By Kira Turnbull
April 04, 2015
Kira Turnbull

Most people prefer their insects squashed, swatted, and far from their dinner plates. Chef David George Gordon, on the other hand, likes his bugs marinated, fried, and well-seasoned. Author of the aptly named Eat a Bug cookbook, Chef Gordon has made a career out of taking the ick-factor out of bug eats.

The Bug Chef, as he is sometimes known, recently cooked up a few of his signature dishes for the members of New York’s Explorer’s Club, which, all things considered, is a fitting location for his fare. Founded in 1904 as a meeting place for field scientists and adventurers, The Explorer’s Club has counted among its members Teddy Roosevelt, Jane Goodall, and Neil Armstrong. The newly restored Jacobean building on New York’s Upper East Side is also full of artifacts from every corner of the globe, including a taxidermy polar bear, the original Explorer’s Club flags, and a narwhal tusk.

In other words: it’s just the sort of place that would ask a chef whose favorite dishes include tempura tarantulas to cook a meal.

Gordon, a former travel writer, also has a lot to say about his travels, and the dietary importance of insects in communities around the world. In fact, he insists that 80 percent of the world’s population has some sort of insect as a dietary staple.

His interest in bug food, he says, was kindled in the ‘80s, when, while reporting in Southeast Asia, he noticed giant water bugs in the market—but didn’t try them. His first taste was a few years later, when he had a “cricket snack mix” in Seattle.

When asked about his favorite place to feast on arthropods, his answer was a quick “Mexico City.” In Mexico’s capital, he says, “so many restaurants have as many as five dishes with some type of insect.” The city is known for its grasshopper tacos and ant pupae fried in butter.

Still, even Gordon has his limits. “I once tried Asian centipedes, which have a million legs and had a unpleasant chemical taste.”

No centipedes. Got it.

Kira Turnbull is a Photo Assistant at Travel + Leisure.