Two years ago, Adam Gertler was on The Next Food Network Star‘s fourth season, and became its runner-up. This week, he has two new series debuting: Tonight on Food Network, Kid in a Candy Store airs back-to-back episodes at 8 p.m. ET, one of which was previewed last night, and follows Adam as he “visits top sweet spots across the country,” according to the network. And Sunday, After Party debuts on Food Network’s sibling Cooking Channel, and will feature Adam interviewing the eliminated contestant and the show’s judges.
I talked to Adam late last week, and he told me, “Without being too sappy or anything, I’m so happy to be doing stuff on the Food Network. Coming from this little reality show that I was lucky enough to be a part of that I didn’t even win.” He also said, “I’m just really fortunate that Bob [Tuschman] was a fan and he came up with this Kid in a Candy Store and Will Work for Food, and I feel very, very blessed to have one of the greatest jobs in the world.”
Will Work for Food was Adam’s first star vehicle on the network, and was like Dirty Jobs except the jobs he worked had to do with food. It aired in early 2009 but hasn’t been renewed for a second season. “I would love to see it come back. I think it was great, and I’d just think we could do it better. I was a big fan of that concept. I don’t think it was a failure by any means; it had a certain audience, and maybe that audience wasn’t as big as other shows. They felt like, at the time, one season was all it had in it. I would certainly be up for doing it again,” Adam told me.
He compared it to his new series: “That show was me getting doing a job, and in Kid in a Candy Store … I’m not thrown in the job with the possibility of failure. It’s sort of just checking out cool things, meeting new people, and being a fly on the wall rather than being totally immersed in it.” Adam said the new show grew out of a special called “Extreme Sweets” he did for the network, “they didn’t have anything exploring the world of desserts and sweets,” and “they thought it was a good fit for me because I’m kind of a fun person and I like hanging out with people.” The title came from something Adam said during the special, which Next Food Network Star judge Bob Tuschman pointed out “really sums you up.”
Adam is clearly passionate about both the show and it’s subject matter. “We won’t just do a restaurant, bakery, or ice cream shop. We’ll do a factory,” he said, adding that they go other places, too, like a trailer park with cake balls. “You might think, all right, well, it’s Hostess, this isn’t going to be the most groundbreaking dessert I’ve ever had. But to understand that this just started as a bakery. To see how someone automated that, that’s really was what our country was built on, people doing things like this. That to me is what’s fascinating,” he said.
Six episodes have been filmed, and Adam told me they shoot at least a 12 to 14 days and additional time, all for a short segment in a half-hour episode, shooting “an hour of footage per minute. … Even though this is reality, on-the-fly stuff, you’d be shocked at how long it takes.” Talking about the editors, he said, “I don’t envy that job.” The production “company is very open to me bringing things to the table,” and “they let me be pretty involved,” Adam said. “It’s really hard to find new and exciting things to feature. People are always giving me ideas and I pass those along.” He also said producers “they always want me to rewrite that to put. The last thing you want to is sound like a dorky host guy. It should be fun, it should be natural, and it should sound like you.”
During his first work on a series, Will Work for Food, Adam said he often felt like a “deer in the headlights. I didn’t really know how this works. There’s a disconnect from what we do in the field for what’s going to end up in an edit. You’re going on a tangent but you don’t realize you’re not going to be talking for 45 seconds at a time. If you’ve got something to say, you’ve got to sum it up, you’ve got to be concise.”
Adam said his time on Next Food Network Star did help: the “show teaches you how to become camera-ready, and if you don’t, that’s what you get sent home for.” Adam called it “totally boot camp for being a show host.” At the same time, some of the challenges present unrealistic constraints, especially in an industry where it can take a day to shoot a 10-minute segment. “Ultimately, that’s a show, it’s an entertainment show. It’s not school. There are things that are done for fun and entertainment value; it’s very difficult,” Adam said. “However, everyone’s on the same level … so the person that does the best with those constraints, that’s really an achievement for them.”
I watched the first episode of Adam’s new show, and Kid in a Candy Store seemed like Unwrapped plus Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, which stars Next Food Network Star winner Guy Fieri. Alas, this isn’t the kind of show I’d watch regularly, because it too closely follows the frustratingly simplified didactic approach of Unwrapped (“then they add sugar, water, and other secret ingredients, and it’s done!”). While fans of Adam’s and Unwrapped will love it, and Adam’s personality helps liven it up, it still feels more like he was just placed as the host of a series.
During his time on the reality competition, Adam stood out more for his personality than his food–during our conversation, he said it was tough to be judged “when you know you blew it, as I did often”–and so I’m looking forward to seeing the after show, After Party, when it debuts Sunday. Adam said, “We had a lot of fun making fun of ourselves and Soup/late night talk show/View setting. And that lets you riff and go on.” That sounds like the kind of show that’s perfect for him.