Andrew Zimmern says he “eats to travel and travels to eat.” He wows the world with his culinary adventures on Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods as he boldly goes — and eats — where (and what) no one else will. The celebrity foodie will host two events at this weekend’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival: the sold-out Intimate Asian Dinner with Jason Wang and Sudarat Loasupho (aka Mama Pai), and Best of The Munchies: People’s Choice Food Awards. Of course, he’ll make appearances at the Grand Tasting Village and Fun and Fit as a Family on Saturday and Sunday. We caught up with the James Beard Award-winning chef to find out more about his show, his events at the SOBEWFF and the foods he refuses to eat.
How did your fascination with food develop?
From my parents, who were adventuresome travelers and eaters. I had gone around the world with them by the time I was 13.
What drives your interest in trying new and unusual foods?
It’s a cultural constant. It’s a lens through which to view the world — and one that doesn’t spark rancor. We are always defining ourselves and arguing with others about religion, sexuality, skin color and so on, but food is something we can all be passionate about and share. As Americans, we eat another culture before we appreciate it any other way.
What inspires you to decide which countries to visit?
Places where the best stories are. I am bored by same old, same old.
What are some of your favorite places to travel for food?
Spain, Japan, Vietnam, China, Italy, Southern Africa, Morocco and Brazil.
What are some of the weirdest foods you’ve eaten?
Rotted, week-old voles in northern Thailand comes to mind. But to tribal Africans, it’s weird that we eat cheese; it’s perfectly good milk, rotted and dried into little squares. “Weird” is a relative term.
What won’t you eat?
Bad food, processed crap, Spam, a fast-food sandwich.
What’s your most memorable cultural experience?
Living with the tribal communities in Botswana. They are a pure people — they don’t have private possessions and live in perfect harmony with nature. It’s pretty inspirational. I wrote about them at length in my first book, The Bizarre Truth.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned through your travels?
Don’t judge a book by its cover. And that patience, tolerance and understanding is how we need to approach the world.
When you’re at home with your family, what do you usually cook?
What’s in store for the upcoming season of Bizarre Foods?
We head back overseas — thank goodness. Look for South American episodes that will blow your mind.
What are you most excited to see at SOBEWFF?
The [sold-out Intimate Asian] dinner I am doing with a group of chefs at Khong River House. I can’t wait. And the Best of The Munchies party, of course.
What can festivalgoers expect at your Best of The Munchies event?
Several thousand people eating, dancing and having a great time at the beach. It’s going to be the best night of fest.
Photo Courtesy of World Red Eye