EXCLUSIVE: Interview with ‘Bizarre Foods America’s’ Andrew Zimmern
Andrew joins SL to discuss his new book, new food truck, and as always- Bizarre Foods.
ASHLEY BAYLEN (AB): Were you the kid that never questioned what your parents served at dinner?
ANDREW ZIMMERN (AZ): Never, you would only question something if you thought it was unreasonable or there was an option…or if it was somehow made unappealing. My family made dinnertime fun, exciting….a history and cultural lesson in every bite and I loved it.
AB: I understand you began your culinary training as a young teenager. What inspired you to pursue a career in the food industry?
AZ: I was always fascinated by food and culture, always loved to eat and always knew I would be in the food business. I wanted to cook and share food with other people and have them share with me. I also wanted to go where adults were having a good time and the girls were cutest.
AB: Growing up in a Jewish household, did your heritage influence your cooking style or favored ingredients?
AZ: No, my family was very liberal in that area. But my Jewish grandmother’s comfort food is what I learned to cook first and love the most.
AB: Since starting Bizarre Foods, has there been something that you found so “gross” that even you wouldn’t try it?
AZ: Not at all….I am insatiably curious
AB: With Bizarre Foods, you’ve visited over 30 countries. Is there a particular dish or location that stands out as your favorite?
AZ: It’s a lot more than that, and when you factor in my personal travel its over 100 countries. I love the tiny fried birds in Vietnam most of all. I think about them every day. Plucked and gutted, marinated in sugar and fish sauce, fried and dipped in nuoc mam….delish
AB: Your TV shows and new book all showcase dishes and ingredients that most people would consider “bizarre”. Why did you choose to focus your career on these rare delicacies?
AZ: I wanted to tell stories about food and culture and the best ones are found on the fringe. It’s a happy coincidence.
AB: After experiencing the food of so many cultures, do you get bored by classic American dishes?
AZ: No, because I love the classics. I am bored and disappointed by poorly cooked food, flavorless food, and pointless food.
AB: During your travels, have you found that other cultures consider some American foods to be bizarre? Some of the things we grew up eating must be quite odd to other cultures such as Spam, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Jell-o, hot dogs, bologna, or deep-fried (insert Hostess dessert product here).
AZ: Indeed. The American diet is one of the worst in human history. Bologna, PBJ are delicious, some cultures don’t eat them of course, but fake foods, ersatz or anutritive foods are appalling to anyone
AB: Why do you think it’s important to expose Americans to international cuisine?
AZ: Because we have so much to learn from other cultures. We are wasteful, and worship convenience in our food. I am speaking of the real eating that goes on in this country, not what you see in movies…
AB: Your new book, Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods, is being marketed for children- although I really enjoyed it as well. Why did you choose to create a bizarre foods guide for kids?
AZ: Because we need to teach our children that contempt prior to investigation is an awful premise to run a food life with. And to put a sense of adventure back in our kids food world.
AB: Is your family as foodventurous as you are?
AB: Have you considered going back to your roots for a Bizarre Foods: Jewish Edition featuring kishke, gefilte fish, poopik, schmaltz, sweet and sour tongue, cholent, and all the other classics?
AZ: I would love that!
AB: You were previously an honored guest of China, lecturing and giving demonstrations on Chinese cuisine. Did your Jewish upbringing spark your love for Chinese food?
AZ: Well, yes….my father and I used to spend all our free time eating Chinese food all over the world when I was a kid, it’s my favorite cuisine.
AB: You recently opened a food truck, AZ Canteen. Will it be going on tour or only available in Minnesota?
AB: Any other new projects on the horizon?
AZ: A cookbook is next, more TV, a line of specialty meat items I am producing with my friend Pat LaFrieda and about a dozen more…I have too many jobs.
Check out Andrew Zimmern at: