Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In Man vs. Food Everyone Wins

Is it East vs. West? Is it man against man? Or is it you against you? These questions can be answered by the 80s band Survivor. However, if you don't have a copy of Rocky IV and like to see some sort of conflict play itself out, there's always the Travel Channel's Man vs. Food to fill that need.

In its third season, Man vs. Food follows host Adam Richman around the country as he samples various cities' culinary landmarks. In each city he visits three places. The first two are usually well-known for famous dishes. The final visit is to an eatery where he competes in some sort of challenge where there's a chance he'll win a t-shirt or get his name on the wall, but there's a guarantee he'll be in serious pain.

This is a great show. Think about it, Adam gets to tour the country while eating at the country's coolest restaurants and eateries. Plus he gets paid to do it. Talk about free room and board.

Since I've never done it, one day I'd like to travel this great land by car. But instead of taking the more popular Northern Route or Southern Route, I want to take the Richman Route. Rather than stopping at vista points and monuments, I want to design the trip around Iguana's Burritozilla in San Jose, Big Pie in the Sky's Carnivore Challenge in Atlanta, or the Kodiak Challenge in Alaska, among many more.

In the show's opening, Adam claims he's worked every job in the restaurant business. I wonder if this includes dishwasher. I was a dishwasher in high school and it sucked. The hours were terrible - we had to stay well past midnight. Our social interaction was based almost entirely on listening to bitter line chefs bitch and moan about their lives. When they weren't complaining about their own lives they were yelling at us to produce a faster turnaround on the dishes. Not to mention none of the waitresses would talk to us. They just dropped off the dirty dishes and bee-lined back out to the floor to flirt with the bartenders - Sam Malone was really onto something.

At the time I thought the only good thing about being a dishwasher was getting to eat leftovers the diners didn't want. That's right, I ate food leftover from someone else's meal. I now see the error of my ways, but it's not like I had a date to impress. Maybe if I didn't eat food other people saw as trash I would have. High school wasn't a great time for me.

There have been more than 35 episodes of Man vs. Food. He's traveled to almost every major American city and is starting to branch out beyond our borders. One place I'd like to see the show go to is Paul Bunyan's in Pechoggin, Wisconsin. There's a six pound steak that goes by the name The Old 96'er waiting for him there. Or it would be if the town and restaurant existed and I didn't base reality on John Candy movies.

One of the better aspects of the show is Richman doesn't discriminate on the challenges. They range from spicy foods to large portions in a fixed amount of time to enormous desserts. He'll take challenges that feature beef, eggs, chicken, ice cream or pancakes. It doesn't matter. He eats them at establishments that feature BBQ, Mexican, Indian, pizza, burgers and host of other cuisines. He's an equal opportunity eater. Not to mention I think he holds the upper-hand against food in the weekly battles.

This brings me to my final point. As much as I like this show, just once I'd like to see Adam not like something he tries. I respect his love for food and know he goes to some awesome places, but just once I'd like to see Adam give something the Josh Baskin treatment (go to the 2:00 mark). Granted the restaurant owner might not be happy, but come on...there are some things people just don't like.

Fortunately for the Travel Channel, Man vs. Food isn't one of them.

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