Face Time: Andrew Zimmern

‘Bizarre foods’ host, squirrel hunter

January 20, 2012

Whether he’s downing codfish ice cream in Puerto Rico or rooster testicle soup in Taiwan, “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern never seems to have a boring meal. For the Travel Channel series’ sixth season, premiering Monday at 10 p.m., the Minnesota native stays stateside, sampling the odd and unusual foods of America in cities such as Austin, Texas; Boston; San Diego; and Seattle.

How do you decide which bizarre foods to include on the show?
I like to take a place in the world and explore it. Then, I start to use food stories to make our case for what makes that city, town or people special. For example, I didn’t find food stories first for [the “Bizarre Foods America” episode in] West Virginia; I knew I wanted to go down to a rural part of America that lives closer to the way that we did 150 years ago than any other state in the union.

What did you do in West Virginia?
I went squirrel hunting with people who still hunt at night for their breakfast and in the morning for their dinner. These people have a skill set that’s much greater than yours and mine put together.

Is there such a thing as a bizarre vegetarian or vegan food?
There’s something in Ethiopia called enset, which is the root of a certain type of palm tree. It’s pounded for hours to a pulp, wrapped in a cloth, buried in the ground and left to rot for three months. Then they make a very heavy, nutrient-rich bread from it. That’s as vegan as it gets, and it was one of the most horrific things I’ve ever consumed.

Is there anything you won’t eat again?
No. I’m always curious to eat things again. I tried durian [a fruit grown in Southeast Asia] 14 times in every possible concoction before I found someone who cooked it the way I liked it. It was in D.C., last year at the Indonesian Embassy. The chef made a hot spicy chili sambal [sauce] with fermented durian in it as an accompaniment to a roast pork dish, and it was fantastic.

What non-bizarre foods do you eat in your free time?
Last night I had roast chicken, rice pilaf and a cucumber-bib lettuce salad. Pretty standard.

How often do you taste things on camera and not like them?
We don’t cut anything. The network is actually upset with me that I like things too much. Believe me, if there were anything that I didn’t like, it would be highlighted.

You’re now in a Toyota Camry commercial with Kelly Clarkson. What was it like to film that?
Fantastic. [“Inside the Actor’s Studio” host] James Lipton, [ESPN sportscaster] Chris Berman, Kelly Clarkson and I, we’re just all cut from a different cloth, which is the point of the commercial: What are these people doing in the car together?

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The Manolo · January 20, 2012