Adam Richman wants you to eat. He urges you to sit at restaurant tables and dig in, as he himself is so fond of doing. Come to think of it, he’s made a career out of it.
The self-educated cook has demonstrated his passion at the plate on the Travel Channel in a series of food-focused shows since 2008 – “Man v. Food,” “Man v. Food Nation,” “Man Finds Food,” “The Traveler’s Guide to Life,” “Amazing Eats,” “Best Sandwich in America” and “Fandemonium.”
The debut season of “Secret Eats” took him to cities around the world in search of hidden restaurants and off-the-menu dishes. The second season returns at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, on the Travel Channel, with an episode shot in London. There, he tracks down four restaurants. Among them is the Evans & Peel hidden speakeasy behind a trick bookcase inside a faux detective agency, where one specialty is mac ’n’ cheese with bacon and truffle oil. Next up is a Nutella “duffin” (part doughnut, part muffin) sundae off a secret menu at Stax, a diner run by an expatriate American chef.
Later, he literally opens wide to take in the “breakfast bap” at a Kansas City-style BBQ joint in Soho, where the British pitmaster went on a BBQ pilgrimage through the American South to master the low ’n’ slow technique. Only 12 “baps” a day are sold at Bodean’s, and patrons have to know about it to order it. The two-fisted meal is a grilled burger bun stacked with maple-smoked bacon, Texas sausage, smoked brisket, provolone cheese and a fried egg.
Richman is the author of “America the Edible” and “Straight Up Tasty,” and was a guest judge on “Iron Chef America” on the Food Network. He has a master’s degree in drama from Yale University and has appeared on the TV series “Law and Order,” “Guiding Light” and “All My Children.” He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Visit him at www.theadamrichman.com.
Q: “Secret Eats” is where the vicarious meets the voracious.
A: My fans look at me as their ambassador of deliciousness and respect my recommendations. They expect me to be honest when I say, “When you’re in this city, go here here and try this, it’s gonna be good.” I’m (offering) people better-tasting vacations than they might otherwise have. Just because the food is international doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible.
Q: In London, you visited a diner with burgers on the menu and a smokehouse specializing in brisket and ribs. Is there an American-food invasion of England?
A: I go to London (often), and there’s a profound fascination with American comfort food there. Things like the Travel Channel, Food Network and Instagram have made (some American cuisine) more accessible, and it’s cool to see the Brits embracing it. Someone said on social media, “I blame you, Adam Richman, for everything in London being covered in pulled pork.” Somebody called me the George Washington of the American-London food revolution. I’ll take it.
Q: What was the itinerary for Season 2?
A: We went to 14 cities across 13 countries, and shot specials in Greenland and Iceland. People take the food and the culinary life of their cities very seriously. This is my first international show, and I have to respect that.
Q: Any dishes stand out?
A: After we had wrapped shooting in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia because it was 108 degrees, I went to a famous night market called Jalan Alwor. The salted egg squid was without question one of my all-time favorite foods.
The tomatoes in Moscow, of all places, were lights-out amazing, on a par with any I’ve had in Italy. In Rome, we had porchetta that took a day to make, with fresh fire-roasted bread and homemade mozzarella.
Q: How do you and your team develop leads to find the restaurants?
A: A couple months out, we’ll start our research with a simple internet search, then (expand to) food blogs, chefs, food distributors, culinary tourism agencies and hotel concierges. We want to know the hot places the locals go to.
Eventually we build up a compendium of knowledge, then we go into long meetings where everyone will present their suggestions. It comes down to what four locations will make the best episode, and best represent this or that city. Ultimately, it’s up to the network to decide. We’ve been really lucky.
Q: What’s the production part of it like?
A: You can’t just show up and arbitrarily say, “We found a place,” and then run ’n’ gun. You have a time constraint and a budget, and you need filming permits and work visas for the crew.
The crew is (comprised of) me, my director, a line producer, and A and B camera operators. Locally we’ll hire hair and makeup, an assistant (camera operator), drivers, maybe a couple of interns and personal assistants so we have extra hands on deck. We add fixers for the linguistics and cultural (aspects). You need someone who can speak to the locals, even if that speaking is financially so.
Q: You have a restaurant background.
A: I’ve worked at restaurants where “chef” was part of my title, but I don’t call myself a chef, I’m a cook. That’s not any kind of false modesty, but the term is like the long coat the real M.D. gets to wear. Many people in the food space misrepresent themselves to puff themselves up, but I would much rather be the people’s champ.
Q: What’s your go-to meal when you come back from the road?
A: It’s too easy to press a couple of buttons on my cellphone and suddenly it’s like, “What, I have Thai curry at my door? And all I have to do is separate the recycling? This is fantastic!”
Once that’s out of my system, I love the farm-fresh veg from the Union Square Greenmarket (in New York City). I walk around and say, “Oh, my God, this was just in the ground hours ago. What can I do with this tomato? I could blister the skin off these peppers and make a romesco sauce.”
And maybe I’ll go see the kick-ass fishmonger in my neighborhood, and go, “What do I want to do with his piece of salmon? Sear it, marinate it, make a stew?” I love that creativity. I’m a dork.