Travel Channel host, author and food and travel explorer Adam Richman will return to the East End to host the inaugural Dan’s Corona MonTaco presented by Don Julio at Gurney’s Montauk on Friday, July 7. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Richman has tasted the best cuisine New York has to offer, but he’s also exposed his pallet to some of the most unique and flavorful concoctions from around the world. That experience should serve him well, because as host of MonTaco, Richman will be sampling Latin-inspired dishes created by 16 of the best chefs from NYC and the East End.
You hosted Dan’s GrillHampton last summer and attended last year’s inaugural ClambakeMTK, what draws you back to Gurney’s and the East End?
You said it yourself—I went last year and had an absolute blast! The food, the people, the environment and the weather—what’s not to like?
What are you most looking forward to about MonTaco?
I have always appreciated the taco as a culinary art form because it can be as simple or as complicated as you choose and still be delicious. It’s handheld, it’s portable, and it really is about making the ingredients shine, rather than piling a bunch of stuff and sauces on to mask what’s actually in the tortilla.
Where did you eat the best Mexican meal of your life?
Wow, that’s difficult! I have had amazing tacos in Scottsdale and Phoenix, great burritos in San Diego, and, believe it or not, some of the best nachos of my life in Montgomery, Alabama.
However, when I finally went to Mexico City, I actually saw the difference between real “Mexican” food and our interpretation of it. There are so many variations on simple themes that the average carne asada taco came in thousands of different versions.
What’s your favorite Mexican dish to prepare at home?
I love a good order of nachos and al pastor tacos. Guacamole is proof that the Lord loves us and wants us to be happy. My guacamole is the heavyweight champ. Don’t agree? Come at me, bro! My guacamole kung fu is very strong.
Is there one cooking style or cuisine you’ve yet to explore?
I think I would like to truly gain command of a few distinct and ethnically different Asian cooking styles and to learn how to master open-fire cooking using resources from all backgrounds—from Myron Mixon teaching me American barbecue to Frances Mallmann teaching me the seven types of traditional Argentinian open-fire cooking.
What advice can you give to people who are traveling—how does one best experience new places through local cuisine?
Avoid touristy areas; beware of very glitzy or brand new signage and polish; don’t just ask the hotel concierge but rather ask locals who might not have a financial stake in recommending stuff to you, like valets, police officers and so on; and always bring hand sanitizer or have your own napkins or wet wipes. I like to travel with a pocketknife and chopsticks in case I need utensils, have to cut something in half, or slice something like great bread or a phenomenal cheese. Finally, write everything down!
You have a degree in International Studies and a Master’s from the Yale School of Drama, what made you decide to go into the food industry?
I don’t possess nearly enough arrogance to consider myself an expert, but I have been making a diligent attempt to both write down my discoveries and apply a significant degree of research to interpret what I have learned since 1995.
I’ve been working in the food industry in one way or another since I opened my little potato chip and lemonade stand on the corner of Homecrest Avenue and Avenue U back in Brooklyn when I was about six or seven years old. I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 12 and been cooking for nearly as long.
Growing up in New York, you come to appreciate the language of food and the way it really tells the story of an individual or of an entire ethnic group. I think that’s what drew me to food and that’s what continues to draw me further into the subject.
What do theater and cooking have in common?
They are both getting more expensive! Ha ha! Honestly, with the advent of food television you have chefs who are as television and performance savvy as they are in the kitchen, plus the “open kitchen” floor plan of restaurants is very prevalent.
In both fields, there’s a degree of honing your craft “offstage” and then delivering something extraordinary to your audience, so to speak. Much like a theater performer gets one chance to deliver that aria or soliloquy, the same goes for the chef who drops the dish off at a paying customer’s table. Here’s the culmination of all of your prep, and all of us want the standing ovation.
Both actors and cooks draw on all sorts of influences from all sorts of places to deliver the goods; Actors may use Stanislavski, Meisner, or Stella Adler’s techniques to arrive at a particular performance, much as a chef might use a bit of home cooking, a bit of classic French technique, and maybe a bit of rustic desert cooking from Mendoza, Argentina to create their culinary performance.
