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Series / Man v. Food

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This is actually tame compared to the actual challenges.

"I'm Adam Richman- a food fanatic who's held just about every job in the restaurant business. But now, I'm on a mouth-watering mission to find America's greatest pig-out spots, and take on its most legendary eating challenges.

I'm no competitive eater- just a regular guy with a serious appetite! This is my ultimate hunger quest. This, is Man vs. Food!"
Adam Richman, in the show's intro.

Man v. Food Is an American travelogue show on the Travel Channel.

Adam Richman, the host, visits a "City of The Week" and takes on that city's most famous "Food Challenge", often involving a food native to that city. These challenges typically involve one of the following:

  1. Quantity Challenge: Simply the consumption of extreme quantities of a particular food or, in some challenges, a platter of several kinds of food.
  2. Spicy Challenges: almost always includes the Habenero chili. Or occasionally the even hotter Bhut Jolokia (AKA "Ghost Chili", one of the hottest chilis in the world).
  3. Rematch Challenge: Grudge Match Challenge, wherein the host attempts challenges very similar to ones that he had previously lost.

And of course since this is a travelogue show, Act I and (usually) most of Act II are composed of the host visiting other restaurants in the City of the Week. This is done to encourage travel to the City of the Week. Adam goes more in depth on the "travel" side on the show's companion web series, A Side Of City.

Note that the correct name of the show is "Man v. Food", and not "Man vs. Food".

After three seasons, the show was retooled as Man v. Food Nation and ran for one additional season. In the retool, volunteers take on the challenges rather than Adam, as the large amounts of food and spice were beginning to to take their toll on his health.

Adam has retired from the show, but has a new show called Best Sandwich in America, where he travels to various regions of the US to determine which of 30 sandwiches is the best in the country. As of August 8, 2012, all of the regional champions have been declared, and the finale to determine the best sandwich aired on August 15th. The winner was the roast pork sandwich from Tommy DiNic's Beef and Pork from Philadelphia.

Adam was supposed to have a second food related show, titled Man Finds Food as a Spiritual Successor to this series, but it was put on hold after he went on an Instagram tirade against an anonymous user and ultimately ran for only one season. However, a second season was picked up. Rebranded Secret Eats with Adam Richman, the focus shifted from him finding secret specialties in the US to finding them around the world.

In 2017, the original show was rebooted, with Casey Webb taking over as host.

Tropes in this show:

