Adam Richman's 'Straight Up Tasty': The Worst Cookbook of the Year?

Staff Writer
Allen Salkin wonders why respected publisher Clarkson Potter stooped to Adam Richman's level
Travel Channel

Richman's relationship with the Travel Channel has been rocky. 

If, for some reason, anyone misses the TV gorge-fests of Adam Richman, a struggling actor who was hired a while back to host a Travel Channel show called Man Vs. Food in which he seemed to be eating himself to death, such a person can now relive the actor's TV excess through 150 recipes that, his publisher claims, define his experiences with food. Why Clarkson Potter, a highly respected publisher of prize-winning cookbooks, would stoop to release a title by Richman is beyond my understanding. The publication of his book, Straight Up Tasty, proves that the publisher is not above scrabbling around in the pop culture gutter for a buck. 

I am the “expert” who runs Cookbooks.about.com, a page about food writing and cookbooks. I asked my assistant Gillian Speiser to put together a round-up of Clarkson Potter’s releases for this spring She gamely created a page with the publisher’s impressive list, which includes new titles by Mark Bittman and Christina Tosi. 

Mark is a friend — we bonded when we both worked at the New York Times and encouraged the paper to add bicycle parking in their headquarters building. I respect Mark as a progressive thinker about food — not just because of the bicycle thing.

But I don’t respect Adam as a food person. Notice on the cover of his book, out in May, that there seems to be no mention of the Travel Channel, nor of his show. That relationship was frayed even before his Instagram tirades last year in which, amongst other offenses, he told a commenter to "grab a razor blade and draw a bath. I doubt anyone will miss you."

I know from the reporting I did for my book about the Food Network that the parent company of Travel, Scripps Networks, was concerned that Adam would have a heart attack or some kind of stomach explosion incident as a result of his TV show — which would have been bad publicity, to say the least. (It might also be bad for Adam, but let’s keep our priorities straight. Scripps — ticker symbol SNI — is a publicly traded company with a market cap of $9.5 billion).

So, no more Adam trying to eat meat sandwiches bigger than a breadbox. No more sweaty dude with cheering crowds pushing him. Travel Channel let the Instagram storm pass and is debuting a new Richman show April 1, Man Finds Food, during which he does stuff like eat a burger at a Thai restaurant and discovers an inside-out grilled cheese sandwich at another place. I'm not compelled to watch the actor's explorations. Are you? 

Whether his recent weight loss means there will be no more clouds of sweet-smelling smoke drifting from his trailer as he prepares for shoots and no more crew members who gripe about him is not yet known.

Here’s the difference between Adam and someone who is still beloved by Travel Channel: Andrew Zimmern, the dude who eats weird critters. Andrew is a food person through and through, a restaurant veteran, a cook who can make hand-pulled noodles on his own — a mensch.

Support him. Or buy Clarkson’s other books. Let Adam’s fester. This is not the business Clarkson or any of us ought to be in.

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