtag throws you into a tizzy of posting comments & ‘never watching you again.’ Seriously — grab a razor blade & draw a bath. I doubt anyone will miss you."
It wasn’t an isolated comment, either. He told another, "oh eat a bag of s***, dummy. No apology is coming." And that was just the beginning.
Adam Richman’s apology wasn’t very apologetic
According to The Washington Post, Adam Richman made a few attempts to apologize for his reaction to the comments on his post, and the first posts weren’t all that apologetic at all. One of the (now-deleted) tweets read, "In real life, if you say stuff you regret in anger, you cool down, apologize & move on. If you’re a celeb on social media — it becomes a blog."
He tweeted again and was slightly more apologetic, but he ended up removing that tweet, too. It wasn’t until he released a statement to Good Morning America that he explained where he was coming from, saying, "I’ve long struggled with my body image and have worked very hard to achieve a healthy weight. I’m incredibly sorry to everyone I’ve hurt."
Weeks later, The Washington Post reported Richman had referred to the incident as "a wake-up call." At the time, he was hosting the NBC competition show Food Fighters, but in spite of repeated warnings from his publicist that any questions asked of him were to be about the new show, it was clear the Instagram incident was going to overshadow anything happening in his professional life.
The Travel Channel pulled Adam Richman’s new show
In the week after Adam Richman’s Instagram exploded, The Washington Post confirmed that the Travel Channel pulled the new show they had planned with him. No further details were given, and what kind of long-term consequences his outburst would have was very much up in the air.
It wasn’t just a matter of hitting the pause button on something that was in the process of being developed, either — Man Finds Food was ready to go. It was pulled just days before it was set to debut in July 2014, and it didn’t see the light of day until it finally aired in April 2015. There was a second season, but you may not realize it — it was renamed Secret Eats with Adam Richman for what would be its final season.
Man Finds Food/Secret Eats just didn’t have the same charm as Man v. Food, in spite of the fact that, as The Guardian pointed out, it was pretty much the same show without the food challenges and gluttony. It was essentially Richman visiting the same off-the-beaten-path restaurants, and eating food. For whatever reason, people just didn’t seem as thrilled this time around, even though the Travel Channel issued a statement (via The Washington Post) saying they had "addressed and moved on from the incident that happened two years ago."
Adam Richman realized it was taking a toll
On January 27, 2012, Richman confirmed (via a Facebook post) that, "I am out of the food challenge game & while I love how that phenomenon has caught hold worldwide, and love hearing about your culinary conquests — I have ‘hung up my competitive fork’ so to speak."
Why? According to the Huffington Post, Richman was starting to worry about the toll on his health the show — and his lifestyle — was taking. In addition to having developed sleep apnea, he also said that catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror made him rethink what he needed to do to get healthy.
And based on what he told The Guardian, he stepped away in part because he thought the show had simply run its course. He told them, "… the spectacle diminishes over time. […] I believe that if you wait for your audience to say they want to see something new, you’ve waited too long."
Adam Richman has been on the soccer field
There’s another big reason Adam Richman appeared to drop off the face of the earth for a while: he wasn’t spending his time in front of the camera, he was spending it on the soccer field.
Richman — who has always been a huge Tottenham Hotspur fan — was first asked to participate in Soccer Aid 2014. The match is a part of Unicef’s fundraising efforts to alleviate suffering and hardship in Africa, and Richman took to the field as part of the "The rest of the world" team, who played against professional English footballers. According to what he told the Independent, he put on a ton of weight after Man v. Food, because he didn’t feel like he was under the same pressure that came with keeping healthy enough in the face of food challenges. "Soccer Aid was one of the biggest things that kicked me into shape," he told the Independent, and while he was getting ready for the game, he was also posing nude for Cosmopolitan UK.
He also told the AV Club that he’s been busy with Little League soccer, too, sponsoring every Park Slope Little League team for two years, as well as two teams in England. One, the Broadley FC, came to his attention when a young fan reached out and told him that they had started a team in honor of a friend who had lost his battle with leukemia, and Richman immediately became a sponsor.
Adam Richman finally took a trip to Israel
Adam Richman has also taken some time away from the culinary world to take a trip that was years in the making. In 1987, he’d had plans to visit Jerusalem with his grandfather and other members of his family. They had intended to go for Richman’s bar mitzvah, but terror attacks that took place just months before they planned to travel meant they decided against making the trip. In 2019, he finally went.
He documented the whole trip, says The Nosher, and wrote a particularly moving post about his visit to The Western Wall on Instagram. It read, in part, "I felt connected to the traditions of the past, and to the spirit of the Holy Land — not just for Jews, but for Christians and Muslims as well. I took one of the prayer books they had there, and prayed passionately and fervently […] not just for myself, but for my family — and all of you guys as well."
Adam Richman is doing the cooking, not just the eating
Most fans know Adam Richman as the guy doing the eating, but since the end of Man v. Food he’s popped up on other shows flexing his cooking muscles.
He’s shown up on Today a few times; in 2018, he stopped in to visit with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, and shared his mom’s recipe for chicken marsala. He’s also gone international, demonstrating a recipe for skirt steak with chimichurri, and healthy with a steak and blue cheese spinach salad.
He’s also been on Good Morning America, where he’s continued to show off some healthy eating habits that are about as far from the gluttony of Man v. Food as you can get. Richman is putting healthy spins on some classic comfort food, reaching out to fans to show that you don’t have to give up those hot-and-hearty meals when you’re eating better.
Adam Richman has been advocating for victims through the stage
London Theatre might be the last place you’d expect to see Adam Richman, but he’s actually got a degree from Yale Drama School and since the end of Man v. Food, he’s gone to the stage with some heavy stuff.
Richman was the creative producer of an award-winning play called Stalking the Bogeyman, which is the story of a journalist’s quest to murder the man who sexually assaulted him when he was a child.
It seems like the most unlikely avenue for the Travel Channel star to go down, but he explained: "Whilst I was filming Man Vs. Food Nation I realized that I was just another angry voice with a Twitter account, and I decided that I could either be a voice of anger or I could be a voice of change." That led him to a partnership with the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, and he became a spokesperson for the organization. Richman has said he saw the opportunity as one where he could help "spark us to change or to come forward to help, or ask for help and tell us to do better."