Andrew Zimmern’s passport is probably filled with more stamps than my local post office. The chef, author, and television personality is best known for his culinary exploits where he travels the world eating through various types of cuisines and dishes so that viewers can live vicariously through his appetite for adventure.
Zimmern fans can now catch him on Travel Channel’s newest series, The Zimmern List. The new series is sort of an All-Star anthology of restaurants, featuring Zimmern’s travels to iconic spots to try some of the best dishes in the world.
So what sets The Zimmern List apart from all the food shows Zimmern has starred in before? We spoke to the travel host to get some insight to his newest show.
The Zimmern List
Zimmern said that he wanted to stray away from the typical filming style of the food genre and create a show that’s more modern and different. To do that, he used very little voiceover in his show, a lot more natural sounds, as well as unique cameras and lenses to create a more intimate viewing experience.
The result, he describes, is his most personal show yet. It will also be the first show made by his production company Intuitive Content for which Zimmern himself is the Chief Executive Officer.
Photo: Travel Channel
So what is something one would ask the man who has traveled practically everywhere and tried so many foods? Personally, I’ve always been wondering if there were any cuisines in the United States that were either underrated or unappreciated, stuff I need to know about in my very own back yard.
Underrated American cuisine
“Tourists tend to come to America and they want to eat in the fancy restaurants that some of our big cities are famous for,” Zimmern says. “They want to eat the regional cuisines that we are famous for — great BBQ in the Southeast, lobster in Maine, oysters and shellfish in the Pacific Northwest — and they should. Those foods are the things they couldn’t really get at home.”
“When I go to France or China or Bolivia, that’s what I do,” he explains. “I don’t want to eat at a Chinese restaurant at a city in Bolivia or France or Italy. I want to eat Chinese food in China when I’m traveling there. I’m not there for that long, I want to eat what that country does best.”
So what does he recommend to tourists visiting the U.S.?
“There are some micro-regional specialties that I would love food tourists to embrace more. The biggest one that comes to mind is the Appalachian foods that run along the Appalachian corridors starting in the Virginias and running south with really, really special food that not only is historically important but really offers a glimpse back in time that I think food lovers won’t get very often. And now, so many chefs along that corridor are cooking dishes out of that Appalachian playbook that allow people to really dig into to very unique food.”
Zimmern says whether it’s Vivian Howard’s restaurant in North Carolina, Travis Milton’s restaurant, or just cruising though West Virginia diners to taste some of that regional food, he thinks people should check out Appalachian foods.
Eating bugs in the U.S.
Zimmern’s probably well known for his unflinching attitude towards the world’s different cuisines, especially bugs. So how did he feel about insect culture in America? Living across the border from Central America we hear about some creative ways insects are prepared, but even here in California there aren’t too many bug options at the thousands of taquerias and Latin American restaurants around us.
“I think it’s shameful, we pay a lot of lip service to it, I’d like to see chefs begin to embrace it more,” he said.
“I’m sure there are Mexican restaurants in America who are doing a tlayuda on a tostada with Chapulines that I would probably eat and say ‘Wow that is a great dish with bugs in it’ So I’m sure they’re out there, I just haven’t encountered one yet.”
Zimmern then dropped an analogy that opened this old writer to the experience of eating bugs…a feat not to be taken lightly.
Bugs to me, are like pork chops. Most cooks don’t cook them right and they end up tasting like shit… and that’s unfortunate and then people say “Ohh I don’t like pork.” But that’s because it’s over done in some commodity products, or that it’s old. And so I say the same is true of bugs.
Where’s the best fried chicken in America?
Finally, because my fried chicken-loving self could not resist learning of new institutions that craft the golden brown fowl of the gods, I had to ask what his favorite fried chicken spots where in the United States.
Aside from the obvious answers one can easily Google, Zimmern decided to name two restaurants that he thinks are very special.
“The first is Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach,” he said. “Everyone orders the stone crab. The fried chicken, If I remember correctly, they used to be an off-the-menu item and then it became popular enough to put it on the menu. They make some of the best fried chicken that there is.”
Another fried chicken spot, he recommends, is a restaurant in Minneapolis called Revival.
“They make some of the best chicken in America.”
Listening to Zimmern talk about all the amazing foods we can find here in the U.S. makes me want to hop into a car and travel across the country. Just seeing the amazing Los Angeles dishes Zimmern feasts on makes me feel like I haven’t even cracked the surface of Southern California cuisine, and that’s why shows like the Zimmern List always remind us to keep exploring, even in our own backyards.