Man v. Food's Adam Richman: "I fell ass over teakettle in love with Cape Town"
America's most famous foodie has been travelling the globe in search of off-the-menu delicacies - but it wasn't just South Africa's prawns that wowed him
Adam Richman has stopped stuffing himself in the name of entertainment.
The Brooklynite who found fame as the eponymous glutton in Man v. Food is back on Food Network UK tonight. In Man Finds Food (see what they did there?), he jets off to cities around the world, seeking out off-the-beaten-path restaurants that you won't find in the Lonely Planet.
He tells us about the grooviness of Cape Town, the sweet joy of Mozambique prawns and why he wanted to film in townships...
Series two takes you to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Ho Chi Minh City, Moscow and Rome. Did you have a favourite?
I fell ass over teakettle in love with Cape Town. And that is not a term I use lightly. I have always said Hawaii is the place where my soul hits the reset button. I had not had a feeling like that anywhere until I went to Cape Town.
High praise indeed. What did you love so much?
I loved the food. I loved the energy of the city because it has a youthful exuberance but it’s well aware of its past. I loved the proximity to some of the most beautiful places on Planet Earth: you can get to a great beach or a mountain or a savannah; you can see baboons and giraffe and penguins – and all within 20 minutes from the centre of town.
Aerial view of Cape Town
Great fashion: I happen to be a little bit of a clotheshorse and there are lots of up and coming lines. And it’s very affordable, especially if you come from Western Europe or the United States.
Another thing I think is very cool: nearly everyone is bilingual. I met people who spoke four languages – Xhosa, Afrikaans, English, Zulu – and thought nothing of it: And I have to say something: as a Brooklynite, I loved the racial diversity and harmony in Cape Town. That was one of the grooviest parts about it.
Groovy isn’t an adjective I’ve ever associated with Cape Town…
Cape Town – unlike Joburg – has a chilled vibe. If I bumped into someone who’d been drinking, I didn’t feel they wanted to start a fight. My female crew liked the fact that they could go to a bar and weren’t grabbed, ogled and harassed. People just seemed very cool.
We stayed one block from a crazy party street and people were getting absolutely liquored up. I didn’t see one fight. I’ve walked around London when people are out on the lash and you’d think there’s a Royal Rumble about to start [British accent]: “You want some, mate? You want some?” In Cape Town, it’s like: I want some biltong.
Did you film in any townships?
Yes, and I’m very proud to say that the network and my crew were 100% behind that. I didn’t just want to focus on wealthy, white tourist South Africa. So we went and filmed in the Gugulethu township, and we filmed in Soweto and the Maboneng precinct in Johannesburg.
A football match in Gugulethu township
In fact, the Minister of Defence happened to be in Gugulethu when I was, and he was so happy that I didn’t just stay in the downtown area. I feel that it’s incumbent upon me to push people outside of their comfort zone – including myself – and to give a real, honest depiction of a place.
So would you encourage ordinary travellers to do the same?
I want travellers to go and spend their money in these places. If you go and you’re smart, you will get great food and you will be safe. And you will have an experience that people who never leave Long Street will never have.
What South African specialities would you recommend?
We ate an inordinate amount of biltong. Biltong is jerky essentially – spiced, air-cured jerky, but springbok as well as beef. You can buy it in packets, but there are also biltong places that make it inhouse. We did the famous South African sausage boerewors, which is a farm sausage. Then there’s also a relish called chakalaka, which is wonderful.
And they have really, really good crisps. They have a flavour called monkey gland. I bought some and I said to the crew: “Just try some”. And after they did, I just turned the bag… But from what I understand, it’s a euphemism.
South Africa's more famous for its vineyard. Was wine your tipple of choice?
In an effort to preserve my girlish figure, I try not to drink too much on the road. I tend to be a vodka/red wine/sake drinker on the road.
No, my poison of choice was a plate of Mozambique prawns. I have never in my life had something so incredibly good. Because the current is so strong outside of Mozambique, the prawns have to work so they have the dense muscle of a lobster tail and the light, sweet flavour of prawn. Next level.
Man Finds Food is on Food Network UK (Freeview channel 41, Sky 248, Freesat 149, Virgin 291) on Thursdays 9pm
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