It’s been a little over 8 years since my first production meeting with Andrew Zimmern, a chef who was unknown to me at the time — as I was brand new to the TV and foodie worlds. He has hundreds of hours and thousands of miles recorded on national television, and to this day, I still ask myself, “How does he do it?” How does anyone travel so much, eat so exceptionally well, and then be expected to return to normal life? As we prepare for another season of Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern, which kicks off tonight at 9|8c on Travel Channel, I decided to get the answer to that question, along with others about what we can expect on Bizarre Foods, what Andrew is most excited about this season, his future travel plans and projects in 2015, and more!
As you go into another season of Bizarre Foods, what are you most excited for the viewers to see?
I think what’s most exciting for me is that we are finally able to slow down a little this season and dive deeper into the cultural elements of the show that are more interesting to me than skimming along the surface of the places we visit. TV needs to be relevant to stay current, and today’s viewers demand that. I think this season, we are finally delivering on that in spades.
What locations can the viewer look forward to this season? Any of them at the top of your list?
Mexico City, LA, Hawaii, Brooklyn, Ireland, Newfoundland, Lisbon, Kazakhstan, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Dubai, Rome, Iquitos and Panama. Top of the list has to be all of them. I am always most thrilled to talk about where I’ve just been.
On Oct. 27, we’ll showcase your trip to Mexico City, where you indulged in whole-minnow tamales in Xochimilco Market. How do the tamales in Mexico City differ from those found in popular places such as Los Angeles and Chicago’s Tom Tom Tamale?
Well, we got the chance to try many tamales with pre-colonial roots. Those don’t exist, in the purest sense of the word, anywhere else than in the culture you are diving deep into. I believe in the transformative power of travel, so going to the source has many side benefits that are crucial for personal and societal change.
Next, you’re off to Lisbon, and the steamed clams you posted on Instagram look amazing! What surprised you the most about Lisbon’s food scene?
The seafood in Lisbon is epic, and in the summer, there is nowhere else I would rather be. Uncrowded and accessible, inexpensive and delicious. The clams weren’t even in the top 10 once I was done. Food entrepreneurship and food tourism is helping to revive their sagging economy, and I think that was the biggest surprise for me.
While filming for the Ireland episode, you spent a lot of time in Cork. How does Cork differ from the popular city of Dublin?
We actually spent all our time in Cork and Cobh, with a side trip for a few hours to Dublin to eat at my friend Kevin Thornton’s restaurant. The greater Cork area offers some of the purest farm-to-table experiences on Earth. I was blown away by the horizontal and vertical reach of Irish cookery. I think that’s the best show we’ve made to date.
Out of all the foods you’ve tried this season, which dish do you have to have again and again?
So many — that’s not a fair question. Giana and Clovisse Ferguson made me several meals that I regard as some of the best of my life, and I begged them for recipes, and I cook them all the time now. Clovisse’s farmhouse bread recipe is on my Kitchen Adventures page at www.foodandwine.com for anyone who wants to take a peek.
Is there any place you haven’t traveled to, either on Bizarre Foods or during personal travel, that you’re eager to get to?
So many! I have a list in my office of over a hundred places I want to take our viewers, from the Trans-Siberian Railway to a boat trip down the Mississippi River, from Poland to Paraguay. And I want to do another dozen shows in China and Mexico, 2 countries with the deepest and most complex food cultures on planet Earth. Personally, I want to spend some time with my family in Thailand, take my wife to the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean, and do the dude ranch thing with my kid.
With only 2 months left in 2014, what have been your highlights from this year (including personal, professional and unforgettable food moments)?
Holy moly, hard question. Professionally, I would have to say that I am consistently amazed at how lucky I am to be in the places I go with the people I am with. Diving for prawns in the Waipio Valley in Hawaii is something you only dream about, right? Cooking with and being fed by the world’s greatest chefs and cooks is another. But the biggest and best treat of the year from a food standpoint was eating the 3,000-year-old butter that was found in the Kildare bog a decade ago. Starting my production company, Intuitive Content, is a great milestone; seeing my cookware line launch is another. Creating another book right now — that’s fun. Seeing young people I mentor go out in the world and do great things is a high that I never imagined having. My longtime colleague Molly Mogren is out on her own, writing and creating content for her own web projects, and that’s incredibly satisfying. And of course, we continue to expand our AZ Canteen food business, so that’s exciting.
What are you looking forward to in 2015? Any big trips — outside of Bizarre Foods — planned?
New Year’s will turn in Costa Rica, spring in France with family — that’s fun. For 9 years, I have had a shooting hiatus in spring, and it’s taken this long to turn that around and take the summer months off, so that’s going to be a great time to travel with my family. A driving vacation across the USA is on the docket for sure. I want to go camping with my kid and teach him some survival craft; I think he would dig that. I have some shoots I am planning for other projects in China and Haiti that I am very excited about, entrepreneur-oriented social innovation documentaries that I am really excited about. I want to create businesses in developing communities and leave them behind as a piece of a new sustainable, economic development, social aid program. Along the way, I want to make these into mini-docs. Imagine creating energy systems to help solve energy poverty in Africa, making electricity available so that wood-burning kitchens can be transformed into safer environments for families. I think this is important stuff.
As of now, what dish/restaurant is on your bucket list?
I want to eat my wife’s roast chicken more often. That’s a good goal.