An Interview with Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Food on the Travel Channel
August 3, 2010
Andrew Zimmern is coming to eat something bizarre at a restaurant near you. He won’t make you join him at his decidedly funky dinner table and he’s cool with that.
I asked Andrew some questions recently about growing up Jewish in NYC.
“NYC afforded me a culinary upbringing like no other. Every neighborhood has an around the world tour in only a few footsteps. There are foods from all over, everywhere I walked. When they call NYC a culinary melting pot, they were talking about a giant soup kettle of steaming ethnic foods.
“All of these foods gave me the culinary curiosity that follows me every day in my life and in my career.”
You grew up in NYC, do you have a favorite “growing up Jewish” food memory?
“Holidays at my grandmother’s house were always a treat. My grandmother was very well known on the Upper West Side of Manhattan- through her Synagogue. We couldn’t walk two feet without someone recognizing her. People would come up to her and shake her hand, she was that well known in the neighborhood. When we’d go to Zabar’s, I would always have the best of everything, oily belly lox, fatty corned beef, brisket, whatever, stuffed into my hand, then into my mouth.”
About being a Jew. It takes a certain amount of Chutzpah to eat the foods you seem to enjoy on your television show (Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel)
“We are a brave clan. (The Jews) We have curious appetites. When I was growing up it was certainly… Anything that I wanted to eat I would. There were no dietary laws in my parent’s home.
When in Rome do as the Romans do!”
When did you first taste bacon? Did you have bacon in your home while growing up?
“I had my first run-in with bacon when I was about six years old. Before that there was no bacon in our home. I tried it first at a friend’s home. They enjoyed bacon and I ate bacon like it was the forbidden fruit.
Soon thereafter it was served in my home!”
What is your favorite Deli sandwich? Ingredients? From where?
” My favorite Deli sandwich is hot pastrami. I adore the fatty end, served on rye with dark mustard- slaw on the side and pickles. When in NYC, I love Katz’s, Ben’s (Kosher) and have course the Carnegie Deli.
“When in Philly, I love the Famous Fourth Street Deli. I love a combination of Pastrami and Brisket in Philly. It’s the bomb. The first time I go to a deli, I usually get a hot pastrami sandwich. The second time I go, the pastrami and brisket combo is my usual choice. These foods are my passion.”
Have you heard of Bragman’s in Newark, NJ?
Do you know about the Jack’s Special Sandwich?
It is the combination of Pastrami, chopped liver, Cole slaw and Russian dressing on Rye.
“No, I’ve never heard of Bragman’s, but that Jack’s sandwich sounds really amazing.”
Do you get a lot of ribbing over your diet from fellow Jews?
“I don’t get hassled a lot by the Rabbis, they just sort of shake their head. Reformed, Conservative, whatever. They don’t give me a hard time.
But there is always one nosy Kvetch that has to get his dig in on me. That is what I always find funny.”
Andrew Zimmern grew up Jewish in Manhattan. He is a trained chef, omnivore and television host on the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods Show. He has eaten Tuna Eyes, Putrified Baby Fish, Grilled Rat, Beetles (sauteed, steamed and fried) and of course the certainly non-kosher the congealed blood soup.
He didn’t grow up kosher, but no matter- bacon wasn’t served in his home until he was about six years old.
Andrew is still in love with Deli, even if it means eating some pretty strange things along the way.
From the Travel Channel:
Andrew knows that one man’s poison is another man’s delicacy, but he isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at the local fare or himself. Our energetic foodie infiltrates markets and restaurants taking viewers behind the scenes to savor the local cuisine — even if it means chewing on eggs with legs, gulping down a frog’s still-beating heart or polishing off a lamb’s eyeball.
Andrew is game for anything and knows the most interesting food is found closest to the source. So whether he’s chasing down large water rodents in the Louisiana bayou, fishing for piranha on the Amazon or flushing out cave bats in Malaysia, you can be sure the guy with the iron stomach will dish up the unimaginable.
Thanks Andrew for speaking to me today. Quite enlightening, although I’m not one for sea slugs! wb
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
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