Andrew Zimmern – More than a Man that Loves Bizarre Foods
by Dawn Garcia | Photographs by Dawn Garcia
Photo above taken by Rishia Zimmern
April 26, 2013 – Austin, TEXAS | South Austin Eatery & Trailer Park
In the world of Food, Wine, and Reality TV, there are more shows to choose from than our minds can handle. With little time to sit down and watch most of them, there are a few that I feel really grasp the story and passion behind food and culture. Among them is No Reservations and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Willing to explore the many faces of food, the depths of just about any culture open to allow him entry, Andrew is not the average man with a passion for cooking and the world. He has a genuine love for what he’s doing. When I first got the email from Diana Bulners from Rogers & Cowan that a few Members of the Press were invited to sit down with him and interview Andrew one-on-one preceding a public press interview at the W Hotel earlier that day, I was honored to be among those invited. The Eat & Greet was happening at the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery in collaboration with the 2013 Munchies People’s Choice Food Awards (see attached Press Release). While I hadn’t watched too many episodes, I knew the story behind the man. I understood the struggle, the rollercoaster he’d been on and now, madly in love with his truly wonderful wife Rishia, father to their incredible son, Noah, it just endeared me all the more to want to ask deeper questions and hope for honest replies.
You can tell the moment you see Andrew that he’s the real deal. He’s not walking around with a chip on his shoulder or a pompous approach to anything. No, he’s just a regular guy who loves what he does, loves life, his family, values his opportunities, and has a true zest and passion food, cooking, culture, and travel. When I arrived at the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery after the quest for parking, the sound of music sure to make you feel nothing but joy infiltrates the air. Sour Bridges. The violin bow strumming against the strings, the guitars dueling, the beat funneling through every vacant space, and one is hard pressed to find themselves not taken over. It’s incredible!
I look for the area where interviews are being done, catch a glimpse of Andrew, meet Mary Jo, tell her I’m ready whenever he is and she sweetly asks,
“Andrew wants to sing a song with the band. Is that ok and we can sit down right after?”
“Of course!” I reply and think to myself, that’s way better anyway. He probably needs the break from all of the Press Interviews he’s been doing since earlier today between the W Austin and here.
He is dressed in jeans, a bright lemon yellow shirt with matching shoes, a colored watch, black circle rimmed glasses, and a joy that exudes from his very core. He makes his way around the crowd talking to as many people as he can and moments later emerges onto the stage where he sings “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead. You can feel the elation as he sings and after apologizing in advance for his singing voice, he just sings. Every word sung with a complete and utter heart and there’s no self conscious hesitation, he belts out every lyric gleefully. He sings that song with conviction and that translates into GREAT! After what is no doubt an unforgettable performance for him and all the fans present, now there is a calm about him. Until he realizes he still has another interview. With me. He graciously comes over, shakes my hand, I tell him he rocked on stage, turn to his beautiful wife, introduce myself and ask her to sit down with us. She agrees. He took the time to tell me he appreciated the questions and the writer in me swelled with happiness. So, after our how-do-you-do’s, we get to the interview.
ATOD – Dawn Garcia (DG): If you could reach down – dig into the deepest parts of your soul’s passion, what spice and herb would best represent you?
Andrew Zimmern (AZ): I thought it was a great Question, a lot of people are afraid of “if you could be a color, what color would you be?” So spice and Herb. Chile and Tarragon. You know, I like chiles. Because, you know, from the same plant – well from the same plant, at different days of the week depending on sun clouds, rain or lack thereof – different chiles will have different kinds of heat. There’s always a surprise with a chile and I think I’m a surprise person. It’s big and bold and over the top and they pack a punch when you least expect it.
DG: – and how did you get to tarragon?
AZ: Well, I like tarragon because – licorice and anise are my favorite profile and tarragon I think is the most sophisticated of those kind of flavors. Because it’s a clean herb its very delicate. I think what it does is – there are very few foods that tarragon doesn’t make better and I like it. It’s sophisticated.
