by Matthew Hose
On his Travel Channel show Man v. Food, Brooklyn-native Adam Richman visited Acme Oyster House and ate 15 dozen raw oysters. On his new show, Best Sandwich in America, Richman picked Domilise’s shrimp po-boy as the best sandwich from the Gulf Coast. Richman is in town today, promoting his own menu for Jim Beam’s Red Stag food truck, which will make two stops in town this weekend (without Richman). Richman sat down with Gambit to talk about po-boys, his TV shows and his upcoming book.
Gambit: How many times have you been to New Orleans?
Richman: Gosh, I’d say at least 8-10 times.
G: What’s your favorite New Orleans dish?
R: It depends on the time of year, but within 36 hours of being in New Orleans I will usually have a shrimp and oyster po-boy dressed, Abita Amber, and gumbo.
G: What made you pick Domilise’s shrimp po-boy over any other po-boy in New Orleans as a candidate for Best Sandwich in America?
R: Well, the way the episodes are structured is that for every region, I get to pick two sandwiches, which is remarkably difficult when you try to distill an entire region of the U.S. down to just two sandwiches. And then there’s one celebrity pick out of the three. Domilise’s was actually Anthony Bourdain’s pick. There are merits in all of the restaurants, but the quality of the bread, the size of the shrimp, and the ratio of filling to meat is what makes it.
G: Are there any bars you frequent around town?
R: I don’t know if I have a specific bar here. I usually choose where I drink based on where I go to listen to music. I’ll go to Maison and stuff like that. I went to Liuzza’s during the course of my research [for his second book], and there were really some cool local people there having big goblets of Abita Amber. There’s just an inexorable tie to laissez les bon temps rouler here.
G: Is there any one dish in New Orleans that you absolutely have to have with a certain drink?
R: Probably a shrimp and oyster po-boy fully dressed with an Abita Amber. There’s something about that that’s just pure magic to me. And then bourbon with just about everything else.
G: You hinted in your Facebook farewell address to competitive eating that you might take your food expertise abroad. Any plans for that yet?
R: I definitely intend on doing something internationally. My fan base in the UK is loyal, vocal, and passionate. But I will not be doing Man v. Food there. I think my wheelhouse is big flavors, local comfort foods, and mom and pop restaurants. I’d rather be the people’s champ.
G: Do you take advantage of social media to find restaurants that you may not otherwise hear about?
R: Constantly. I’ve found sandwich places that way, and I find recipes that people like in a sandwich. I put out a tweet while we were in the planning stages for the show that said, “What makes a great sandwich to you?” Even with the whole thing I’m doing with Red Stag now, the fact that I’m in New Orleans is because of a Facebook vote. I also don’t have an assistant. I do my own Facebook, and I do my own Twitter. I believe in being accountable to my fans. I exist because they allow me to, and in return for their loyalty, there is an amount of gratitude and an amount of attention that must be paid, to quote Arthur Miller. That’s exactly what we did for Man v. Food Nation. People were saying, “You should have my dad on the show!” and that’s what we ended up doing.
G: You received your master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama, which many people would consider to be one of the top acting schools in the nation. Why did you decide to take your career on the culinary path rather than the acting path?
R: I’ve been acting since I was 9 years old. But I’ve always supported my acting career in the restaurant business, and I’ve always had a fascination with food. I’ve been a bus boy, a dishwasher, a deliverer and everything else. The thing about Man v. Food and what I’m doing now is that it’s really the hybrid of my two passions: entertainment and food.
G: What made you tackle the sandwich for your new show over all other types of food?
R: Every culture, every income bracket has a sandwich. I think a sandwich, at its best, is your imagination bound by two pieces of bread. It could be a slice of cheese and it’s a sandwich. It could be a Dagwood, and it could have 9 trillion ingredients, and it’s a sandwich. And, quite frankly, when Man v. Food was ending, we started to realize that people used that show as a travel guide. So I said, “Let’s just profile some of the best sandwiches around.” The competition makes it fun, and based on the reactions from Twitter, people definitely have a sort of visceral, hometown pride in their sandwiches.
G: What are your plans after Best Sandwich in America ends?
R: I’m in the process of writing my second book, Quest for the Best, which is profiling 10 cities and 10 iconic foods, and trying to find the best of that iconic food in each city. I have a chapter on best shrimp po-boy down here. I went everywhere, and it was so cool to go back to Domilise’s and have a reference point. But I went to Parkway, R&O’s, Johnny’s, Acme, everywhere. And then I have my project now working for Red Stag. For someone who loves the food truck culture as much as I do, to have your face on one is a pretty awesome thing. I know I look conspicuously like Michael Bublé, but it’s the coolest thing ever.
G: Tell us a little bit about the food that will be on the truck?
R: My assignment was basically, “Here’s a bunch of bourbon. Cook with it.” As someone who loves bourbon and all the flavors that go with it, that was awesome.
Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on the Travel Channel.
The Red Stag Food Truck will be parked in front of The Boot (1039 Broadway St. ) on Friday from 8 p.m.-11 p.m., and in front of d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St.) on Saturday from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Three new flavors of Jim Beam’s Red Stag (Honey Tea, Spiced and Black Cherry) will be available at the host bars. Food items designed by Richman will be available from the trucks. Richman will not be at either event.