  • Arch-Enemy: The ghost chili pepper to Adam, due to just how utterly agonizing it is to eat, exacerbated by just how many Spicy Challenges use ghost chili in some form.
    • Referenced when Adam went to San Antonio and took on the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" burger challenge at Chunky's Burgers — this involved a 1/2 pound burger that contained ALL of the hot peppers of the world, from jalapeno to the ghost chili pepper that he had to eat in 25 minutes (with a 5 minute "afterburn" waiting period). Up until that point, he had never won a spicy foods challenge containing the ghost chili pepper, and he was very close to giving up on the "Four Horsemen" challenge after just one bite, but once he took the second bite he was able to complete the burger. This was the very first time he defeated his greatest foe and he celebrated accordingly.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Adam ends up coaching three members of the Harlem Globetrotters for a two pound spicy BBQ sandwich challenge. The ending of the Harlem episode of Man V. Food Nation had Adam receiving a one-of-a-kind #1 Harlem Globetrotters jersey after Adam presented three of its members the Man V. Food Nation belt that they won in their spicy challenge.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Happens a lot of times because if Food wins, then the Jerkass restaurant owners can collect money from Adam and shame him for failing to finish their unusually large challenges and give him buttons of shame or put his picture on the Wall of Shame. Though that is not to say the owners didn't cheer for him to keep eating for the whole challenge..
  • Big Eater: Adam, even under normal circumstances. Regular exercise keeps his figure just north of average.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Ugly Burger challenge. Food technically wins as Adam couldn't finish 4 of the 1.5 pound burgers, but he finished enough to earn a 4 by 8 poster on the Wall of Fame.
  • Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce: Will be inevitably involved during the Spicy Challenges, with them only getting more daunting as the show went on.
    • In "Los Angeles", the broth in a ramen noodle soup challenge is so spicy that not even the owner, who cooked it for Adam, has ever tried it.
    • The "Stupid Wings" challenge: In addition to the employees being instructed to actively discourage people from doing it, Adam was required to sign a waiver before starting.
    • Then there was the sushi challenge which had qualifying rounds just to see if the challenger had any hope of being able to eat the actual challenge roll.
    • At least one hot wings challenge and one BBQ sandwich had capsaicin extract as an ingredient. Capsaicin being the chemical that makes hot peppers hot, the extract is nothing more than a (forebodingly) dark liquid that has no taste by itself. It's basically nothing more than pure, liquified pain in a bottle.
      Adam (watching the chef very carefully add something to the dish): What’s that?
      Chef: Pure capsaicin extract.
      Adam: You’re a dick.
    • The phall in New York that required a gas mask to simply cook it comes to mind. The cook also revealed that one challenger started bleeding from the nose while eating...
    • The home-made mustard at Phillipe's in Los Angeles isn't part of a challenge, but it has enough of a kick to it that merely making it causes your face to burn from the fumes.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: The prizes for the challenges are rarely greater than a photo on the wall and/or a t-shirt.
    • Sometimes the meal is also free. Other times, there are cash rewards, usually in the three digits.
    • One of Adam's more unusual rewards was a bumper sticker.
    • On the other hand, there have been challenges that rewards Adam with a prize that displays to the world that he lost.
    • The Boise, Idaho Johnny B. Goode challenge, involving a huge burger, milkshake, and chili cheese fries, had a guitar as a prize.
    • The Las Vegas burrito challenge had a lifetime of unlimited rides on a nearby NASCAR-themed roller coaster as a prize component (the restaurant has since closed and the ride relocated).
  • Butt-Monkey: Adam. Despite how he appears cheerful and enthusiastic to be eating huge meals on a constant basis, he actually starves himself on days before challenges and can go through pain and discomfort eating large-portion challenges. Regardless, it's still his own fault for accepting these challenges.
  • Catchphrase: "Today, in the battle of [challenge name] at [challenge location]... Today: Man/Food won!"
    • While the above example is his actual catchphrase, Adam says "This is the one of the best _____(whatever food he's eating) I've ever eaten!" so frequently that it might as well be his catch phrase as well.
      • Same goes for "This [food item] is so big, it has its own gravitational pull."
    • On Man v. Food Nation, whenever that episode's challenger fails his/her attempt: "We salute the victorious food."
  • Consolation World Record: When Adam failed to break the Men's world record in the "Don Juan Taco" challenge, Juan created a new Celebrity record category with Adam as the first record holder.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: You wouldn't know it by looking, but the show has documented quite a few people who look like they could simply not be able to pull off any of these challenges, yet they do.
    • An example of Truth in Television as many actual competitive eaters are not very big. Particularly Takeru Kobiyashi, who is a legend in the sport.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Adam's first encounter with the "Suicide Wings." He took one bite, and had to stop. He later came back and won though. Keep in mind that the first attempt was performed before the series started.
