He’s the man with the iron stomach. Adam Richman has hosted numerous food programs on the Travel Channel. His most famous stint, however, is easily his gig hosting “Man vs. Food”, a highly popular food challenge show. Each episode involved Richman stopping by various go-to restaurants across the country. Each of the show’s six seasons had a single mission in mind, to feast on impossibly large meals. While many episodes saw the host falling under the pressures of the food, there were a few, brief, shining moments in which Richman emerged on top. To celebrate his lasting legacy, we thought we’d take the time to delve into the top ten food challenges that Richman actually won, leaving us feeling hungry and stuffed, all at the same time.
10. “Stuffed Pizza” – Hartford, Connecticut (Season 2, Episode 20)
The first entry on our list is sure to leave you feeling stuffed. Such is the case for this stuffed pizza challenge. 442 two-person teams have attempted the stuffed pizza challenge at Randy’s Wooster Street Pizza Shop, but astonishingly enough, only two have ever been able to complete the task. Previous winner Greg Malunion teamed up with Richman this time around, in an attempt to wring another victory. The pair had just an hour to eat a 10-pound pizza, stuffed to the gills with meat, cheese and cooked vegetables. The duo finished with just one second to spare, guzzling down the last bits of dry crust like there was no tomorrow.
9. “The ‘Stuffaluffagus’ Challenge” – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Season 6, Episode 7)
This entry brings us to Steel City Samiches in Pennsylvania, where the show’s second host Casey Webb attempted to consume a five-pound Pittsburgh style sandwich, piled high with meat, cheese, french fries, and slaw, for good measure. With a partner, if the challenger eats the sandwich in under 30 minutes, the winner gets a free t-shirt and a picture on the restaurant’s coveted wall of fame. With a success rate of ten percent, it’s easy to see why this challenge is nearly impossible to complete. But, Webb rose to the occasion like a capped crusader, tearing through the sandwich at breakneck speeds.
His partner handled his first portion in just four minutes. But as the pair began digging into the rest of the sandwich, the food began fighting back with a vengeance. With sweat now dripping from every pore, the duo began mixing up their strategy. Opting for a more tactical approach, the two began eating the sandwich layer by layer. Webb eventually stepped up his game, despite the immense odds stacked against him.
Pinned under the weight of the sandwich, the host courageously split his partner’s last portion. As his partner cleaned off the final table scraps, Webb hoisted his final bite, completing the challenge with a few minutes to spare.
8. “Big Texan Challenge” – Amarillo, Texas (Season 1, Episode 1)
The eighth entry on our list goes to Adam Richman’s first food challenge endeavor. In the pilot episode of “Man vs. Food”, Richman tackled the “Big Texan Challenge”. And the main course, you might be asking? Well, let’s put it this way. It’s a steak that’s pretty much the size of a human infant. Terrified yet?
After popping his head in various hotspot restaurants on Route 66, Richman swung by The Big Texan Steak Ranch to take on a steak that weighs in about 72-ounce. With just an hour on the clock, this monster of a steak is just the beginning. In addition to the four-and-a-half-pound steak, the challenger must eat a baked potato, a bread roll, beans, a shrimp cocktail and a modest salad. While Richman seemed overwhelmed at times, he ran through the meal in 29 staggering minutes; with plenty of time left for digestion.
7. “Atomic Hot Wings Challenge” – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Season 1, Episode 3)
These wings are hot. No questions there. But what puts this challenge at a stupidly high bar, is the fact that you have a sign a legal waiver before even attempting to eat them. The main attraction at Quaker Steak & Lube in Pennsylvania, Richman hit up the famous restaurant to feast on one of the hottest, if not, the hottest wings in the world.
There’s no time limit, but in order to take home the heralded bumper sticker prize and to land a spot on the “Wall of Flame”, the challenger has to take down six wings. Not too bad right? Think again. Clocking in at just about 150,000 Scoville units, one bite of these bad boys is the equivalent of eating 40 jalapeños at once.
That didn’t waver Adam’s confidence. With purpose in his eyes, the host dug into the wings with conviction. Not only did he have to finish the wings fast, he did it while under extraordinary amounts of pain. In the end, Richman took home the bumper sticker, a place on the “Wall of Flame” and yet another victory in the record books.