DG: What is the first scent you remember that awakened your curiosity of fare? Scent … A moment, something that you can think of now – I realize everything is dependent on where we are in life but – [/question]
AZ: Sure. Sure. For me, it was a – well and it’s a repeated memory, which is probably why it’s a great memory. When I was very young, we had a house out on Long Island and we would have these cookouts at the beach. And this is the early 60s. And the cookouts that we would have, some of the dad’s would serve casper, bass, older kids would take the fish heads while the bass was roasting, and tie it to a rope, throw it into the pond behind you and then get crabs to follow it in because we boiled the crabs and then some dad’s would take the kids down to the jetty – 3 and 4 year olds and that was me, my father would lower me in between the big rocks and I would grab loads of mussels. And there’s a certain kind of briny, oceanic, smell from all the seaweed and mollusks and other little crustaceans from in between the rocks that kind of dries out the rocks and the tide goes out and that smell, the briny oceanic mussel is first food memory – and it oddly enough, or not oddly enough – mussels are two or three of my favorite foods. Usually someone says what’s your favorite food and I hate that questions but I’d say mussels because if they’re on the menu anywhere, I’ll order them. And I love briny oceanic seafood things.
DG: If you close your eyes and imagine the most blissful bite, what do you imagine?
AZ: Blissful bite would be – like I said I’m a briny oceanic guy, I like things that are cold, I like things that are bracing and so my perfect bite is one of the 3 courses on my death bed meal is really big cherry stone clams on the half shell.
DG: The story of culture and food is one that is not only tangible but essential. A meal can pause a war, invigorate sensually, open your eyes, send your palate soaring. In the travels and experiences you’ve had, what culture and meal has had the most profound impact on you??
AZ: Yah – I had, you know, I’m 51 years old so you have a lot of things in life that when you look back and say, a lot of the way I think about the world changed you know when life happened. You get married, you have kids, those kinds of things. In terms of what I think of our relationship is with the world around us – which people have been trying to figure out for a long time. A lot of things coalesce for when I spent time with the Joon-twa-zee in Botswana. I write a lot about it in my first 2 books. (PA– USE) But these are a hidden tribe in the world that live indistinguishably from the rest of the world. You can look it up on my books on it. There is only one of – they don’t own they have no personal possessions, they only take from the land what’s given to them, they’re hyper seasonal, they live in harmony with nature. And um, being with them – spending a week living with them was a life changer for me.
DG: So now – do you mind if I ask you another question? (To Rishia) And I’d like to ask you too.
AZ: No, not at all . (She agrees.)
DG: How long had it been – when you went through all your stuff. How long before you two met? I mean when you were in recovery.
AZ: I still am. I’m 21 years sober – we’ve been together 12 years? So I was 9 years sober when we met?
We met – (to each other) When we met was the year before that.
RZ: so we met how long ago?
AZ: we’ve been married 10, we dated for two but we met right after – it’s been a long time!
DG: So have you guys gone on any great adventures together?
AZ: Oh yeah! Absolutely.
DG: Does your son get to go too? How old is your son?
AZ: He’s 8 but its challenging to bring him. You can’t bring your kid on every trip. I mean its work. It’s not as glamorous as the TV Show makes it seem. I’ve been really lucky in being able to bring my wife with me to fun places. And when we go on vacation and stuff together we do some really cool stuff. I was actually just reading a book to Noah about Mexico – we’re reading the book and I go you’ve been to Mexico and he goes no I haven’t. I said yah you have, you were like 3 and a half. I said you ate cheek tacos at this street cart, whatever we’re in town we docked it on the boat and it was pretty funny. My wife has actually been on some shows with me. She’s been on really great adventures like to Bali, Madagascar –
RZ: I picked the best ones!
DG: Absolutely! If you’re gonna do it, do it right!
AZ: She picked the ones that are hot and beachy.
