“Food Fighters,” NBC’s game show/cooking competition that pairs celebrity chefs against kings and queens of the home kitchen, is firing up the grills for its second season premiere on Thursday night. Ahead of the show’s return, host Adam Richman (who is best known for Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” series) chatted with Variety about shows that celebrate the everyman and woman, the making of a food star and having a teenager school him in liquid nitrogen.
What drew you to the format of the show?
I’m not a trained chef and I’ve never claimed to be. Although I’ve worked in restaurants and a lot of that has been on-the-job training, I’m at best a pretty darn good home cook. I think most of the country are pretty darn good home cooks. Most of us are not pro chefs. I think to see the moms, the dads, the grandparents, the newlyweds getting recognition on the big stage so to speak, I think it’s phenomenal.
For me, I also like to also see really hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people win life-changing money. I come from a single-parent family. I come from a family that struggled. Before I was on “Man v. Food,” I was on unemployment. The opportunity to be part of something that is about recognizing and rewarding the underdog is something that’s very special to me.
There’s many shows for the hyper-chef among us, the hyper-gourmet among us. How many shows are out there just for the folks who love creating for their families? Who never get that validation apart from a few people saying hey you can cook this in a restaurant? How cool is it to be part of the entity that recognizes the everyman and everywoman?
Do you think shows that highlight amateur chefs are helping the food industry?
I think the day in age we live in, you have a much more educated eater. You have a much more informed shopper at the marketplace. You have people who really and truly are expecting more out of their food when they look at a menu or they go to the grocery. I think the notion of the home cook only making meatloaf and mashed potatoes is long since gone.
Season two of “Food Fighters” has a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old home cook cooking and beating adults and making handmade pasta and making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. At 14, I was deciding which G.I. Joe vehicle I wanted.
With all the shows you’ve done, have you seen a heightened interest among teens and younger kids?
Absolutely. I’ll hear everything from “I get my kids to eat their vegetables by making it a ‘Man v. Food’ challenge” to kids finding that food can be fun and interesting. Truthfully, we’re in a day and age where chefs and culinary personalities can be considered celebrities. There’s an aspirational aspect to being a TV foodie in some capacity. I think that the opportunity to showcase that is far too good to pass up.
On a similar note, do you think this has also changed the way we look at what defines a celebrity chef?
I was reading an article not too long ago about the Culinary Institute of America that said back in the day, everyone wanted to open a Michelin restaurant and now you’ll find people talking about the show they want to do and they’ll have proposals for the show they want to do.
Even a successful TV chef or a TV foodie is a thing, it’s an entity. That’s a real thing. It’s something that I never saw myself being and I’m grateful that it has.
Have you tried to do any of the “Food Fighters” dishes at home?
Certainly the ones from season one, yes. I learn and I grow as much as the viewer because I see these folks using these flavors and these ingredients that their mother or grandmother does. It’s been an absolute blast to make someone’s mac and cheese or the tequila-soaked raisins empanadas from this one woman.
You haven’t tried to do the liquid nitrogen stuff at home?
No! I’ve worked with it and I’m very, very fine letting the pros handle it.
“Food Fighters” returns at 8 p.m. July 2 on NBC.