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Serving up tastes at the Englert

BY CAROLINE BERG | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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Adam Richman does more than observe regional cultures — he ingests them.

Whether visiting Nevada to duel with a burrito taller than a toddler or passing through San Francisco to demolish a two-gallon sundae, the host of Travel Channel’s top-rated show, “Man v. Food,” is an everyman foodie suffering from relentless wanderlust. Here in Iowa City, however, he will leave behind his bib and Rolaids to inaugurate his nationwide speaking tour.

“What I love, what I espouse, what I embrace is the variety of styles there are in cooking,” Richman said. “My calling card is to talk about food culture and help people identify their own food personalities.”

The Brooklynite will share his adventures of crisscrossing the nation and tasting its infinite flavors at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., at 8 p.m. today. The Travel Channel host will also take questions from the audience and demonstrate dorm-friendly food preparation. Admission starts at $25.

“[The Englert has] never done an event like this before,” theater CEO Sean Fredericks said. “We’ve never done something with a TV star.”

Even with the glitz of his Travel Channel fame, Richman remains a voice for lovers of sloppy joes and whipped cream as opposed to caviar and foams. He wishes to separate himself from the typical cooking shows, which, he feels, are dominated by gourmet chefs wielding professional skills and expensive kitchen gadgets.

“My show should be more ‘digestible,’ ” he said. “I want to help everyone have access to the keys of the culinary kingdom.”

He is overstuffed with epicurean knowledge, owing to a bulging food journal he began in 1995.

As a result of his travels on “Man v. Food,” Richman has recognized a tremendous sense of ownership in each restaurant’s distinct culinary offerings. The nomadic gastronome is thrilled to participate in this widespread phenomenon in communities to preserve local food identities.

“In this economy, when travel is such a luxury, it’s important for people to know that they don’t have to travel to Paris for a unique food experience,” he said. “All people have to do is get in their cars and drive to, for example, Pittsburgh, where they can also find a rich food culture.”

Although he admits he has spent minimal time in the Hawkeye State, he referred to Iowa as a “hidden gem” with more to offer than its corn.

“I’m really, really excited to have the chance to finally come to Iowa City,” Richman said. “Iowa is regarded as one of the nation’s food capitals.”

Fredericks agrees that Iowa City boasts an admirable selection of restaurants, specifically noting One-Twenty-Six, Chef’s Table, and, of course, the famous Hamburg Inn.

“Iowa City is a big food town,” he said. “[It] has a lot of people with sophisticated tastes, which is different from most other areas in Iowa that are predominantly more ‘meat and potatoes’ [in style].”

Whether his audience members eat daily suppers of instant ramen or spend five hours in the kitchen for that perfect evening meal, Richman hopes his show will be educational while emphasizing the fun and accessibility of cooking.

“This is not going to be a ‘Man v. Food’ onstage,” he said. “It’s going to be very much about [the audience] — about Iowa.”


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