New York native Andrew Zimmern has been a chef, restaurant manager, consultant and, for a time, a homeless drug addict. He later became a journalist and media personality and since 2006 he has hosted Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, a Travel Channel program that features him globetrotting to showcase food and culture around the world. He was in New Orleans last month taping segments for his latest show, Bizarre Foods America, which focuses on food and culture around the U.S. and debuts this week on the Travel Channel.
G: What makes food bizarre enough to become fodder for your show?
Zimmern: The show is based on this: Food is great, food with a story is better, and food with a story people don't know is best of all. That's the beauty of what we do; we're able to go to places all over the world and give people an anthropology lesson through food. If people learn about these stories on our show, and then when they go to a restaurant they order the local shrimp or the local mackerel, then that's good.
G: Do you ever worry about some small-scale food producer getting overexposed after appearing on your show?
Z: Guys who do what I do — me, (Anthony) Bourdain, a handful of others — there's a running joke about whether we can find a place that's so good and so hard to find that even if we talk about the place it's simply impossible to ruin. But we do ruin things.
G: Is there a saturation point for this, and have we reached it?
Z: No. It's not like we're creating something that's a pop trend. Justin Bieber will disappear. However, what we're doing is reinvigorating something people have been participating in all along, and we're exposing a whole different audience to it.
People will get sick of the obsessiveness of some aspects of it. But if better (food) labeling and knowing the producer of your food are going to last, that's what we want. Ten years ago, I'd talk to people about school lunch and no one cared. Now people stop me in the street to talk about it. — IAN MCNULTY