Award-winning TV star, chef and author Andrew Zimmern is regarded as one of the most versatile and well-informed personalities in the food world. As the creator, executive producer and host of the “Bizarre Foods” franchise on Travel Channel, he has explored cultures in more than 170 countries and shows no sign of slowing down.
“I’m sort of a ‘when in Rome’ person,” he tells Mediaplanet. “When trying foods in new countries, I don’t have any best practices. I dive right in.”
Fork and knife
From sautéed beetles in Madagascar to deep fried tarantulas in Cambodia, Zimmern believes that people can learn more about the world around them by trying local foods.
“I don’t take precautions when it comes to food. If other human beings are eating it, I want to understand why and how it relates to their history, their anthropology, their sociology and their cultural totems,” he explains. “[Food] is how we relate to other cultures as Americans — we inhale other cultures through our mouths first. We appreciate a country’s food long before we appreciate their music or dance.”
What does Zimmern look for when selecting a new destination to visit for one of his projects? “I keep a rotating list of hundreds of locations on a white board all the time, and every year we reconsider the places we haven’t gone yet,” he explains. In his latest series “Andrew Zimmern’s Driven By Food,” locals act as tour guides and introduce Andrew to culinary hidden gems. “Once we know that we have three or four good stories there, we get really serious about it. It’s always about the characters and making sure we have that spirit of adventure and cultural exploration that drives the series. And if those boxes are checked, we go.”
Maps and miles
According to a recent survey by the State Department, only 36 percent of Americans hold a valid passport, compared to 60 percent of passport-holding Canadians and 75 percent of the men and women of Britain and Australia.
“I hope that people can learn that if you can appreciate the food of another culture, you can appreciate [their people] even more,” he explains. “When I immerse myself in another culture, its transformative. You learn things that you never would have had the opportunity to learn any other way. It constantly proves itself again and again every time I’m on the road.”
You can catch “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” on Travel Channel, Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. EST.
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