The Most Important Man V. Food Challenge Might Surprise You

Part of the appeal of the original Man v. Food, originally hosted by Adam Richman, was its premise: an ordinary guy, not some freakish competitive eater, would take on the food challenges offered up at eateries across the U.S. Viewers were familiar with this phenomenon even before Man v. Food aired – eat that giant hamburger or those ridiculously spicy chicken wings, and get a T-shirt or a Polaroid photo of yourself tacked onto a restaurant's wall of fame.

While Richman's job did sound romantic – travel the country, eat delicious food, bask in the adulation of a dining room full of cheering fans – it wasn't easy. As it turned out, Richman could only stomach 59 challenges total before tapping out of Man v. Food in 2012 (via Facebook). As Richman told the BBC, he was simply over "the physiological feeling after having a spicy challenge and having that much food in you."

The most important challenge on Man v. Food was the Dagwood

Still, trying 59 food challenges is impressive, even if Richman couldn't win them all. And he figured something out early in this run that no doubt helped him tackle that many massive food battles. As Richman remembered it years later, a supersized deli sandwich was the first Man v. Food challenge he ever won (via The Columbus Dispatch). That's why this particular food challenge was Richman's most important.

You can find a video showing the entirety of Man v. Food, episode 4, season 1 on YouTube. Richman was in Columbus, Ohio, and the challenge looked daunting: the Dagwood sandwich at the Ohio Deli. The sandwich was inspired by the old Blondie comic strip, which featured a running gag about Blondie's husband, Dagwood, building and then consuming a comically gigantic sandwich. At the Ohio Deli, the Dagwood comes with seven ounces each of smoked turkey, Virginia ham, and roast sirloin; American and Swiss cheese; red onions and other veggies; and a roasted-garlic mayo. As Richman visited the deli's kitchen to prepare for his challenge, he offered up a little prayer: "Dagwood Bumstead, bless me with your eating power."

Adam Richman found a simple strategy to defeat the Dagwood

But it wasn't the prayer or the cheesy football-and-cheerleader fantasy sequence in the episode that enabled Richman to beat the Dagwood. Richman announced his strategy while sitting in the deli, contemplating his Dagwood and the mere 30 minutes he would have to eat the whole sandwich plus a pound of fries.

There was nothing profound about it. The strategy was as simple as it was effective. "I'm going to break this into four mini sandwiches and put the french fries right on the sandwiches themselves," Richman said before he dug in. He finished the whole plate, right down to the pickle spears, with 10 minutes to spare.

In an interview with, Richman cited the Dagwood experience as perhaps his easiest challenge. In that case, it's a good thing he ran into it early in his Man v. Food adventures. "This bout was the one that helped me realize the [importance of developing] a specific game plan when tackling the challenges," he said.

This probably means Richman was joking when he said during a mock press conference at the end of the episode that he prepared for the challenge by taping up "all the old Blondie comics around my room." We don't doubt, however, that Richman settled in for a good, old-fashioned Dagwood couch nap (via afterward.