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man v food v john catucci

19 Oct

I think most of us are familiar with Adam Richman’s Man v Food but for the uninitiated let me explain a little.

His culinary road trip is divided in two with our enthusiastic host showing us around the weird, wonderful and tasty sights of [insert American town here].  We see diners, dive bars, curry houses and BBQ shacks.  The first half focuses on popular local joints – most have customers who have been tucking into biscuits and gravy, chicken wings or cheesecakes for a long time.  There are regulars who have had the same meal every Friday without fail for 20 years.  Adam tastes the signature dishes, sees how they are made and, of course, shoves it down his cake hole.

‘Mmmmmmm. Donuts/beer/erotic cakes’

I admit to an assumption that MvF was fronted by a chirpy chap who likes to eat, more of a student type who likes nothing more than to chug down a few beers and eat as many kebabs as possible.  But he’s not just that!  Each show begins with a quick intro from the man himself: “I’ve held every position there is the restaurant business” so he has the background but he also has the intelligence and vocabulary to match.  He will explain that, yes, he may be a few mouthfuls into a 25lb steak but it’s SO GOOD because the sharp onion relish cuts through the beautifully rendered fat on the meat and the dusty coating of semolina on the chips gives an incredible crispness that compliments the homemade aioli.  Or something.

After the commercial break?  All hell breaks lose. 

Earlier this year Adam officially retired from eating contests.  I don’t really blame him, it can’t be good for anyone.  Each episode concludes with a ridiculous amount of food being eaten by our gastronomic host.  Or at least an attempt at eating a ridiculous amount of food.  This could be as many oysters as possible in 20 minutes or eight different pasta dishes plus tiramisu in one sitting.  There will always be a crowd to cheer him on and the chef waiting in the wings, looking smug as Adam falls into a meat coma, admitting defeat.  After three seasons of MvF and one of Man v Food Nation, the total score stands at MAN 48 v 38 FOOD.  Well done, Man.  I’m sure your doctor is very proud.  MvFN follows a similar path with members of the public taking on the food challenges and Adam acting as ‘coach’.  I wonder how much paperwork gets signed before each filming.

Recently on the Good Food schedule I notice a new show entitled ‘You Gotta Eat Here!’  This was likely to be familiar territory.  There are certainly local cafes and burger bars to visit but that’s where any similarity ends.  Presented by John Catucci the programme is entirely filmed in Canada.  John makes no foodie claims.  He’s not a chef nor been a waiter, writer or critic.  Essentially he travels the country eating lovely grub.  That’s it.  I could do that!  Maybe I should.

Fun Catucci

In fact there is something our boys have in common, John’s an actor, singer and comedian.  Adam is also an actor with a drama degree from Yale.  If you ever watch ‘The Tuxedo’ again (again?) you may spot our Canadian friend in there somewhere.

Serious Catucci

MvF came in at #7 in The 10 Best Food Shows of the Decade 2000/09 (Paste Magazine) with Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ getting the top spot.  I’ll miss the show but there are endless repeats with compilations and the like.  Maybe the stunt aspect wasn’t such a bad thing?  YGEH! is fun and warm around the edges but do I really want to see a grinning, perky guy eating deep fried mac and cheese telling us it’s the best thing EVER and … moving on to the next gaff?

It turns out I need description, explanation or, at the very least, someone happy to risk a heart attack in order to convey how it feels to consume an entire ox with a side of mash.

Today, in the battle of Man v Food and You Gotta Eat Here! … Man v Food won.

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