Meat lover Rahm Fama dishes on his dream job and where he likes to eat in L.A.
And he has to be. The chef from Long Beach returns to Food Network on Monday night for Season 2 of "Meat & Potatoes," which hopscotches the country dropping in at meat-loving havens. Monday's episode takes him to Old Original Nick's Roast Beef, a 70-year old Philadelphia landmark serving up hearty roast beef sandwiches and french fries smothered in roast beef bits and gravy. (If you are looking for a reason to book a trip to the City of Brotherly Love, this just might be it.) He also hits Founding Farmers, a Washington, D.C., restaurant co-owned by 42,000 American family farmers, specializing in a farm-to-table menu and classics such as Yankee Pot Roast. And then he stops closer to home: Chili Addiction on La Cienega Boulevard, known for its dizzying array of meaty -- as well as vegan and health-minded -- chilis.
“It’s a dream job ... I’m very much this person that loves to teach and show people my passion and take them on adventures,” Fama said. "You think that you’ve seen it all, but there's so much more to see. I've seen a lot of hamburgers, and yet they keep getting better and more interesting every time I see them."
Fama, 36, says he's not surprised that he gets to eat meat for a living. After all, he grew up on a cattle ranch in New Mexico and has spent his entire career working around food, and eating and tasting is just part of the job. But he is surprised to find himself on TV. 'Cause that's the last place he ever expected to be.
"I know that some people think, 'I want to be on TV,' but I never thought about it at all," he said.
Fama was just 15 when he started working in the restaurant business, prepping green chilis at the famed Coyote Cafe. Never formally trained, he worked his way up in a variety of kitchens including stints working in the kitchens under chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Alessandro Stratta. "But working in restaurants is hard. It's long hours, hard work and you constantly smell like garlic," he said. Fama began transitioning into resort and menu consulting, including helping to open The Broadmoor, the ultra posh resort in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Fama said he was perfectly content when he was approached last year by a production company. They offered to send him a Flip cam so he could tape himself in his kitchen, talking about meat and doing a little butchering. The father of three did as he was asked, and it was only after he finished that he realized there was no way to replay and re-record. "I was like, 'Oh well. Put it back in the mail and see what happens.'"
Before long, Fama soon found himself at Food Network headquarters in Manhattan interviewing with Bob Tuschman, who oversees programming and production. Among the questions: Tuschman pressed him about backlash from vegans and vegetarians and asked Fama how he would handle that.
Fama said he thinks his answers helped land him the job. He told Tuschman that he would seek to strike the right balance as host, celebrating meat without becoming too gory or explicit. Fama said that he wouldn't disrespect vegans and vegetarians with an off-putting, "in-your-face" approach that could also end up turning off meat eaters as well. (Let's not forget: We live in a world where Meatless Mondays is commonplace, Oprah goes vegan now and again, and few of us really want to ponder the origins of that rib eye.)
As it enters it's second season, the show manages to hit that mark thanks to Fama's appealing demeanor and because "Meat & Potatoes" is also part travelogue and cooking show, with a look at how many of these meaty meals are prepared. (The debut episode will have you hankering to get in the kitchen and try your hand at making "real" gravy.) Fama is like a big curious kid -- albeit one with a shaved head -- who has ants in his pants as he uncovers each new food find.
Fama said he hoped he would be able to wedge shooting into his restaurant consulting career, but the production schedule required his full attention and he had to make a choice. He said he's grateful that the show was picked up for Season 2 -- and is hoping it will continue on after that. “I’m very fortunate," Fama said. "I just want to continue to show people these great places to have fun and enjoy food.”
The new gig has forced Fama to pay closer attention to what he eats. In between meaty meals, he says he's likely to head to Redondo Beach Pier or San Pedro Fish Market to buy fresh seafood for dinner, and he puts away the veggies to help counterbalance the heavier food that he's eating on camera. He works out regularly, with running on the treadmill as his preferred form of cardio.
"Everything great comes with moderation," he said.
I asked Fama to list some of his favorite places to eat in and around L.A. (he said he he couldn't speak to too many specific menu items, because when he sits down at a table, his restaurant buddies just start sending over kitchen specials):
--Animal: "A plethora of meat, pork, shortribs."
--The Gorbals: "They have bacon-wrapped matzo. What else can you say."
--Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza: "Everything is good there, and oh my God the pizzas."
--Los Compadres in Long Beach: "Some of the best Mexican food I've had."
Do you have any suggestions for where Fama -- or "Meat & Potatoes" -- should go next?
-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch
Photo: Rahm Fama. Credit: Food Network