Adam Richman has a love affair with food. The people who turn food into a class system? Not as much.
"I find that very often people talking about food and food culture has unfortunately become the territory of an elite few who have gone to culinary school or have a culinary background," said Richman, the host of "Man vs. Food" on cable's Travel Channel. "Terms that are used or ingredients and implements are used that not everyone knows or not everyone has access to.
"When something is as beautiful and personal and spiritual and fun as food and food preparation becomes inaccessible, we've done ourselves and our country a huge disservice."
Richman, whose year-old show (airing at 9 p.m. Wednesdays) has become the top-rated program on the network, is hitting the road for a series of talks and demonstrations, beginning Thursday night at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City.
While "Man v. Food" pits Richman against some of the biggest gastronomical challenges in the country, the lectures will show another side of the 35-year-old actor-turned-host.
"This is not going to be ‘Man v. Food' onstage," he said from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y. "There are no challenges, no spicy, gigantic food."
The first third will be Richman talking about food, followed by a demonstration using simple ingredients and tools - "Just because you don't have a culinary degree or a German knife doesn't mean you can't make some really, really great food," he says - followed by a Q&A session.
The format of the talk, and the success of the show, comes from Richman's down-to-earth respect for food, he said.
"I talk to people the way I wish people talked to me about food," he said. "I could be very haughty and use terms and implements and techniques that are impressive and flashy, but that doesn't speak to peoples' experiences."
The Travel Channel sought out Richman, a Brooklyn native, to host the show after hearing of his experience working in the food industry and a food journal that he's kept since 1995. The show features him tackling big food-eating challenges, although he states in the show's intro that he is not a competitive eater.
Two seasons and 38 episodes are done, with at least one more on the way. Richman said he has no idea what his record is.
"Once season two wrapped, that little BB fell out of my head. I think I've done pretty well," he said. "Well over .500 - better than my (Miami) Dolphins (of the National Football League) are doing."
Richman and the show's crew look for unique settings and situations, not just the largest burger or burrito in town, he said.
"If it's just big for big's sake, or sandwiches that are throwing 30 or 40 different kinds of stuff in there, there's no imagination," he said.
The show looks for unique locations with a cultural foothold that have good visuals and a good history, he added.
The secret to completing many of the challenges is staying hydrated, he said. When he's not shooting the show, he's a vegetarian who thrives on fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, plus a daily one-hour cardio workout.
"I'm a single man. The more I'm able to avoid a Shrek-like physique, the more I appeal to women," he said. "The second I start looking like a dripping candle, the show is over."
The biggest frustration he has, Richman said, is fans who try to topple him.
"The show is ‘Man v. Food,' not ‘Man v. Man,' yet I get every hairy-chested mouthbreather popping off at the top of their neck. I don't care if you can eat more than me," he said. "All I'm trying to do is give you my best shot and know these challenges are out there. I get a lot of aggressive, loud dudes trying to challenge me."