Andrew Zimmern knows he’s living your dream life.
As the host of the Travel Channel hit show "Bizarre Foods," the chef has been able to traverse the globe since 2006, dining on authentic and truly remarkable meals.
“I'm stunned. I'm so grateful and so humbled by it,” Zimmern told Travel + Leisure about the success of his show, which continues to grow in ratings as it enters its 12th season. “I think about it every single day. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.”
Thankfully for all of us, Zimmern, who has traveled to more than 170 countries during his career, was willing to share a few crucial pieces of advice for anyone looking to up their adventure game — and even get their kids involved.
On getting out of your culinary comfort zone…
“I think people make a lot of fear-based decisions,” Zimmern explained when asked how people can get a more authentic travel and food experience like he does on the show. “And I think we get a little bit lazy. The example that I always use is just take a look at one of the most touristy and over and over travel destinations in the world: Cancun.”
There, Zimmern said, people often flock to the main strip along the ocean. That’s all fine, if you want a classic, all-inclusive experience including buckets of margaritas and guacamole. But, if you want to get off the beaten path, Zimmern says that can be easy, even in mega touristy destinations.
“Get your ass up off the beach, take a cab, or go into the city of Cancún across the highway,” he said. “It’s over a million people. It's where real Mexicans are cooking and eating and living and experience those restaurants.”
On one exotic meal everyone should try…
“My death row meal is my grandmother's roast chicken and a bucket of cherry stone clams that I shuck myself and some really good high quality coffee ice cream for dessert,” Zimmern said of his all-time favorite meal. But as for cuisine every traveler should try far away from home, ZImmern went a little more exotic. His pick comes from a small town in Vietnam where “little baby ducks and chickens are cleaned, marinated in fish sauce and lime juice and rock sugar and chillies, and then deep fried.”
You then eat the entire bird and simply leave the beak behind. “It can be one of the greatest poultry eating experiences you can ever have,” he said. “And I seek that kind of thing out everywhere I travel.”
One thing he’ll never eat again…
“I do not eat hot oatmeal or raw cookie dough or walnuts. I just don't care. I don't care for them,” the host said. However, like any gracious guest, Zimmern noted if he was presented with any of these things while traveling he’d swallow them whole.
“If I'm served them somewhere else I always eat them because I'd rather be a good dinner guest.”
Why he thinks all travelers should try something twice…
Once really is never enough, at least for Zimmern and local eats.
“I tell people all the time: Try something twice before you decide whether you like it or not.” Zimmern explained that in the United States people will often wolf down hot dogs without batting an eye, but will scoff at him for some of the meals he eats on the show. “I say, 'You know, what I put in my mouth on the road is usually fresh and safe to eat and very easily recognizable as to what the ingredients are.’”
So yeah, something may look very, very different than the processed foods we are used to, but you never know, you may really love a baby chicken deep-fried and smothered in sauce.
On getting your kids to be just as adventurous as you are…
“The toughest one I've ever had is parenting my son,” Zimmern said. “They don't come with instruction books. What happens is is that children take on messages about food when they're in the crib at age two, three, four months.” He then noted that it’s up to parents to teach their children food habits and show them that eating unique foods is OK.
Zimmern noted that often times parents will coddle children, believing they will only eat off the children’s menu. Instead, throw that thing away and let your kid enjoy the same things you do.
“I remind people that children are not genetically predispositioned to only like chicken fingers. In fact quite the opposite — when babies are born they actually want to try everything,” he said.
And hey, given the chance your kids may even inspire you to try something new while traveling and enjoy it as a family.
What’s next on his show…
This season on "Bizarre Foods," Zimmern explained that he and his crew will be traveling “historic routes that were undertaken by famous people both mythological and real.” For example, they will travel the Paul Bunyan trail in northern Minnesota, drive the Amalfi coast in Italy, follow Napoleon Bonaparte’s journey across Poland to the Russian border where he engaged the Russian army, and more.
“I think this season is so much more exciting for viewers because we have the regular "Bizarre Foods" content and entertainment, but we have it shackled to some very interesting adventure learning and history that I think makes the show much more relevant and deeper to today's viewer.”
Tune in Tuesday, Jan. 23 to learn more — and maybe even get inspired for your next foodie travel adventure.