Who Shaves Andrew Zimmern's Head?
We all know about Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop and David's Café when you go to South Beach, is there less well-known spot that really makes the best cuban sandwich or medianoche?
Yeah, I mean not even close. I am not a Cuban sandwich guy, but love Enriqueta's and David's. The place that I would insist the whole world go to visit is a tiny little strip mall fritanga, which is like a little Nicaraguan cafeteria, which is called Fritanga Montelimar. It's 20 Nicaraguan grandmothers in the kitchen making the food of your dreams.
Anything about going into the food truck business you didn't figure on that's really interesting and how have Minnesotans taken to the truck?
Minnesota loves the truck. We have a very fast growing truck community here because when first couple of trucks rolled out, the city officials immediately acted and allowed for there to be several truck zones designated and certain street zones designated, so that the trucks could actually get out there. So most of the ones that started here four years ago, like Chef Shack, are still in business. I'm very lucky in terms of financial hurdles. Most people turn to trucks because it's an easier way econonimially to get into the food business than a brick-and-mortar restaurant. So I'm not the typical food truck entrepeneur story. Most of the food trucks in this town like in other towns, are talented young cooks who say, "Let's not raise half a million dollars to open a restaurant. Let's get $50,000, own it ourselves, retrofit a truck, and get out on the street." For me the decision to buy and get into the truck business is that I was able to do it faster than most and I get a little bit more attention wherever the truck is — right now it's in Florida — because it's a truck owned by by a guy who has got a TV show. But we really spent a lot of time testing, and measuring, and creating really vibrant recipes. And our stuff has been as perfect as we could make it, and it's been extremely successful here in Minnesota. It has been less succesfful in Miami because despite the amazing food trucks down there, I mean some of best food trucks in the country are in Miami, the place that most of them exist is just a few nights a week at these truck meetups. Miami is not as forgiving when it comes to its city-wide ordinances allowing people to set up shop to sell food. I think that's a shame. We all know that city government should not let food trucks go anywhere they want at anytime the want, and do anything. That flies in the face of reason. But what I would like to see in the city of Miami and other cities like it across country that have restrictive covenants on the books, that prevents entrepreneurs — and I could care less about myself, I mean, I'm doing just fine, my food truck's doing just fine — but there are so many people struggling down there, because they can't park their truck in reasonable places and vend food. And I think the citizens of these cities really want those opportunities.
Does your truck have a vanity plate?
It's a regular license plate. I wish I'd thought of that. You're the first person to ask and now I'm killing myself.
What's your signature dish? Is it also the most popular one?
The vast majority of our sales are in our two goat items. We do a goat butter burger with roasted tomatoes and grilled onions, and we do a baby goat sausage sandwich with lime and cabbage slaw with our homeamde pepper relish. Those two items are our two biggest sellers since day one, every day of the week all the time.
And was there a reason you chose goat?
I stand for and believe in the value of alternative protein and the belief that pursuing alternative proteins will help self correct the damage we've done to our food systems because of all the foods that we've worshipped for years and years in this country. Items like goat are a symbol of the restoriative power of the food system to heal itself. The other thing is that goat in America is like soccer... we say we understand it, but we don't really understand it. And it's the most popular thing in rest of the world. And I think peope who taste my goat burgers and taste my goat sausage, come back for it again and again because they do see how delicious it is.
Are there any chefs or restaurants, young ones or new ones in Minneapolis, that more people across the country should know about and visit?
You know what's amazing is that despite fact that Minneapolis is a very popular place for food magazines and food blogs to cover because we have so many great chefs working here... several of the best ones have still not gotten their due. Doug Flicker at Piccolo, Steven Brown at Tilia — I think they are two of the best chefs in America. I would put their food up against anyone, anywhere, anytime. And I think anyone who comes to the Twin Cities and doesn't eat at their restaurants is missing out on a very singular experience. There's another young chef working here in the Twin Cities named Erick Harcey. He has has a restaurant called Victory 44 that is one of my favorite little experimental gastropubs. I think in a couple of years I'll be talking about him in the same category as the other guys — I don't think he's quite there yet, but his food is stellar. I just think he's young and with maturity as a chef I think you learn to be a good editor of your own work... I eat there all the time, I adore Erick's food, I think he's a young guy on the move.
Any new plans on the horizon you can share?
We're taking a look very seriously into expanding AZ Canteen into airports and into sports stadiums. It's the perfect place for that business in particular of mine to expand into as far as an obvious place for it to go.
Everyone asks you what's the worst thing you ever ate, but what's the best?
Oh gosh. You know, I just came back from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and there's a small place there run by a family, it doesn't even have a name, across from a factory, and they serve their local community, it's the sort of thing that foodies seek out, we were at their truck drinking ginger juice and eating a bowl of salt fish with peppers and tomatoes and a side of greens, and you know, if it was plated a little differently would be the most talked about dish in America when it comes to a fine dining restaurant. And it reminded me that the best food in our world is still being cooked in the hidden corners of our universe. And I think finding that stuff is what's most rewarding for me.
Under what circumstances would you eat durian again?
I try it all the time. I've tried it at least 14 times, about three or four times a year since I first tried it... I still don't like it.
Our inimitable public relations manager Tim McGeever wants to know if you shave your dome yourself or if you have someone who does it for you.
Well, I used to shave it myself, but now that I'm a big TV star, I have a really young intern who does nothing but travel with me, sees to my bags, and shave my head. Of course, I shave my own head! Feel free to print all of that.