6. “Spicy Tuna Handroll Challenge” – Charleston, South Carolina (Season 2, Episode 3)
Adam came all the way to Bushido restaurant at the unlikely location of South Carolina to take on the “Spicy Tuna Handroll Challenge.” Consisting of ten increasingly spicy tuna rolls, over 500 people have attempted to complete this remarkable challenge. If successful, the winner would become one of a small few to be rewarded the title “Legend of the roll”.
Adam finished about six of the ten hot rolls before realizing the severity of the spiciness. When hit with the second to last onslaught of rolls, it was the seventh roll where the chef decided to really crank up the heat. After devouring the seventh roll, the eighth roll proved to be the stuff of nightmares. The roll is filled with a whole Carbonaro, a hybrid pepper which levels the potency 40 jalapeños.
The previous rolls were slowly surging inside of him like a firecracker. Richman Attempted to subside the flame with a few sips of milk, but the drink did virtually nothing. Just when Adam thought he couldn’t take another bite, he called back to a classic “Man vs. Food” strategy – eat it quick and don’t think twice. After scarfing nine unbearably hot rolls, the last and final roll was no doubt the most formidable, filled with a red chili and something called sulfuric sauce. Richman once again accomplished food glory, beating the challenge faster than anyone had done it before. He somehow was able to demolish the ten rolls in just 16 minutes.
5. “Spicy Phaal” – New York, New York (Season 1, Episode 9)
People tend to think of New York as a place where deli meats and hot dogs are found around every corner. There’s a boundless array of foodie experiences to be had. The last thing you would associate with New York cuisine, however? That would probably go to this challenge.
After, dipping his feet in a plethora of New York eateries, Richman took the time to stop by Bricklane Curry House in the East Village for their “Spicy Phaal” challenge. The challenge involves devouring what the restaurant proudly boasts to be the spiciest curry in the world. That’s a mighty bold claim for a curry house in New York.
Adam miraculously managed to finish this one with only a hint of apprehension. No big deal? Just you wait. According to Richman, the owner told him that someone who tried the dish started having a nose bleed in the middle of eating it. That’s one spicy curry.
4. “Kodiak Arrest Challenge” – Anchorage, Alaska (Season 2, Episode 16)
Alaska may not pull a lot of attention outside its local population, but the seafood is the stuff of food legends. In this delectably fishy episode of “Man vs. Food”, Richman made his way to Humpy’s Alaskan Ale House to test his luck against the “Kodiak Arrest Challenge”. The dish consists of a healthy serving of three Alaskan specialties featured on the restaurant’s menu, including a rack of king crab legs, Alaskan smoked salmon and reindeer meat, oddly enough.
This challenge was definitely out of the ordinary for a “Man vs. Food” episode, but what kind of food extraordinaire would Richman be if he didn’t at least attempt it? With just an hour to finish the massive seven course meal, which tallied about six pounds in weight, Adam scarfed and scarfed the heaps of seafood and deer meat without breaking a sweat. This one proved no match against Richman’s bottomless appetite. He became the first contender to ever win the challenge, and with an impressive 43 minutes to spare. Not bad, not bad at all.
3. “The ‘Surf N Turf’ Challenge” – Daytona Beach, Florida (Season 6, Episode 9)
Our third entry takes us to Daytona Beach, where “Man vs. Food”’s season five and six host Casey Webb faced a three-tier tower sandwich, packed with enough gluten to kill a small lion. With a foundation of Texas toast and a ten-ounce bun, the sandwich is first smothered with a layer of garlic butter, where it is then topped with a slice of provolone cheese, eight strips of bacon, pesto mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and four ounces of deep fried onion strips. The sandwich’s main draw is a fillet of mahi-mahi, a fish most commonly found in Hawaii, but is also local to the Atlantic coast.