You are a big Yankees fan and Yankee Stadium has some of the best food of any sports stadium. How have you seen ballpark food evolve in your lifetime? It’s not just peanuts and Cracker Jack anymore—what are some of your favorite things to eat at a game?
Not only have I seen it, I want to be part of it! It’s kind of a dream of mine to have a concession stand at a really cool venue!
Yankee Stadium would be the ultimate! In fact, when I was on The Martha Stewart Show, Curtis Granderson, who at the time was playing for the Yankees, was on the show with me. They were both joking about how I should serve this particular sandwich I had made at Yankee Stadium. They instantly read my face knowing that I was no longer joking when I told them how very much I would love to do that!
Yes, it’s incredible what the larger venues have done—bringing in restaurateurs like Danny Meyer and adding local food vendors, who now have concession stands in the big stadiums. Some offer legitimate fine dining options.
To be fair, minor league baseball has kind of always been better at this than the major leagues. They have some of the best food I have eaten at any sporting venue.
The best would be hard to name as I haven’t sampled them all, but the Legends Box at Yankee Stadium gives you access to everything from crab legs to perfectly cooked prime rib. AT&T Park in San Francisco, where the Giants play, reflects the amazing culinary standards of that city with offerings that range from foie gras beignets, a growing herb and vegetable garden in centerfield to a high-end members-only club inside the scoreboard!
Still, it’s hard to beat peanuts, a hotdog, and an ice-cold beer…
It seems like you’ve done it all. What’s next for you?
Done it all? Not by a long shot! I look at friends of mine who work in the same or similar industries that I correspond with: Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain, Johnny Iuzzini, Rachel Ray, Hubert Keller, Michael Mina and Gordon Ramsay—and I see what they have accomplished both as culinary talents and as people in the media spotlight and I am HUMBLED.
They have built solid brands, traveled to some of the most exquisite locations on earth, garnered accolades and respect along the way, and still retain a degree of curiosity all the while being some of the most intelligent folks I have ever met.
Next for me would be trying to solidify another long running show on television, and finally either bring some more of my own recipes to the marketplace either fresh or frozen and open a restaurant. I’m a student, and am watching the greats closely.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about the joys of dining in the summertime?
This is the time to explore, especially when you have the option of dining outside—you can play with different temperatures with traditional dishes like cold soups or use a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Most of my fondest cooking memories happened during the summer. People want to gather together since most generally have a lighter workload, and everybody wants to soak up the sunshine. A great sangria, some perfectly grilled meats and a few salads and side dishes can make a great meal.
Find the latest info on all of Dan’s Taste of Summer events remaining this summer—the new Dan’s Corona MonTaco presented by Don Julio (July 7) at Gurney’s Montauk hosted by Adam Richman, Travel Channel host, author, food & travel explorer; Dan’s ClambakeMTK (July 8) at Gurney’s Montauk hosted by Geoffrey and Margaret Zakarian—Geoffrey Zakarian is a star of Food Network’s Chopped, The Kitchen, Cooks vs. Cons, co-author of My Perfect Pantry, restaurateur behind The Lambs Club, The National in NYC, The National in Greenwich, Georgie and The Garden Bar at Montage Beverly Hills, Point Royal and Counter Point at The Diplomat Beach Resort and The Water Club at Borgata in Atlantic City and co-creator of Pro For Home food storage container system. Margaret Zakarian is President of Zakarian Hospitality, co-author of My Perfect Pantry and co-creator of Pro For Home food storage container system; Dan’s GrillHampton presented by Pat LaFrieda (July 21) hosted by Robert Irvine, celebrity chef, entrepreneur, philanthropist, founder of the Robert Irvine Foundation and chef/owner of Robert Irvine’s Public House at the Tropicana Las Vegas; and Dan’s Taste of Two Forks presented by Farrell Building Co. (July 22) hosted by Alex Guarnaschelli chef/owner of Butter, Judge on Food Network’s Chopped, author of Old School Comfort Food and soon-to-be released cookbook The Home Cook—at DansTasteofSummer.com. Follow Dans Taste of Summer on Facebook, on Twitter @DansTOS17 and Instagram @DansTasteofSummer. Event Hashtags: #DansTOS, #MonTaco, #ClambakeMTK, #GrillHampton and #TasteofTwoForks.