Andrew Zimmern is one of the most interesting people in the world of food television. Host of Bizarre Foods and Bizarre Foods America, he rose to fame as the man who would eat just about anything, and his worldly and inclusive perspective is one we all wish we could have. At the upcoming 2015 South Beach Food & Wine Festival, Zimmern will be hosting the Best of the Munchies: People’s Choice Food Awards. The Daily Meal spoke to him about what he loves most about the festival; his favorite things about Miami; his inspirations; his newest show, Delicious Destinations; and what he has in the works.
The Daily Meal: What are you most looking forward to at SOBE this year?
Andrew Zimmern: Swimming in the ocean with my son, of course. Walking on the beach with my wife early in the morning. Seeing all my chef friends and hanging out late into the night. SOBE is the one time of year I routinely get to see the dawn come up after a long night of fun. The Miami music and dance scene is spectacular. And I am really excited to be hosting The Munchies closing party on the beach once again. It’s a superb event and I think it’s got the best food you can taste the whole weekend.
What first inspired you to start cooking?
My grandmother. She was very old, and not active in any other room but the kitchen. So when I was five she would sit me on a stool and I would watch her cook. My father had me traveling around the world from an early age. I'm just a paler version of him.
What are your favorite foods to cook at home?
Roasted whole birds, one-pot meals, and anything I can throw on or in my Cowboy Cauldron. I want to get one of those cool Mario Batali wood burning ovens for my outdoor kitchen— that’s the next big move.
What inspired you to launch Delicious Destinations?
Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations is a “recommender” show. It’s attempting to fill the void for the fans who kept asking, “When I go to Paris, what are the five or six foods I shouldn’t miss?” This isn't about the best place to eat: it’s about a type of food you shouldn’t miss, and a good example of where to find it. It’s about iconic foods in wonderful places. The original title was Edible Icons, which I really liked a lot, but the idea of putting it under a Bizarre Foods umbrella was the best way to clue fans in to its presence. Starting a show is tough, and now that we have 16 episodes under our belts I think, in our second season, if we have that chance, we need to make the show smarter. I really like the general idea of it, but, like most new things, all I am seeing are the things I want to improve for next year.
What are you working on these days? What's next for Bizarre Foods?
I am in an airport on my way to South America, shooting more Bizarre Foods. I have 2 more concepts rolling out over the next year: one on Travel Channel and one on Cooking Channel. I just launched a production company called Intuitive Content that you will be hearing a lot about over the next year… I'm busy!
Do you ever want to go brick-and-mortar with Canteen or a different concept altogether?
We are. There’s hopefully a big announcement to come in the next month or two. We have several things that my restaurant group will be announcing before the end of March, including lots of Canteen expansion news.
What is the best meal you've ever eaten?
Because it impacted my life every day since I ate there, I would have to pick the first meal I ate at Paul Bocuse in Lyon in 1974. I had no idea that type of dining, insane food quality and precision, service or freshness existed in the restaurant world. Squads of bonneted grandmothers picking herbs and lettuces through the windows is an image I haven't been able to shake for 40 years.
What do you love about Florida, and Miami in particular?
What’s not to love? It’s the sexiest city in America. It’s international. I think of it as the unofficial capital of South America, actually. Great food, great weather, superb people. We are there five or six times a year for family fun.