    • Also the "Fire in Your Hole" wing challenge (which featured the Ghost Chili as one of its ingredients) in Sarasota, FL. He only took two bites, but couldn't continue because the damn thing was that hot. It was Adam's only loss in spicy challenges. This ended up being due to the employees intentionally sabotaging him, by putting an entire bottle of ghost chili extract on the plate as revealed in an episode of Hot Ones.
  • Dagwood Sandwich: Adam eats several real-life examples as challenges and non-challenges. One example was the "Ultimate Destroyer" which had multiple white bread slices, large buns, 7 kinds of meat (brisket, pulled pork, sliced pork, ham, turkey breast, hamburger patties and smoked sausages) and the owner added barbecue sauce on every layer. And Adam was required to eat 1.5 pounds of Fries with that (he failed).
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: While there has been several challenges that yielded low success rates, the Kodiak Arrest Challenge in Anchorage, Alaska note  and the El Gigante Comida Challenge in Knoxville, Tennessee note  were undefeated by the time Adam took on the challenges. He managed to be the first one to defeat both of them.
  • Determinator: During the Doughman relay in Durham, North Carolina, Adam twists his ankle while running in his part of the relay. He initially slows to a walk, but later continues running to the tag off the last leg of the race. His team placed 19th out of 59 overall, a respectable position.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Adam managed to finish off five giant milkshakes with in the set time, only to lose the challenge when he couldn't keep the shakes down. He had ordered several different milkshakes, which he admitted was what did him in at the end. The challenge gets a Continuity Nod in a later one wherein he has to drink a 6-lb. shake and eat a 1-lb. sandwich, as he decides to just order a giant vanilla shake.
  • Downer Ending: Food winning - especially when Adam falls just short.
    • One that stands out is Memphis' "Sasquatch Burger", which was about the size of a spare tire. He got about halfway through it before throwing in the towel.
    • The "Don Juan Taco" challenge: Adam can set a new record by eating 8 breakfast tacos and there's no time limit. He eats four with no problem, then decides to take a break, taking advantage of the unlimited time. But when he's ready to eat the fifth taco, he can't because he's still full. Realizing that it will be hours before he can finish, he throws in the towel because he doesn't want to take up anyone else's time.
    • The Great Steak Challenge: Adam had to eat 74 ounces of Steak (5 different varieties) in under an hour. Adam fell short by 2 bites, but the real downer was he ran out of time (he had enough room to eat the remaining meat).
    • The "Southwestern Exposure" 12-egg omelet: Adam was able to defeat "West Coast Adam" by eating more of the 5 pound, pizza platter-sized feast, but lost the challenge by 2 bites.
      • Adam earned redemption on a later episode, taking down an even larger omelette.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: In contrast to most of the restaurants that Adam visits, Beth's Cafe in Seattle, Washington does not offer any reward for finishing its 12-egg omelette plus hash browns.
  • Fast-Food Nation: It has been noted that Adam Richman's gross-out fest portraying the very best and worst of American eating has succeeded in presenting a not very flattering picture of American eating habits outside the USA. The insane eating challenges, and even the standard portion sizes Adam explores in his tour of American food, have contributed to the (largely false but generally held) perception outside the USA that all Americans are waddling obese three-hundred-pound gutbuckets who habitually eat to excess. Take the Eagle burger venue in Boston: there doesn't appear to be a patron in the place who is of normal body weight with many people in the background visibly rating as "obese". Adam's challenger in the eating contest, for instance, is probably nearer 30 stone than 20. (OK, nearer 400pounds than 300) Many of these restaurants do give generous meal portions, which earned them many customers coming back routinely.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Invoked with the Eagles Deli Burger And Fries Challenge, which, at the time, consisted of 12 pounds of food due to the gimmick of the restaurant being that once a challenge was beaten, it was doubled and named after the previous winner. Adam didn't go into it with the intent to win since it would be virtually impossible for him, instead the challenge was a race against former Eagle's employee Chuck to see who could eat the most.
  • Food Porn: Invoked and parodied.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During the "Kodiak Arrest" challenge, a list is shown of ingredients that comprise the challenge as well as the two segments shown prior. Throughout the list are a few of Santa's reindeer.
  • Harder Than Hard: Many of the challenges have a single-digit win total (with a few at no one). None of the contests Adam has faced have a win percentage of over 20%.
    • New York's Curry challenge plays this trope straight and seemingly subverts it, as while over 100 people have won the challenge, but thousands of others have tried and failed.
  • Hidden Depths: If you saw Adam outside of Man v. Food, you'd think he's just the fun-loving guy who loves to take on food challenges. However, he IS a Yale graduate.