If victorious, the winner gets a t-shirt, and of course, bragging rights for life. 15 percent of people who try the colossal, meat sandwich actually finish it. And there’s more where that came from. Each “Surf N Turf” sandwich comes with a side option of fries. You know. Just in case the sandwich wasn’t enough. The burger proved too massive to tackle all at once. Webb took an alternative route, deconstructing it into four distinct parts. He ate the burger with no trouble, riding a wave of meat in just over five minutes. Using the veggies as a flavour barrier, Webb managed to power through the Texas toast. The last part that remained was the bun. The host rose to the occasion, securing a winner’s spot in the pantheon of “Surf N Turf” challengers.
2. “The Kitchen Sink” – San Francisco, California (Season 2, Episode 4)
Our second to last entry took Richman to the San Francisco Creamery Co. in California, where he endured a massive, two-gallon sundae. Like its name suggests, “The Kitchen Sink” is a veritable mess of eight hulking scoops of ice cream, piled high with eight servings of whip cream and toppings. If finished in under an hour, those brave enough to drain this clutter of sweetness, gets their picture on the wall of fame and free ice cream for an entire year.
At first, the spectators seemed doubtful, but Richman was doing better than they initially anticipated. At just 20 minutes in, Richman was already halfway done. Things were looking pretty good. Fueled by the crowd’s boisterous cheers, Richman was feeling more than confident. That was until the weight of what he was eating really started to kick in. In his stomach, that is. He was consuming what a sane person would consider to be an overwhelming amount of sugar. When all hope seemed lost, Richman made a desperate plea, requesting a plate of fries to help offset the tide of sweetness. Cautiously eating a few fries proved to be an effective strategy. The salt from the potatoes gave him that extra kick of fuel to resume the ice cream feast.
Eventually, the ice cream melted into a puddle of broth. Richman somehow shoveled the remaining ice cream spoonful by spoonful until all that remained was a shallow pool of soupy ice cream. At this point, the host was nearly at the end of his rope, but in typical “Man vs. Food” fashion, Richman rose to the challenge, pulling energy from the uproarious crowd around him. Despite some minor hardships, Richman hoisted the final spoonful, effectively sinking the proverbial sink and prevailing as the fifth person to ever defeat the challenge. Kudos to you, Richman. But, there’s still one challenge even more death defying than ice cream.
1. “Hellfire Hot Wing Challenge” – San Jose, California (Season 1, Episode 15)
While most of the dishes on this Top 10 are there because of the magnitude of the portions, this last one takes the cake because, well, it nearly knocked Richman out cold. Yeah, it was that bad. In this season one episode, the “Man vs. Food” host headed to sunny San Jose, California, taking the time out of his hearty schedule to sample the best grub the city has to offer. Everything was nice and dandy. That was until he was met with facing the “Hellfire Hot Wing Challenge”, which according to Richman, caused him to endure the worst physical pain he’s ever felt. Not to mention, the dauntingly small portion size of a dozen wings. It’s only a testament to the intensity of the wings. One order of these savory hellfire wings contains more than six ounces of dried habanero, making the sauce so unimaginably hot that out of the 9000 people that have tried it, only 20 have been successful.
Judging from the look on Richman’s face after taking his first smoky bite, he was experiencing pure, unadulterated pain. But what sets this challenge apart from the other entries on this list, is the unbelievably harsh set of rules. That being, the challenger is permitted no drink or napkin. Talk about overkill. On top of that, after eating the 12th wing, the challenger must endure a five-minute waiting period to let the spices rage inside. And that’s only the beginning. During this waiting period, the challenger has to lick their fingers dry clean. Yikes.
A few minor obstacles didn’t stop Richman from backing down. After his sixth wing, the pain flowed like a thousand knifes over his face and hands. And with no napkin in sight, we can only imagine the kind of pain Richman was in. As the fiery blazes raged, he reached the last wing with sauce smothered across his face and hands. The real torture, however, proved to be the five-minute waiting period. No relief was in sight, just time stirring in unbridled spiciness. With nothing to sooth the pain, Richman was literally drifting between a state consciousness and unconsciousness. Once the battle was finally won, the spiciness only increased. But as it goes in the battle of “Man vs. Food,” man emerged victorious, proving once again that even the most agonizing food challenges is no match against the sweet taste of victory.