This week, one Philadelphia native will prove that Philly is a big food city — literally — with an episode of Ginormous Food on Food Network.
And, no, there won’t be any cheesesteaks.
“Every show has done a cheesesteak,” says Josh Denny, 33, a Ridley Park native and host of Ginormous Food. “If you’re a real Philly guy, you’re looking for the roast pork place.”
Airing at 8 p.m. Jan. 13, the Philly episode of Ginormous Food stays true to that mantra with a couple of notable additions. In it, Denny, who moved from the area in middle school and now lives in Burbank, Calif., returns home for a taste of a five-pound pork sandwich at Jake’s Sandwich Board, Spread Bagelry’s 14-pound Whale bagel with white fish salad and salmon, and a loaf of French toast stuffed with berries and cream cheese from the Trolley Car Diner.
“These aren’t just big things,” Denny says. “These are things that are really well thought out. Unlike a Man vs. Food, we’re not trying to find places that just serve a lot of something.”
Denny landed his gig with Food Network a little over a year ago, when producers of Ginormous Food were looking to wrangle a host. They had heard his food podcast, March of the Pigs, which features Denny and guests from the entertainment industry talking food and going out to lunch.
Producers decided to give Denny a shot, and about a year later, Ginormous Food was born.
The show premiered Jan. 6 on Food Network with an episode focusing on the biggest food in Louisville, Ky. — a city that Denny says was both his favorite and the most surprising during the filming of the first season’s seven-episode run. That episode features a huge burger from Mussel and Burger Bar, a massive hot brown from Gary’s on Spring, and copious amounts of roast beef from the Come Back Inn.
“I was blown away at how amazing their culinary scene is,” Denny said of Louisville. “We couldn’t find a bad meal if we tried.”
This season will also feature episodes in Baltimore;Richmond, Va.; Cincinnati, San Antonio, Texas; and Nashville, Tenn. Believe it or not, the Nashville episode includes a cheesesteak as one of the episode’s titular delicacies.
“The cheesesteak in the Nashville episode is almost sacrilegious in a sense because it’s a Philly cheesesteak, but it’s got Pittsburgh slaw on it,” Denny says. “So it’s sort of a Frankenstein. It’s not a real cheesesteak.”
But for Denny, who has been away from Philly for 18 years, that Frankenstein-style of steak is just par for the course — especially as a food show host.
“You kind of have to get used to everyone’s cheesesteak being an honorary interpretation,” he says. “Unless you’re inside Philly, you can’t really expect it to be to the letter of the law.”
A cheesesteak with coleslaw on it, however, is about as weird as Denny says the show will get. So don’t expect any kind of Bizarre Foods antics as Ginormous Food progresses. Just expect more sandwiches.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get into Andrew Zimmern territory,” Denny says. “But if you get it on some kind of bread, I think I’m legally required to eat it.”
The Philadelphia episode of Ginormous Food, “Philadelphia’s Beasts of the East,” airs at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, on Food Network.