Andrew Zimmern: Be curious eaters

MECCA BOS | Updated 7/10/2013

The Minneapolis-based celebrity foodie urges us to “pay more attention” to the food all around us.

Photo by Jim Gehrz

"Don’t practice contempt prior to investigation,” says Andrew Zimmern. The local boy made good says he has learned some lessons in his seven years trotting the globe in pursuit of “Bizarre Foods.” That show — now airing in the form of “Bizarre Foods America” Mondays on the Travel Channel — has catapulted the chef, writer and food-truck operator to impressive fame. Regrets? He has only one — that he didn’t pay more attention. And it’s the prescription he recommends to us all: Be curious eaters.

“We all need to pay more attention. I thought I knew everything at 18. I’m 51 now. When I look back on everything I’ve done, on the one hand I’m pretty staggered. On the other, I wish I would have listened more. Read more, talked to people more, heard their stories more.”

Zimmern says that all food politics start on a local level, and the fact that we live in an agricultural state makes it all the more important that we become involved. How? Support local food enterprise, get wise about the farm bill, and stop arguing about the cost of good food, he says, because the cost of not supporting it is steeper. “With people dropping dead at 50 with diet-related diseases? We’re just foolhardy if we don’t start paying more attention.”

Lately, Zimmern’s attentions are focused keenly on energetic young food talent, both locally and beyond. Between the recent James Beard Awards and the Aspen Food & Wine festivals, the enthusiastic omnivore claims he has eaten more great food in the past six weeks than he has in years — and he immediately calls out Jamie Malone, chef de cuisine at Sea Change and a Food & Wine Best New Chef nominee. “She presented this abalone [in Aspen] with bone marrow, chile and lime that was out of this world,” he says.

He also makes mention of Seth Bixby Daugherty (formerly of Cosmos and current healthful-food activist), Tim McKee (we have no idea who that is), Stewart Woodman (of Heidi’s), Erik Anderson (formerly of Sea Change and now Catbird Seat in Nashville) “and all of those I’m forgetting to mention” as the trendsetters and tastemakers who’ve changed the face of Twin Cities dining.

“I’m just so proud of what they’ve done for the state. It continues the narrative of culinary excellence in Minnesota and reminds everyone that this isn’t flyover country. We are a national leader from a culinary standpoint.”

Of course, he spends as much time away as he does at home. In New York, he likes Italian seafood restaurant Marea for some of the “most heart-stoppingly gorgeous” food in the country, and Daniel Boulud’s Epicerie for the charcuterie, terrines and other cured things that Zimmern calls “perfection and artistry.” He’s thrilled by Boulder’s Hosea Rosenberg, a “Top Chef” contestant-cum-farmer. “It’s so cool to watch — he’s working with pork products from his own farm and he’s clearly fallen in love with that aspect of food.” Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko in Austin, Texas, is another rising star to watch, Zimmern says — his contemporary Japanese riff on a taco was “the fucking best” Zimmern’s ever had, filled with cured yellowtail in a die-cut yucca shell.

Check out the "Related links" for some of Zimmern’s favorite Twin Cities food adventures.