    • Exaggerated on his knowledge of food. Just watch him on his guest appearance as a judge on Iron Chef America. Still the same dorky guy, but he does know his food, high-end or not.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: "It tastes like burning'' has been invoked by name more than once.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Table manners go out the window during some challenges. When it's about speed, Adam and Casey will stuff their faces as quickly as possible. When it's about heat, they're sweating and slobbering and no amount of wiping can make them look presentable. Sometimes Adam will exaggeratedly wipe his mouth as a joke.
  • Jerkass:
    • Unsurprisingly, a lot of the owners of the restaurants that offer eating challenges will force participants to eat between 5 to 7 pounds of food in one sitting, especially putting in many pounds of starchy carbs to almost completely guarantee that you fail. Those who fail the challenge will be forced by contract to have their picture taken and posted on a shame display. That's not to say that owners can't get creative about finding new ways to shame participants who lose the challenge.
    • The worst offender in the show's history is arguably Munchies Cafe owner JD Chester. Adam's challenge was a mystery challenge this time around, in which he had to eat Spicy Ghost Pepper Wings. Adam lost the challenge, but it was later revealed on Hot Ones that JD had put more extract than what was necessary on the wings. This was done in order to purposely screw Adam over, nevermind the fact that the amount of extract he put on the wings was actually lethal and put Adam at risk.
    • Papa Bob from the Kansas City, BBQ episode is one of the more notorious jerkass challenge creators. He made bizarre rules for eating his Ultimate Destroyer sandwich (4 pounds of barbecued meats marinated in BBQ sauce and breads plus 1.5 pounds of fries) such as: "no standing up more than once" during the episode, "no going to the bathroom" and "no dipping your sandwich or fries into shakes", all of these being strategies that Adam previously used on Quantity Challenges. He forced Adam to put on a "I Failed Miserably" button upon failing the challenge and collected $58 from him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: As if it's not obvious, every restaurant owner that offers eating challenges usually want Adam to lose because that way they can collect large amounts of money from him (they profit off eating challenges thanks to the high price paired with the inevitable huge failure rate that can go over 95%), even when the price of making the huge meal is nowhere near the price they charged.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: After failing the Ultimate Destroyer challenge (which unfairly had excessive, different amounts of meats combined with more than 1 pound of French Fries) and obviously having severe discomfort from eating so much within 45 minutes, Adam was forced by the sandwich maker Papa Bob to accept a Shame button. Adam pretended he felt proud to take it though.
  • Mega Meal Challenge: Most of the food challenges.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: For the 190 pound burger challenge (no, that's not a typo) in Detroit, Adam recruited help from an entire local football and hockey team's lineups, a local firefighter precinct, a roller derby squad, Mexican lucha libre wrestlers, and a KISS cover band in full makeup.
    Masked Wrestler: [Standing up and brandishing a whole pickle] I GOT PICKLEEEEEEES! YEAAAAAH!!!
  • No Indoor Voice: Adam tends to shout at times whenever doing his voiceovers.
  • Nutritional Nightmare: Adam's challenges. They can weigh in between 4 to 7 pounds and are loaded with tens of thousands of calories, salt, grease and sugar.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • The "Kitchen Sink" Challenge:
      Hostess: Alright Adam, now all you have to do is finish the tray!
      Adam *narrating* I forgot about the F'— tray!
    • And again during the Oyster Bar challenge.
      Adam: NO F#&$ING WAY! NO F#&$ING WAY!
    • The first time we meet capsaicin extract:
      Cook: We add five drops of this. *gives Adam a small vial*
      Adam: What's this?
      Cook: Pure capsaicin extract.
      Adam: ...YOU'RE A D!@K.
    • The return of the Suicide Six-Wing Challenge:
      *Adam takes a taste of the wing sauce*
      Adam: OH, HOLY SH!T!
  • Race Against the Clock: Most challenges Adam goes up against are of this variety. Interestingly enough, most challenges he fails to are typically due to running out of time, instead of other factors.
    • One challenge in particular involved a giant burger sold at a minor-league baseball park that had to be eaten between the seventh-inning stretch and the game's final out (between 12 and 15 outs, depending on if the home team needed to bat in the bottom of the ninth). This meant that Adam didn't know exactly how long he had to finish it since it was entirely based on how quickly the outs were recorded that determined how much time he had, rather than a clock. He managed to finish it off only because the final batter fouled off an 0-2 pitch.
  • Sand In My Eyes: Inverted when Adam tries some pasta made with three ghost peppers. He tries to play off his crying as having recently seen a sad movie.
  • Schmuck Bait: The spicy challenges. Some have disclaimers warning challengers what a bad idea trying them is.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Somewhat literally, in the Richmond, VA "Stupid Wing Challenge", the secret ingredient in the "Container of Poor Judgement" is the Stupid Wing sauce left over from all the batches made over the course of the sauce's first day, and left to marinate with the leftovers from each consecutive day afterwards.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In one challenge when the crowd starts chanting "Half-way there!", Adam responds "and I'm livin' on a prayer."
