FishbowlDC Q&A with Andrew Zimmern

We chatted about the DC food scene, food in politics, the grossest thing he's ever eaten (spoiler alert: it's walnuts), an episode from his new season of Bizarre Foods, as well as a phenomenal MFK.

Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods-2
Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods.

International man of mystery and crusader for healthy and sustainable food sources, Andrew Zimmern, is understandably passionate about his job and the culinary world as a whole.

As the host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, Zimmern has no qualms about presenting viewers with episodes that challenge their palates and perceptions of what a balanced and healthy diet can and should be — while are the same time having loads of fun in the process.

FishbowlDC had the opportunity to speak with this gastronomic giant in our latest Q&A — as we geeked out hard about the DC food scene, food in politics, the grossest thing he’s ever eaten (spoiler alert: it’s walnuts), an episode from his new season of Bizarre Foods, as well as a phenomenal MFK.

Check it out!

FishbowlDC: You named Ethiopian food as your #1 favorite moments from the DC episode, did you have a favorite dish?

Andrew Zimmern: “We ended up cooking in someone’s home and she made a chicken wat that was transcendently other worldly. Ethiopian food is so fantastic. It’s so beautifully flavored. It’s elegant, it’s rich, it’s a tapestry, and it’s really difficult to find the level of cooking that’s appropriate, what it’s potential can be, in restaurants — especially American restaurants.

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Host Andrew Zimmern & local writer Arva Ahmed watch popular Pakistani street dish katakat get made in Dubai’s old quarter

So much of Ethiopian food is designed out of techniques that are “scoop and serve.” Much in the same way the Southern food icons are best enjoy in what are called “meat free restaurants” – where you eat cafeteria style. You pick the protein and wonder down the line, and pick out three sides and grab your tray and hit the table. When you go to an Ethiopian restaurant, so many of the dishes are very long cooking — stews and braises — and they are layered with a ton technique and ingredients that all take many, many hours to prepare some of these dishes.

Most restaurants make a lot of the food ahead of time, which is totally appropriate, and then when orders come in they can reheat, they can pull something out of an oven, and serve. It doesn’t mean all the food is that way, but a lot of the stuff is. And I think in someone’s home they have a lot more ability to showcase all the nuances of it that is missing in a lot of Ethiopian restaurants I eat.”

FBDC: Was Jose Andres offended when you put him at #2 in your Top 5 for DC?

AZ: “Jose Andres is one of my best friends. He is a colleague. He is a mentor. We were very close. We spent time with his family, and he with mine. So, I understand very well the spirit with which I intended that. If I chose a food experience with him over a family meal at a home in DC, he would probably question that choice.”

FBDC: If you could have a meal with any politician, who would it be?

AZ: “Oh my gosh… Right now? I’m gonna say Hillary Clinton. Well, alive would be Hillary Clinton — just because at the day and time which you’re asking, she is the one I would have the most questions for. So, I  would want to talk to her.

In the ghost category, I would take Teddy Roosevelt because he is so many of the things I aspire to be. He was an international man of mystery back in the days when you could be an international man of mystery. He developed our American park system. He was the first police chief of the city of New York. He was a New Yorker, first and foremost, and the, moved away. And like me, I’m a New Yorker who no longer lives there. He was a hunter, an outdoorsman as I am. He was a thinker. He was dedicated to public service and the idea of civic solutions to political problems, as am I. And I like Teddy Roosevelt.”