Thursday, December 08, 2022

Adam Richman Reminisces About Classic Food in ‘Adam Eats the 80s’

Adam Richman is looking to wake up your tastebuds with a serving of nostalgia through his new series Adam Eats the 80s, The author and entrepreneur ventures throughout the country revisiting some of the most iconic foods from a beloved decade. Whether it’s recreating a lost menu item or digging into its backstory, each episode is a journey back in time — no DeLorean needed.

Complementing this History series is the third helping of Richman’s The Food That Built America, Season 3 puts the spotlight on pop culture pioneers including Orville Redenbacher, Debbi Fields and Tom Carvel. Here, the foodie personality talks about his tubular trip down memory lane.

Nostalgia is so big right now. We see so many shows about the 1980s, but Adam Eats the 80s feels like a fresh take.

Adam Richman: You hit the nail on the head. Right now we live in a divided time, uncertain times. We look back on years gone by with a degree of rose-colored glasses. It was a time when things were simpler. The ’80s were so vibrant. We were flourishing financially. Things were expanding. The technology grew by leaps and bounds. People yearn for a simpler, happier time. I think food is really fun prism, and it’s one fans know me for. History had such success with The Food That Built America that, you know what? You can get into history through something everyone loves — delicious food.

How was it working to appeal to not only those who lived the decade but the ones who didn’t?

I think the show really can’t be just for people who lived through the ’80s. Though I know they are going to see the shoes they wore, candies they ate, hairstyle they had. The pop culture references they made, the commercials they love. You have to also appeal to those who were not around in that generation. You have to strike that balance. Having lived through the ’80s, I know the visceral response I had even for opening up a rip-top metal tab to drink a soda. You can use this to educate folks who were not around in the era in a fun way, but also I get the special opportunity to eat the candies that haven’t been made in 30 years or try the Pizza Hut sensation that hadn’t been tried in four decades.

You talk about recreating these beloved classics. Do you think any past ones might make a comeback as a result of the show?

I hope so. Every single one of the pizza creations we’ve seen needs to come back in my opinion. There are two variances of a breakfast pizza from Dominos. They are savory and sweet and amazing. Then I would say The Priazzo from Pizza Hut. It’s over-the-top but delicious. I have never seen my film crew react the way they reacted to this mega pizza. I would love to see Magic Middles Cookies. We went to a food lab in Wisconsin to recreate this Keebler cookie. There is apparently a Facebook group campaigning for it to come back. Maybe I’ll be the tipping point. Personally, I hope Hostess Pudding Pies come back.

Adam Eats The 80'S

Maggie Shannon

Was there one story that surprised you in an unexpected way?

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For me, it’s these individual moments of brilliance. For example, the guy who created the packaging for Nerds candy initially created it with one flavor. They asked if he can do something with two flavors. One of the two creators of the brand said he sat in his office and used a scalpel, pen and Scotch tape. He came back a half-hour later, and he figured out how to make a two-flavor package. Or the fact that Nerds candy itself came from leftover broken bits of the Everlasting Gobstopper left in the machine. This scientist thought to coat the bits with flavor and color and sell them as this other thing. Little incremental decisions make all the difference. I got to meet the lady who invented the Dole Whip. That’s like meeting Michael Jordan a little bit.

Was it difficult to get any of the companies to get on board recreating products that may have failed?

I think companies that may have decreased in size from where they were in the ’80s were very sensitive to not want to be depicted failing or struggling. I think what we would rather do in those instances is celebrate how big they got in the ’80s. Celebrate the fact they are still here and people are still going. The trick is you want to be factual, but you want to be graceful. The way you do that is to be honest with the viewer. The truth is for any successful restaurant to exist for four decades, I salute you. Anyone in hospitality would.

Adam Eats The 80'S Panda Express


Between The Food That Built America and Adam Eats the 80swhat can entrepreneurs today take from these past experiences?

That’s a great question. I think it’s more than a good idea. It’s having a really solid business plan. It’s betting on yourself through adversity. It also seems to be [that] it’s the people who genuinely have the hardest work ethic and a clear approach to what they are doing…you have to have a little bit of the dreamer and a little bit of the taskmaster. The last thing is to know your customers. Andy Kao, the man that created the orange chicken, went through countless iterations of that dish before he got to orange chicken that put [Panda Express] on the map. It’s knowing your customers, putting yourself to task and knowing what you want to do and outwork the competition. It’s that balance to me.

Adam Eats the 80s premieres February 27, 10/9c, History

The Food That Built America returns February 27, 9/8c, History

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