Man Vs Food? How about Reporter vs Summit?

Beauty and the meat were potential highlights of the Web Summit, with model Lily Cole sharing a press conference stage with Man Vs. Food star Adam Richman.

Almost. They never actually stood next to each other.

Spare us your petty comparisons and cliched expectations, please.

Cole is carving out quite the alternate career as a TV presenter and new media entrepreneur, while Richman’s adventures in eating large amounts of food all over America is cult viewing, and not just for those of us who see eating our way across the United States as a form of earthbound Valhalla.

Granted, the term ‘new media entrepreneur’ is now as vague as an executioner’s smile, covering as it does a multitude of possibilities, but Cole would at least help to redress an issue cited by another high-profile female speaker at the summit, Eva Longoria, the generally perceived gender imbalance within the tech industry.

Richman is pushing a new TV show and a book, but had the audience in the palm of his hand with his opener (“I feel like Real Madrid’s new signing here, ‘I’m happy to sign for the ball club, hope to win them some points’”).

His new show brings five amateurs up against five chefs, with their best efforts to be judged by members of the public, not chefs. His book — Straight Up Tasty: Meals, Memories and Mouthfuls From My Travels — sounds like a better bet.

Richman is familiar with Irish food, having moved here in 1996 on a research grant after university. He spent time in Dublin, Donegal, Sligo, and a “small” town between Tuam and Athenry.

“I like a packet of Tayto with a pint, and I appreciate the culinary merit in that, too.”

As befitted a man singing the praises of the crisp, Richman was strongly anti-snobbery in food: “Your palate is your palate. If something that’s haute cuisine reminds you of a knish or a hot dog, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Your fearless correspondent decided to intervene at that point with a hard-hitting question that was bound to rock the American TV star back on his heels.

Where, then, is the best burger in America? “Well,” said Richman, “A lot depends on what you’re looking for...” There followed a lengthy oration on the joys of grilled meat that reduced yours truly to a state of drool. A spot called The Red Mill in Seattle came in for a lot of love before the great man digressed into the Texas State Fair jalapeno-eating contest (Crucial tip: “Eat white rice and bananas before an eating contest and the world is your oyster”).

The other signifiers of the Web Summit experience were as strong as ever yesterday: For instance, turning on the wifi detector on your phone led to whimpering from the device as dozens of differently named wifi signals popped up in an apparently never-ending stream.

(I’m not sure if that led to the demise of my phone around mid-afternoon yesterday, but it did seem as though the vast array of options for connectivity was just too much for the HTC, which simply expired.) Certainly the absence of a clock didn’t help me in tracking down Lily Cole.

When I hastened back from the sports stage to the press conference area, the nice lady in the pink T-shirt could probably read my mind.

“I’m too late, aren’t I?”

“She didn’t come in to us, sorry.”

Never mind. We’ll always have the jalapenos.

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