Andrew Zimmern has become famous for eating foods many Westerners find gross. But he is so very much more than the bravest eater in a frat house.
His Travel Channel show “Bizarre Foods America” ends Season 4 Monday, Sept. 2, in Houston, where he tries roasted buffalo, goat curry and raw trash fish.
The intrepid traveler, writer and James Beard Foundation Award winner is already working on new episodes. Though not a culinary school graduate, Zimmern is well schooled as a chef.
“I was at CIA (Culinary Institute of America) for 24 minutes in the spring of 1980,” he tells Zap2it. “I would not say I ran away, but back then CIA wasn’t what it is today. I felt very strongly that there was a tremendous disconnect between cooking in a school and learning about food side by side with someone teaching the craft. I still feel very strongly that way.”
When he was considering launching this show, Zimmern wanted to create a program that was 80 percent educational and 20 percent entertainment. He was told that it would be celebrated briefly on PBS, but if he flipped the percentages he could have a lasting hit elsewhere.
And so he has. Cognizant that some tune in to see him eat foods others would have to be starving to try, Zimmern sees the show as a way of broadening worldviews.
“This is a show about keeping the conversation going, about the things we have in common with other people in the world as opposed to our differences,” he says. “We always talk about religion and sexuality and differences, but we all love food.”
Originally from Manhattan, Zimmern lives in Minneapolis.
“I am in the very rare position of having a show that has been popular for seven or eight years and continues to be popular,” he says of the show that airs in some 65 countries. “So on one hand, you don’t want to change anything,” he says.
But he is still searching.
“I wish I had the artistic freedom, but I had this fantasy in my life about letting really smart 19-year-olds do everything,” he says. “There is nothing better than a really smart sophomore in college. The whole world is their oyster. I want to harness that.”
What are you currently reading?
“A business book call ‘Traction.’ “
What did you have for dinner last night?
“Last night was dirty taco night. Every Tuesday night is dirty taco night. My son loves tongue and eyeball and cheek and snakeskin, but Tuesday night is dirty taco night.”
What is your next project?
“Short term, I leave at the beginning of August to go to Cleveland to shoot ‘Bizarre Foods America.’ We are working on our cookbook and another season of my Web series.”
When was the last vacation you took – where and why?
“I just came back from a five-day family excursion to Easthampton, Long Island.”