RZ: Where I’m from there’s no ocean so, he’s lived in Minnesota 21 years.
DG: Well it looks like it’s really worked out for you.
AZ: yeah it’s been perfect.
DG: So personally, I did a little research on you and honestly, the Magazine is so much more about humanity, which is why I really admire what you’re doing. I think in life things get so sensationalized we forget that there’s a common thread and so it’s nice to strip away all the BS and kind of get to the heart of it. I appreciate the failure and the success because I think it’s really, really important for people to fall flat.
AZ: yah All of it. You don’t learn from winning, you learn from stumbling.
DG: Thank you so so much for doing this. For taking the time. Rishia, thank you too, I really appreciate it.[/answer]
Below is the video I shot of Andrew belting out the Grateful Dead. It was an exquisite afternoon and the perfect way to kickoff my Austin trip. Thank you once again to Tara Moore and Diana Bulnes for arranging my interview with Andrew. In life you revel in the moments where you come across the genuine human beings. Something about talking to those who dare see the mystery and potential in life is, in my opinion, like awakening the soul and finding the commonality that brings us together. Andrew Zimmern is certainly one of those people as is Rishia. This was one of the highlights in my career with Chefs thus far. Thank you again Andrew and Rishia for being candid and open. Look forward to doing an even more in-depth interview soon.
Andrew Zimmern (born July 4, 1961) is an American television personality, chef, food writer, and teacher. He is the co-creator, host, and consulting producer of the Travel Channel series Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World. For his work on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern he was presented the James Beard Foundation Award in 2010. He also hosts the show Dining with Death, which explains some of the foods that could cause death.
Zimmern was born and raised in New York City, to a Jewish family. He began his formal culinary training at the age of 14. He attended the Dalton School and graduated from Vassar College. Contributing to many of New York’s finest restaurants as either executive chef or general manager, he has also lectured on restaurant management and design at The New School for Social Research.
Owing to severe drug and alcohol addiction, Zimmern was homeless for about one year. During this period, he survived by stealing purses from cafes and selling the contents. In 1992 Zimmern moved to Minnesota, where he checked into the Hazelden Treatment Center for drug and alcohol addiction treatment, where he now volunteers. He later gained wide acclaim during his four and a half year tenure as executive chef of Café Un Deux Trois in Minneapolis’s Foshay Tower. His menus received the highest ratings from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, and Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, as well as national publications. Zimmern left the daily restaurant operations in 1997.
Zimmern resides in Edina, Minnesota, with his wife, Rishia (Haas), and their son, Noah.
Zimmern is a contributing editor and award-winning monthly columnist at Minneapolis–St. Paul Magazine and a senior editor at Delta Sky Magazine. As a freelance journalist, his work has appeared in numerous national and international publications. Zimmern has served as SuperTarget‘s meal adventure guide, sharing his passion for ethnic foods with supermarket customers around the country. He is the international spokesman for Travel Leaders and Elite Destination Homes.
Prior to Bizarre Foods, Zimmern had an extensive radio career. His shows Chowhounds, The Andrew Zimmern Show, and Food Court With Andrew Zimmern achieved wide popularity in the Twin Cities.
Additionally, Zimmern was the food features reporter for Fox 9 News Minneapolis and was also a featured contributor on both HGTV‘s Rebecca’s Garden and Tip-ical Mary Ellen, where he handled on-air food duties for both shows. He was the food and lifestyle features reporter during the 1997 season of the UPN network’s nationally televised Everyday Living.
Zimmern has been a guest chef at many national charity events, food festivals, and galas, including Food and Wine Magazine’s Aspen Festival, The Twin Cities Food and Wine Experience, and the James Beard House in New York City. He has appeared on The Food Network‘s Best Of…, CNN‘s Money and Health, and NBC‘s Today Show. He also starred in The Cooking Club of America’s instructional video series.