    • Before his mystery challenge in Sarasota: "My challenge is a mystery... but sometimes—" *Glasses Pull* "—the mystery... is what makes it a challenge." YEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH
    • In the Baltimore episode, Adam wears a "Carcetti for Mayor" t-shirt in several scenes.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: During San Francisco's "Kitchen Sink Challenge":
    Adam: In the words of William Shakespeare; "This totally sucks."
  • Special Guest: From Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern: Andrew Zimmern appeared in the Minneapolis episode to introduce Adam to the "wonders" of lutefisk.
    • Syracuse University head men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim appeared in the Syracuse episode to help Adam sample some food at his favorite restaurant.
    • When Phoenix restaurant owner of CoopersTown Alice Cooper appears, Adam responds by bowing and saying "We're not worthy!".
      • Also in Phoenix, Sam Moore of the soul and R&B duo "Sam & Dave" (best known for the song "Soul Man") appeared before Adam took his "Ultimate Sliders Challenge" at Chompie's Deli.
    • In Atlanta, while stopping by Gladys Knight's soul food restaurant, the lady herself was in, and personally cooked up some chicken and waffles for Adam.
    • In the "Don Shula 48-oz. Steak Challenge", the man himself appeared in Adam's training segment.
    • In Des Moines, during Adam's unsuccessful attempt at the Adam Emmeneckernote  Challenge—a gigantic pork tenderloin, bacon cheeseburger, beef brisket, and buffalo chicken sandwich with a one-pound order of fries on the side—Emmenecker himself stopped by to cheer Richman on.
    • Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox appeared and jokingly called Yankee fan Adam a bum. He was not there specifically to be a special guest, just stopped by the restaurant for lunch.
      • In a way, the New York episode where Adam did the "Suicide Six Wings" rematch having then-New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain giving him advice involving how to beat the challenge — "Basically, you wing it." — is kind of a counterpoint to the Boston episode. Which would kind of give this an example of Fridge Brilliance here.
    • Well-known competitive eater and San Jose native Joey Chestnut participated in the Iguana's Taqueira's "BurritoZilla" challenge when Adam announced that he had a different challenge to cover and asked who amongst the crowd was going to participate in this challenge. Joey ended up beating the 5 pound challenge in 3 minutes and 10 seconds!
    • A Man V. Food Nation episode had the Lo Cash Cowboys particapting in Nashville's undefeated "Big Roost Challenge". The challenge is still undefeated.
    • A Man V. Food Nation episode filmed in Key West had Vanilla Ice talking about his enjoyment for the Blue Heaven's key lime pie.
    • A Man V. Food Nation episode featured Jerry Sags, one half of the legendary tag team The Nasty Boys taking down a spicy ten wing challenge in Tampa, Fl. He had 30 minutes to complete the challenge + enduring 5 minutes of afterburn. He took the wings down in 6 minutes and completed the afterburn like a boss!
    • A Man V. Food Nation episode had three members of the Harlem Globetrotters (Bull Bullard, Hammer Harrison, and "Slick" Willie Shaw) participating in Harlem's "Squealer Challenge". For this episode, all three of the participating members have to beat the spicy-capsaicin extract BBQ two-pound challenge in 15 minutes and then endure a 5 minute waiting period, or else the challenge would count as a loss. Two of the Harlem Globetrotters finished with over a minute left to go, while the last one (Bull) finished it at the very last second. All three of them ended up succeeding the 5 minute waiting period, with two of the three enduring an extra minute's worth of pain since they had to wait for Bull to finish. Afterwords, they get honored with the Man V. Food Nation belt, while the Harlem Globetrotters end up honoring him with an honorary one-of-a-kind #1 Richman jersey for helping them out.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Every chance he gets, Adam gets a burger with bacon and bleu cheese.
    • He also tends to like chili a lot.
  • The Unreveal: In some of Adam's visits, before he takes the challenge, he participates in city-famous food debates such as the 'Ju(i)cy Lucy' in the Twin Cities. After trying both foods, he stands in front of one of the restaurants, and says that his favorite is (cue the noisy truck). He pulls off a similar stunt with regards to the Coney Island hot dog between American and Lafayette.
  • Unaffected by Spice: Adam, while he definitely feels the heat from the spicy dishes he eats, has had a good record of success at these challenges.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Amazingly infrequent, with Adam going out of his way to get off-camera if he has to vomit.
    • The aforementioned milkshake challenge and the "Carnivore Challenge" 11 pound pizza, currently. The latter had it happen to Adam's challenge partner.
      • The Louisville episode of Man v. Food Nation had "Burrito Joe" vomit in the 7-and-a-half pound ice cream challenge at local chain The Comfy Cow.
  • Waxing Lyrical: One episode of Man v. Food Nation featured a pizza filled to the brim with four different chilis (with the habenero being the spiciest). Adam sampled the pizza, then turns to the chef and started quoting rapper DMX.
    "Ya'll gonna make me lose my mind. *points to his nose* Up in here. Up in here.