Andrew Zimmern Chef Chat with the Bizarre Foods czar, Part 2
Local chef turned big-time TV star Andrew Zimmern is bringing his wildly successful Bizarre Foods home to Minneapolis. The premiere episode of this all-American season, premiering Monday on the Travel Channel at 9 p.m., features Minnesota foods. (It's the second episode he's filmed in his home state.) Yesterday we chatted with him about some of his favorite places to travel in the US and the local food movement (click here to catch up). Today, we get much more personal, discussing family foods, fetid lakes, and why most of the food critics in this town are tiny.
Back in the US of A
When far from home, after a rough day, what are the foods you miss the most?
My wife's shallot chicken, my mother-in-law's cookies, all the simple stuff from home. Most of my days I wind up staring at the ceiling in a run-down room thousands of miles from home, so even a PB and J sounds pretty comforting. That being said, I have the greatest food life of anyone I know, so I wouldn't trade those few moments of homesickness for a new gig. Spending a day exploring Sardinian seafood, or the hot pot restaurants of Chengdu or tribal food threads of the Pueblo in New Mexico is a lot of fun.
What scents remind you of Minnesota?
Pine, the faintly fetid lake smell of a summer day, the clean, crisp smell of snow, the State Fair, my kids hair after swimming.
What should the rest of the country know about the Twin Cities food scene that you think they might be missing?
The depth of commitment of the food people in this town is second to none. We can debate talent or product all day long, but no one can beat our level of dedication and our willingness to work hard for what we believe in.
For the upcoming Food & Wine Expo in South Beach, I know that you'll be joined by another Minneapolis chef, Michelle Gayer. Is there anyone else you'd like to pluck from their kitchens and have with you down there on the beach?
Plenty! Michelle is going to be doing the Trotter tribute dinner and helping me and Michael White put out some grub at my Trucks on the Beach Party that officially closes the festival. I am hoping next year at SoBe or NYCWFF to do a Minnesota dinner somewhere and have all the Gopher talent from our state join me cooking alongside all the great chefs from here who live and work elsewhere. It's a pretty powerful group.
Judging by outward appearances, Stephanie March, Sue Zelickson, Dara--it seems that Minneapolis food writers have some serious height restrictions. Was there a Dorf Does Cooking-type switch-up you pulled to get in the club?
Rick Nelson is 7 feet tall so he makes up for it. I think I am as wide as some of the ladies you mentioned are tall, but the Minnesota food queens, while not the tallest in America, are the sexiest. Have you listened to their voices while they talk food? Schwing!
Tell us what it's like to win a James Beard award.
Greatest moment of my professional life. I have supported that organization for years and believe in their missions, both the well known and less popular ones. For me, as someone dedicated to telling stories about culture through food, I never imagined having my peers consider me for the honor, let alone win one of the more prestigious national honors. I still can't believe I belong to that club. I guess I am forever thinking I am at the little kids' table except during those moments on the road when I am waiting in the wings about to be introduced at an event and they read off my CV, and I always think "Wow, who is that guy? He sounds really interesting and accomplished." And then I realize it's me. I am insanely lucky, and very humbled every time I think about it.
From your television series, recipes for Food & Wine, Open Sky, Health Partners, MSP magazine, appearances, your own website, and I'm sure I'm missing more, how do you find your balance with your family?
You did well--you got about half of it! The answer is I don't have balance with my family. When I am home I try to be there and present all the time. Lucky for me I have the most supportive and accomplished wife in the world and a patient and kind kid who helps me pack every other week.
You've mentioned your belief that children are not born picky eaters, can you tell us more about your stance? How do you raise an adventurous eater?
Kids are built to eat everything. It's the parents and the culture that nurture picky eating. That's not a belief, it's a fact. Kids in tribal regions eat bugs and bats, they don't consider them odd and don't use language denigrating them. We don't eat those foods, and I am not saying we need to, but sending messages to our kids that sweets are rewards, that convenience foods are OK to eat, that it's acceptable to not eat your vegetables is dangerous and unnecessary. Limiting their exposure to foods early in life is a mistake. You need to expand their food lives as toddlers, not use excuses to teach them to eat a varied and healthy diet. The really big issue is that we are time poor and have created a system in this country where eating well is a class issue. And that's shameful.