Zimmern regularly speaks to professional associations around the globe on all culinary matters, from the American Federation of Chefs to the Chinese Chefs National Committee. In the fall of 2002, he was an honored guest of the People’s Republic of China, traveling, lecturing, and giving demonstrations on Chinese cuisine.
Zimmern’s book The Bizarre Truth: How I Walked out the Door Mouth First … and Came Back Shaking My Head was published by Broadway Books in 2009. It is a collection of Zimmern’s food and travel stories around the world. He is also the author of Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods,released by Feiwel & Friends on October 30th, 2012.
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern premiered on the Travel Channel with a pilot episode on November 1, 2006. The show has been on for six seasons and over 100 episodes, with Zimmern visiting 32 countries and 14 U.S. states. Bizarre Foods also took home two CableFax awards in 2009, one for Best Television Program: Food, another for Best Online Extras for Andrew’s web series Bizarre Foods in the Kitchen.
In 2009 Zimmern hosted a spinoff of Bizarre Foods called Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World. A pilot and nine episodes were produced in eight countries and two states.
Zimmern guest-starred in a 2007 episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain in New York City; Bourdain did the same on Bizarre Foods. He also appeared in a 2009 episode of Man v. Food with Adam Richman in Minneapolis where he introduced Richman to lutefisk.
In May 2010, Zimmern won the James Beard Award for Outstanding TV Food Personality. His online series, Toyota’s Appetite for Life, won an Effie Award in 2010. Zimmern is executive in residence at Babson College.
*** MEDIA ADVISORY FOR APRIL 26, 2013 ***
BIZARRE FOODS HOST & CELEBRITY CHEF ANDREW ZIMMERN TAKES ON AUSTIN:
SPECIAL EAT & GREET EVENT AT SOUTH AUSTIN TRAILER PARK & EATERY
First 300 Guests Invited to Meet Andrew Zimmern and Enjoy Special Musical Performance by Local Blue Grass Band Sour Bridges, Complimentary Foods Served Up by Torchy’s Tacos and Beverages Provided by Austin Beerworks and Drambuie
WHO: James Beard award-winning chef Andrew Zimmern hosts a special event open to the public in celebration of Austin’s 2012 The Munchies: People’s Food Choice Awards winner Torchy’s Tacos and to rally voting for the 2013 nominees [La Condesa (Best Taco category), Franklin BBQ and Salt Lick (Best BBQ)]. In addition to complimentary food and beverages, guests will have the opportunity to meet Andrew Zimmern who will also offer photos and sign copies of his new cookbook, “Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild & Wonderful Foods.”
WHAT: The Munchies: People’s Food Choice Awards returns through April 30 to offer America the opportunity to once again vote online for their personal favorites in the world of food. Based on popular vote, the most deserving chefs, restaurants, cookbooks, culinary personalities, media and more will win a Munchies Award. Andrew Zimmern leads an expert panel of 26 culinary tastemakers who oversaw the selection of 100 nominees across 20 categories, of which Austin’s own are nominated again this year. A donation to Feeding America – the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity – will be made on behalf of all of the voters and panelists. Guests are encouraged to vote for their favorite Munchies nominees at the event from their smartphones.
The first 300 guests will be welcomed to the special “Eat & Greet” with complimentary access and Torchy’s Tacos, chips, non-alcoholic beverages and Holy Caco cake balls. Alcoholic drinks will be provided to 21 and over guests by Austin Beerworks and Drambuie.
Guests must RSVP prior to the event by visiting:
WHEN : FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013
WHERE: The Munchies Awards: Eat & Greet with Andrew Zimmern
South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery
1311 South First Street
Austin, TX 78704
Special event tent and stage will take over this parking lot space
- 3:30 p.m. – Doors open to guests
- 4 – 6 p.m. – Andrew Zimmern on-site for fan meet-and-greet and booking signing; food and beverages served, band performs
- 4 p.m. & 5:45 p.m.: Andrew Zimmern available for scheduled media interviews