Tonight, the Travel Channel premieres the ninth season of Bizarre Foods, the show that’s allowed New York City native Andrew Zimmern to travel all over the world, eating things like purposely rotten fish eggs, udders, and more than one animal brain.
In an interview with The Daily Meal, Zimmern spoke about finding commonalities of food in every corner of the globe and exploring America’s own diverse food culture, and about being recognized in some of the most remote locations he's visited.
The Daily Meal: Take us through some of the places you went to for your ninth season.
Andrew Zimmern: In Guatemala, we went on this wonderful, epic voyage to meet a Mayan tribal group who are natives to the country. In Croatia, we explored the Dalmatian Coast, which is so beautiful, I could live there tomorrow. We went to Paris, which 200 years ago, was the city that everyone said was the best food city in the world, and then 10 other cities went past it. We went and profiled the city as “Paris, reborn” — a place that now has such amazing food that I think they’re ready to go back to that title. For our 200th episode, we went to Philadelphia, which is one of my favorite episodes. We also went to Oaxaca, Kansas City, and Israel this season.
Are there dishes that seem distinctly related, even though they couldn’t be more geographically distant?
Meat that’s been lightly fermented is something that we’ve seen all over the place — in Thailand, Africa, and Europe. Think about salami. In our own country, the Native Americans let certain meats smoke, and that became jerky. You have to remember that, thousands of years ago, people lived in tribal conditions and developed the same 30 methods of cooking food because they all had fire and salt, so they all learn to preserve, salt, and smoke.
What elements of American food have you found as you’ve traveled?
I get mad when I see that a restaurant offers “new American cuisine,” because there’s really no such thing as American cuisine. We haven’t even figured out what American cuisine is — 99.9999 percent of our food is taken from elsewhere than our 200-year-old country.
But, the opposite is certainly true. I think it’s more than fascinating when I get to go to a country like Liberia and eat the dish that eventually became gumbo."The greatest pleasure of my career is that the show’s reach is global, and so deep."
What is the most remote location where someone actually recognized you?
I think that’s the best question I’ve ever been asked in an interview. [Laughs] I tell these stories at dinner parties at my house: I was in Alaska, and we took a bunch of snowmobiles to the top of this glacier, and because of bears and moose we carried guns for protection. Out of the corner of our eyes we saw this dot on the glacier — it was a single man on a snow machine. He was a native Athabaskan man who motored right up to us, and at the time, we were only halfway through airing the first season. He comes right up to me and says “Bizarre Foods!”
Another time, we were in the most remote region of Mongolia, where the people still live in yurts. In Mongolia, they still live nomadically, don’t have any heat, follow herds of animals around, and have no schools. They are literally living indistinguishably from their ancestors — except they have cellphones, solar power, and television. They were pirating the show — they knew who I was. The greatest pleasure of my career is that the show’s reach is global, and so deep.
What would you feed Donald Trump?
Season nine of Bizarre Foods premieres on Travel Channel at 9 p.m. tonight, September 28.