NEW YORK | Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods,” thinks he’s misunderstood.
He says he’s known as “fat guy runs around world, eats bugs,” but adds, “I don’t think I’ve eaten a bug or an organ in ‘Bizarre Foods’ in years.”
“I purposely set out to make a show that’s entertaining,” he said. “At the same time I try to be very thoughtful and thought-provoking and I try to educate and I take the cultural lessons of the show very, very, very seriously.”
The show’s current season focuses on American destinations, along with their history and social context. And a new show, “The Zimmern List,” debuts early 2018 showcasing his favorite places, “where I actually go when the cameras aren’t rolling.”
In this Thursday, July 20, 2017 photo, customer favorites duck and goose pastrami, are shown at Muncan Food Corp., in Astoria, Queens, in New York. The shop is a personal favorite of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" host Andrew Zimmern. The four-time James Beard award-winning chef will be showcasing personal favorites like Muncan in early 2018 in a new show called "The Zimmern List." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
In this Thursday, July 20, 2017 photo, spicy chicken kebabs from Kababish, which serves Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi dishes, are lined up so Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" host Andrew Zimmern can taste them, in the Jackson Heights section of New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
In this Thursday, July 20, 2017 photo, homemade sausages and other cured meats hang above the counter at Muncan Food Corp. in the Astoria, Queens neighborhood of New York. Founded in 1978 by brothers Tima and John Muncan, immigrants from the former Yugoslavia, the shop is now run by one of the brothers' grandsons, and is known for it's many sausage, bacon and prosciutto varieties. The Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" host Andrew Zimmern, a four-time James Beard award winning chef, likes to come to Muncan and similar lesser-known places when the cameras aren't rolling. Zimmern will feature his personal favorites, places he goes when the cameras aren't rolling, in a new show called "The Zimmern List," debuting in early 2018. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
In this Thursday, July 20, 2017 photo, the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" host Andrew Zimmern snaps a cell phone photo of chicken kebabs, far left, a dish composed of organ meats, center, and a goat dish called katakat at Kababish, a Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi takeout food shop in the Jackson Heights section of New York. Zimmern says, "I purposely set out to make a show that's entertaining," he said. "At the same time I try to be very thoughtful and thought-provoking and I try to educate and I take the cultural lessons of the show very, very, very seriously." A new show, "The Zimmern List," debuts early 2018 showcasing his favorite places, "where I actually go when the cameras aren't rolling." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
In this Thursday, July 20, 2017 photo, Travel Channel's "Bizzare Foods" host Andrew Zimmern, a four-time James Beard award-winning chef, samples Taiwanese noodle soup and pork roll at Happy Stony Noodle in Elmhurst, Queens in New York. His new show, "The Zimmern List," debuts in early 2018 showcasing his personal favorite places to eat when the cameras aren't rolling. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
In this Thursday, July 20, 2017 photo, Travel Channel "Bizarre Foods" host Andrew Zimmern holds a tray of poppy seed cake prepared by Muncan Food Corp. in Astoria, Queens, in New York. Founded by an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, the shop specializes in cured meats. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Zimmern — a chef who’s won four James Beard awards — invited The Associated Press to follow him in Queens, New York, for a glimpse of what “The Zimmern List” will be like. In the Astoria neighborhood, he sampled cured meats and pastries at Muncan Food Corp., founded by an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia; then had a goat dish called katakat at Kababish, which serves Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi food in Jackson Heights; and finished with Taiwanese noodle soup, pork roll and minced vegetables at Happy Stony Noodle in Elmhurst.
Faisel and Hera Shaikh, from Ashburn, Virginia, were picking up food from Kababish when Zimmern appeared. After taking a few selfies with him, Faisel Shaikh said he’s dined at places recommended by Zimmern around the world, from Dubai to Australia.
“I see his show and I write it down,” Shaikh said. “Wherever he goes, I go.” Shaikh says he likes the show because Zimmern tells “the whole story … the culture, the society, the background, about where the food comes from.”
Here are some excerpts from AP’s wide-ranging chat with Zimmern, including advice on using social media to find good food when you travel, and a message of hope for families struggling with addiction.
FINDING GOOD FOOD WHEN YOU TRAVEL
“I google local food writers. … I look up who are the most famous chefs on the Eater Heatmap but I also look on the Michelin guide and see who are the three-star Michelin chefs.”
“People forget that if you go onto Instagram or Twitter, you can actually click on someone’s feed and look at their timeline and you can flip back and back and back. So if I want to know where’s great to eat in Italy, I’ll look and see where Michael White and Mario Batali and all these other chefs have eaten when they’ve been in Italy last year. When I want to look up where’s fun to eat in Paris, I’ll look and see where Daniel Boulud went and ate last year when he was in Paris.”
RELATIONSHIP WITH ANTHONY BOURDAIN
“We’re friends, we do hang out. I did his stage show with him when he came to Minneapolis. … We were both part of the Jose Andres tribute dinner last February, that was the last time we saw each other. We went outside on the deck and locked the door behind us, so we could just be alone, and spend a half-hour catching up. I don’t think we’re competition at all actually. I think Tony would probably say the same thing.”
“I absolutely adore what Tony does because of his storytelling ability. And it’s shot beautifully.”
ON ADDICTION: NOBODY IS HOPELESS
“I’ve been sober for 25 ½ years. I was a heroin addict. An alcoholic, I was a criminal. I was homeless. So I have a very, very low bottom story. Tried to kill myself by drinking myself to death, didn’t work, living in an abandoned building, stealing purses (left) on chairs to live. So I’ve come a pretty long way.”
“I hope family members or loved ones who have someone (struggling with addiction) hear it loud and clear. Don’t listen to the statistics. There is recovery available for everyone. There is no one so hopeless as to actually be hopeless. It just does not exist. Sometimes intervention is necessary. Actually separation from substances. And a lot of families don’t go down the intervention route fast enough. … There are tons of great places out there.”
MOST BIZARRE FOOD EVER EATEN
“In Samoa, we had a coral worm that swims up from the bottom of the ocean, thousands of feet, and dies in the sun and then falls back down and fertilizes the coral. … To eat that worm when it floats to the surface with the natives, I can’t think of something stranger. Enset, which is a bread, made from pounded palm roots that’s buried in the ground for months and fermented before it’s baked, that some of the tribal Ethiopians still make in that country … that’s certainly strange. Everybody wants me to call out some horribly fermented, heinous — like casu marzu, the maggot-infested cheese of Sardinia, but the term bizarre in Webster’s means unique and interesting. People always ask me, ‘What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?’ and I’m just like, ‘None of it is strange to the people who are eating it there.’ I’ve not eaten any of those foods, enset, or sea worm or the casa marzu, in America. I get up in the morning, I make eggs and have cereal with my kid, roast a chicken for dinner.”
Listen to AP Travel’s podcast interview with Andrew Zimmern at http://bit.ly/2f87geF