When it comes to second helpings, fans of Travel Channel's Taste of America (Tuesdays at 8 pm/ET) apparently cannot be sated. Having debuted its sophomore season just last week, the series finds actor-comedian Mark DeCarlo hosting a sometimes mouthwatering (and sometimes eye-popping!) look at the nation's cuisine. (Tonight's episode is a discourse on the best in U.S. holiday kibble.) Hungry for some answers, TVGuide.com caught DeCarlo fresh from his latest foodie foray.
TVGuide.com: Whenever I watch these types of "let's go around and sample all kinds of food" shows, I have to wonder: What was your weight before you got the gig, and has it fluctuated since?
Mark DeCarlo: You know what, I've been pretty steady. When I'm home, I play ice hockey about four times a week, which keeps me in good shape, and on the road I go to the gym at night.
TVGuide.com: Is that one of your mandates? "Only book me in hotels with workout rooms"?
DeCarlo: Yeah, those are my two must-haves — high-speed Internet and a good fitness center. But otherwise, you're right, I should be 700 pounds and breathing like Orson Welles!
TVGuide.com: In your travels, what food or cuisine have you surprisingly learned to like, or at least stomach?
DeCarlo: Huh... I had alligator once at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and...
TVGuide.com: Let me guess: It tastes just like chicken.
DeCarlo: It tastes like salty, tough chicken! But this chef down in New Orleans made me some alligator picante, which was delicious. I had never had elk before and I thought it would be gamey, but when we went to the Roadkill Cook-off in West Virginia, it was the best thing there. Mind you, they had skunk and rabbit and opossum, so by saying it was the "best," I'm not really showering it with high praise, but this guy made some elk chili that was really good. The stuff that I thought I would hate and that I did hate: Rocky Mountain oysters and Alaskan fish ice cream, which is Crisco, sugar and shredded whitefish. And they call it ice cream!
TVGuide.com: I know two guys named Ben and Jerry who would argue with that.
DeCarlo: Yeah! It's not even cold!
TVGuide.com: What food have you had your fill of, frankly?
DeCarlo: All the meat that needs to be ground up and shoved into a hot dog to be presentable. I understand that there is a cultural background to where all this stuff comes from, but, you know, I don't need to be eating pig intestines.
TVGuide.com: Do you get to keep your frequent-flier miles?
DeCarlo: Yeah, I do. [Laughs] But I travel so much, now all I want to do is stay home!
TVGuide.com: I was watching the second-season premiere, where you went to Las Vegas. Has the all-you-can-eat buffet really improved as much as you say? Is braised bison really better than a good 'n' greasy omelet bar?
DeCarlo: The one at the Bellagio is great, but you can still get a crappy 99-cent buffet if you try, where everything is just nasty and old and steamed — kind of like some of the cocktail waitresses.
TVGuide.com: But should people strolling around in Lakers jerseys and jean shorts really have access to fine cuisine?
DeCarlo: [Laughs] That's an excellent question. I have been in 160 cities, and the one that probably best represents the "true America," the America that everyone outside of America sees, has to be Las Vegas — the high end and the low end.
TVGuide.com: The next time you're in New York City, you should visit the Evergreen deli next door to my office building — if only because my mentioning it here might get me free spicy chicken wraps for the duration of my employ.
DeCarlo: You can say that I said it's the best spicy chicken wrap in Manhattan! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Where else is Taste of America traveling this season?
DeCarlo: We just finished traveling like a week and a half ago. We've been to Montana and Arkansas and Amarillo, Texas, and Kansas.... We did sea salt in Maine. Do you know how to make sea salt?
TVGuide.com: Practice, practice, practice?
DeCarlo: No. You evaporate the water — compelling television. But we managed to turn it into a funny segment nonetheless! Next week we're going to watch paint dry!
TVGuide.com: What I like about you is that your narration doesn't alliterate us to death, like that guy on Unwrapped with his "sweet and savory scintillations."
DeCarlo: Well, we work hard at that. Our writers at Film Garden have found a unique voice for that part of the show that meshes perfectly with my onscreen mumblings. They've really seized the opportunity to take what is really a standard format and infuse it with layers of humor that you just don't get on the more by-the-book shows. It's all about the layers — the difference between a tofu cheese sandwich and a triple-decker chesseburger with chili. Of course, in both examples, I would be the cheese.
TVGuide.com: As you tour our fine country, do people flag you down to say, "I loved Mad About You!"
DeCarlo: [Laughs] It happens a lot. I get stopped for Studs and for Mad About You, but in the last three to four months, actually, Taste of America is winning. People actually walk up to me a couple of times a day to say, "Hey, I saw your show," and just as I start to go, "I'm not Helen Hunt's husband," they go, "When you went to Hawaii and ate the Spam with the guy in the Spam suit...?" People are actually seeing it. But depending on how dressed up I am and how short my hair is, there are Paul Reiser sightings — and my crew loves it.
TVGuide.com: I totally forgot about your game show, Studs! My pals and I used to watch it religiously!
DeCarlo: It was a fun gig, I'll tell you that.
TVGuide.com: In a way, that was one of the first reality shows.
DeCarlo: It was, and it was actually real. The "reality shows" now are incredibly contrived and the only people who go on them are actors and actresses who for some reason think it will be a good chunk of tape on their reel. But on Studs, people actually went on the dates without a camera in their puss, so they could be themselves, and then they'd talk about it.
TVGuide.com: What was the setup again? I'm blanking.
DeCarlo: It was two boys and three girls, and they'd go out with each other and then....
TVGuide.com: The girls would choose their favorite and if the guy chose her in return, they'd hook up. I mean, "win."
DeCarlo: That's how it worked. We did 600 of those!
TVGuide.com: Exactly the way true love should be facilitated.
DeCarlo: Yeah, right! With a blue response card!