Chef Andrew Zimmern: Experiencing Food, Sharing Culture
“The library of tastes and flavors and memories that I have is probably my most valuable asset. I wanted to try everything and anything at a very young age. I have never known a time where I wasn’t sure that this is what I would do.” Chef Andrew Zimmern
Chef Jaime Laurita and I have had the honor of meeting Chef Andrew twice on the James Beard Foundation Awards Red Carpet in Chicago in 2017 and 2018. Andrew is delightful and knows how to savor the day. Here is a fun clip from 2017 when Andrew gave Jaime a piece of pizza in the middle of a quick Kitchen Chat. A special thank you to my dear friend Chef Katie Chin for reconnecting Kitchen Chat with Andrew.
Recently, we had the honor of interviewing Chef Andrew virtually from the Middleby Residential Showroom in Chicago.
Exploring culture through food was the foundation for Bizarre Foods, a show that lasted over 12 years. Andrew shared meals with people from all over the world. You will enjoy his stories about consuming beyond the recommended amount of fermented whale/seal oil and dried fish in Alaska along with poignant lessons he learned over a family meal featuring grubs.
On a personal note, it was really special to share my father’s taste of a culture experience with Chef Andrew. During the late 1950s, my father was invited to visit the Cuna Indians by canoe in the San Blas Islands. Andrew knew exactly what it was that my father had consumed! In his autobiography, my father writes about his experience with great respect and from the perspective of feeling honored to have had the opportunity to experience a culture through food:
“The culminating act was the offering of a coconut shell filled to the brim with a Cuna drink – a potion made from corn. Earlier in the day, women in the tribe chewed corn off the cobs, thoroughly salivated it, and then spit the chewed corn into bowls. this liquid was then mixed with sugar cane and water. It was simmered over a low fire for the remainder of the day. Every eye in the tribal council ring was upon me. I took the cup, saluted the group, thanked them for the privilege of being in their midst, offered a quick, silent prayer for a strong stomach, and heartily quaffed the sickly sweet corn drink. Smacking my lips in the locally expected manner, I made comment about the refreshing quality of the native delicacy.” Claude Rhea, “With My Song I Will Praise Him” Broadman Press, 1977.
Although this isn’t a photo of my dad in a canoe in the San Blas Islands, it is a photo of him (excerpt from his autobiography) that captures his sense of adventure and joie de vivre. He is the one smiling at the camera.
Chef Andrew is a resonating voice and advocate for helping save restaurants across the United States through the Independent Restaurant Coalition. He highlights ways that we can help support the food industry during this time. He reminds us that it’s not only the restaurant owners and the workers, but it is also the farmers and the vendors who have all been impacted. Please visit saverestaurants.com for more information about how you can help.
Here are Andrew’s top three tips for the home chef:
- Home Chefs work too small. Use cutting boards, bowls, and pans that are big enough to chop, cook and mix.
2. Stop cooking everything on medium, crank your heat up.
3. Taste your food as you cook, If your not tasting your food you are not learning.
What is your favorite food experience that expanded your palate and provided insight into another culture?