Adam Richman’s Mom Taught Him to 'Start Everything With a Big Onion'

The Daily Meal sat down with the ‘Secret Eats’ star and his mother

Man v. Food superstar Adam Richman is a momma’s boy, and we don’t blame him. Sharon Richman is a sweet Jewish Brooklynite who makes a really good spinach pie (among a slew of other masteries). In fact, the TV food personality credits his mom for much of the culinary consciousness that helped skyrocket his successful career.

Following his parents divorce and his dad's untimely death, Adam's mother worked several jobs day and night to “rub two pennies together and make a dime.” Between her picture-perfect poached pears and eggy bread, she labored as a teacher, tutor, and guidance counselor before becoming a “professional volunteer” at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Adam might have the lowdown on Sasquatch Burgers and Atomic Wings, but this supermom knows best about life and love.

Her first words of advice stem from a metaphor coined by nineteenth-century writer Sydney Smith: Don’t try to make a square peg fit a round hole. “If this is who this individual is, despite the fact that you may want them to be this other thing or need them to be this other thing to fit into your life, you can’t make a square peg fit a round hole,” the author and star of Cooking Channel's Secret Eats with Adam Richman, told The Daily Meal while visiting our offices with his mom. The 43-year-old says his mom would love for him to get married — to the right person, of course!

adam richman mom

Courtesy of Adam Richman

Sharon also warns her son, “Don’t stay too long at the fair.” Some have interpreted this to mean if you remain somewhere for an excessive amount of time, that place begins to lose its dazzle. Adam’s translation is slightly different, yet relatable.

“If it’s not working, it’s not working,” the New York native said. “Don’t waste the one thing you can’t get back, which is time. So don’t stay too long at the fair.”

Of course, Adam — who was a formally trained sushi chef and Yale School of Drama graduate and working actor before bursting into the national spotlight on Man v. Food — threw in a little food prep guidance. If you’re not chewing gum, this one might make you cry.

“In terms of cooking beef and pretty much any recipe, everything starts with a big onion,” Adam said, noting that his mother originally received this advice from her grandmother. “So, presumably — even a dessert — you cut it, you leave it, and then you start making dessert.”

adam richman mom

Courtesy of Adam Richman

In regards to style and hygiene, Mama Richman taught her boy to always carry a handkerchief, and to make sure his nails and shoes are clean.

“I kind of paraphrase the motto — I think it was from the State University of New York, where I went — ‘Be all you can be,’” Sharon chimed in, to which Adam replied, “No, that’s the Army.”

But Adam's mom came back strong with these words that everyone should live by: “Be the best version of yourself that you can be.” And all of this resonated with Adam, even when he was away filming Man v. Food. Before every single one of his 59 eating challenges, he phoned home for support.

“I would call my mom and, you know, it was kind of like I had my ‘get psyched’ mode, and she would say, ‘Wow ‘em with your wit, knock ‘em dead, and let ‘em know where you come from,’” he recalled. “‘You let ‘em know Brooklyn’s there.’”

This advice was exceptionally important to Adam, because it echoed the message in a song he was particularly fond of.  In “Remember Who You Are,” off of The Real Ambassadors — a 1962 collaboration between Louis Armstrong; Lambert, Hendricks & Ross; and Carmen McRae — the lyrics say to remember who you are and what you represent.

adam richman mom

Courtesy of Adam Richman

“My mom made it very, very clear to me that you represent your family, you represent your faith. As much as people say, ‘Nah I’m just me, I’m not this larger whole,’ the people will draw an opinion on me — or my mom or my family, the way I was raised, people from New York — apropos of my behavior,” he said. “It was this idea of ‘You let ‘em know where you come from,’ because I was raised to have a degree of comportment and gentlemanly behavior.”

As far as gentlemanly behavior goes, one aspect of that was to curse less. With that being said, Sharon stands by one particular swear word as part of her last bit of advice.

“Never let anybody say your shit stinks,” Adam said. “That is to say, never put yourself in the position where someone can say, ‘You did this bad thing. You did this wrong thing.’ Stay above reproach.”

Clearly, Adam trusts his mother’s recommendations. Here’s hoping he takes her advice and starts with a big onion when he treats her to a delicious dessert for Mother’s Day.