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Entertainment Future of TV Social Media

Man v Food’s Adam Richman on how adapting for social has given him food for thought

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By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

March 27, 2024 | 8 min read

Best known for his mammoth eating challenges on the Food Network show, the TV host sits down with The Drum as part of our Entertainment Focus to explain how he’s taking on new foodie formats for TV and streaming on YouTube and social.

Adam Richman holding a cup of tea with the Union Jack

Adam Richman Eats Britain, new show on Food Network and Discovery+ / Adam Richman Eats Britain

When we meet TV presenter Adam Richman, he is recording promos for his recently launched Adam Richman Eats Britain show. Not only is he done in one take, but he also speaks to the cameraman in his own language, showing a deep understanding and respect for the craft of creating content.

Richman’s big break, Man v Food, which he starred in four seasons, ran from 2008 to 2012 and saw him visit restaurants and diners all across America. Since then, he has appeared in shows such as BBQ Champ, The Food That Built America and Secret Eats.

While it has been over a decade since he left Man v Food, Richman admits he still grapples with it being the show he is known for. “I’m blessed that Man v Food was as big of a hit as it was and I understand that, to some extent, I will always be associated with it.” He shares that there had to be an “internal adjustment” for him to forge a career path after the show.

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“There are some people who are forever going to want me back in food challenges and who are hesitant to embrace me in other aspects. I had to be grateful and not resentful as it’s easy to get trapped in that bubble [of Man v Food]. But then you realize that bubble is the thing keeping you aloft.”

Nowadays, Richman has found his groove hosting a new UK travelog on Food Network and Discovery+ and entertaining his social followers on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram Reels.

#FoodTok

On social you can catch Richman testing bizarre viral foods like the Fruit Roll-Up ice-cream, #TinnedfishTok and oysters with Doritos. As well as testing these gourmet dishes, in some videos he gives his followers a food history lesson. Take the Pringle and Nutella video; while Richman chomps down on chocolate spread and potato chips, he tells the story of the invention of the Pringle in 1956.

@adamrichman

Pringles and Nutella! What crazy food combination should I try next??

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But adapting to social media wasn’t an easy transition for Richman. “You have to maintain a safe distance and professionalism, which is hard. We are human beings and, invariably, sometimes I just want to respond and you realize that there’s far too much riding on your outward perception just to respond willy nilly as though you aren’t the face of a franchise.”

Richman’s concerns are legitimate; take a show like Rosanne, which was canceled by ABC after the lead, Rosanne Barr, posted a racist social post. CeeLo Green’s The Good Life was dropped by TBS following offensive posts on X.

“If I do something that jeopardizes a show, it doesn’t just affect me, it affects the PAs who work on that show, the runners who work on the show, the camera, the sound people, everyone in the office editing that show. There’s a greater responsibility. It was a learning curve and I haven’t always been perfect at it.”

Acknowledging his initial inexperience in this space, Richman says it is food influencers such as Salt Hank, Owen Han and Jake Cohen who have helped show him the way. “I have a lot to learn from them; they know how to make the algorithm, they know how to get their recipes out there and make infinitely more money than me.”

He’s keen not to be someone who looks like they try too hard to be cool on TikTok. “What am I going to do, vape and do a kickflip on a skateboard? If I’m just me and having fun and loving the stories that food tells, making it look super awesome and yummy and making you want to go to that place, then I’m doing my job.”

In addition to using social media as a self-promotion tool, Richman and his producers have had to adapt to different ways of audiences watching his shows. “Videos have gotten shorter, so I can’t sit here with these big laborious takes and expect to gain people’s attention. It’s cool if previous generations who grew up on my stuff still dig that, but I want other people to. So, you have to have that sensibility and you have to view it with respect.”

Richman references a clip from his upcoming show that has racked up 17m views on YouTube. To ensure a cut-down breakthrough, Richman leans into pop culture, for example, by “peppering” the show with Only Fools and Horses jokes and borrowing viral moments like Fenton the Dog and the £1 fish video.

“The kids who grew up on TikTok and Instagram want one thing and I grew up doing this, so what’s that middle ground that doesn’t make me compromise the good stuff but also gives them what they want out of balance?” he asks.

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