Andrew Zimmern Discusses The Many Delicious Barbecues And Steaks In The Food Scene - Exclusive Interview

Whether you're a casual foodie or dedicated to the culinary craft, there's a lot to learn from Andrew Zimmern. The award-winning chef, TV host, writer, and humanitarian has been all over the world and all over our TVs throughout his career, teaching us about food (both bizarre and breathtaking), cooking, and culture — and helping shape the food media landscape along the way. 

More recently, You could argue that he's seen it all and tasted it too, and he's dedicated to sharing his passion for and knowledge of food with the world. Zimmern is also the host of "Andrew Zimmern's Wild Game Kitchen," which you can watch every Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET or stream all episodes on the Outdoor Channel.

Tasting Table got a glimpse of that drive once again when we caught up with Zimmern recently at the Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival presented by Capital One. Zimmern helped close out the festival at the signature Backyard BBQ event, featuring the work of some of New York's most well-established pitmasters along with many up-and-coming savants of smoked meats. In true Zimmern style, he shared his poignant views on some of the best barbecue in the world, talked steakhouses, shared the best food cities in the country, and much more.

Andrew Zimmern's hot takes on good barbecue in and out of the U.S.

Barbecue elicits very strong reactions and loyalties across the country, and you've tried a lot. Do you have any favorite barbecue spots?

Yes, and when you name them, you wind up offending a lot of people. However, when it comes to barbecue, I'm a whole hog person, because then you get a little bit of everything. In the whole hog category, you have people like Rodney Scott, Pat Martin, and Sam [Jones], and you have so many great whole hog specialists. I absolutely love it.

In the rib category, Peg Leg Porker's dry rubbed ribs, I hate to say it, are probably the hammiest, yummiest, most delicious ... I love [owner Carey Bringle's] ribs.

What do you think is the most overrated or underrated style of barbecue?

Oh, my God. Well, the barbecue that's not right is barbecue that's over-sauced and falls off the bone. There's a whole school of people for whom that kind of rib is great, but it's not my thing. I don't want to yuck on someone's yum.

The most underrated form of barbecue is the barbecue that is all around the world that doesn't originate in this country. The best whole hog in the world is from Indonesia and the Philippines: Babi Guling in Indonesia and Lechon Cebu in the Philippines.

They're remarkable — filled with lemongrass and Asian aromatics and all that kind of stuff. Whether it's that or even Ukrainian shashlik ... Really, meat over fire and using wood smoke is something that preservers used all around the world, and people don't realize that it's everywhere. Our tradition is a couple hundred years old. Theirs is a couple thousand years old.

On good steak and defending Peter Luger

What about steak? Do you have a favorite steakhouse?

That I definitely don't. What's funny is because I cook, I go out to eat things I don't make all the time at home. I like to buy great meat at home. I have 17 grills. I do it for myself. People say, "Where's a great steakhouse in Minneapolis?" and I haven't eaten a steak in Minneapolis in a decade. It's a really strange thing.

That being said, I'm here [in New York], back in my hometown where I grew up. I love places like Peter Luger. I love some of the new-age places that have opened up around town. I went to 4 Charles Prime Rib and was blown away by what they did.

What do you think about Peter Luger losing its Michelin star? It seems like the tides have turned on their reputation in recent years. Do you think that's warranted?

Everyone's tides turned. It goes back and forth. I haven't eaten at Peter Luger in two or three years. What I think is unfair is ... Look, everyone wants to make lists and give out stars, and I'll let Michelin do that. I believe it has tremendous value for consumers. That way, they know where to go based on what Michelin says.

To do it right out of COVID, when everyone was kneecapped ... This industry was kneecapped. We lost hundreds of thousands of restaurants. As a co-founder of the Independent Restaurant Coalition and someone who's a very active social justice warrior, I'm not sure this was the year to come out with stars, or points, or any of the other people who do that, or "best of" lists. There's some great restaurants that lost all their employees, shut for a year, and then have to reopen and rebuild. I'm not sure it's the year to do it.

Andrew Zimmern says smaller towns are making big impacts on the American food scene

What do you think is the most exciting food city in the U.S. right now? You can't say New York.

Well, no. But the best food place on planet Earth is Queens, New York. You have 170 different ethnicities and cultures and populations of 5,000 or more. It's amazing.

Best food city in America right now ... I love all the little small ones that are exploding. My hometown of Minneapolis now is one of them. Whether it's Birmingham, Alabama, or ... People knew about Portland, Maine, forever, but look at how many restaurants keep opening there. Portland, Oregon — I'm amazed at the small cities. That's where the action is. Two years ago, I would always apologize and say I'm not going to list where I live. But Minneapolis now can carry its weight with any town in America, food-wise.

Andrew Zimmern talks TikTok and the limits of foodie influencers

As someone who's been such a major part of the food media landscape, what do you think about the rise of all these TikTok food influencers? Is this great, or is this helping spread misinformation to people?

There's a difference between entertaining people with food who have an appetite for it. 99% of food TikTokers are just highlighting something they love. That's positive. That's great. That needs to be supported. If we can generate that excitement for the people who don't have a food life, those 20% of people — there's 800 million people in the world who have no food life — I'd like to see us devote some energy toward that. Step one is getting everyone else to appreciate how great food is, so I am pro-TikTok.

I do not believe that someone who has 10 million followers who can't tell you the difference between two different cuts of meat has any business telling other people where to eat other than their friends. While I don't want to silence anyone, people should take that to mind, to heart, when they're making a selection. Does this person know what they're talking about? Otherwise, you're going to be disappointed anyway.

Andrew Zimmern on his podcast appearance with Adam Richman

Adam Richman mentioned recently that he had a great time filming an episode of his podcast, "The Meals That Made Me," with you. How was that experience? Can you share anything about what you guys talked about?

It's a lot of fun. I was told, "Hey, come up with 10 of the meals that changed your life." We talked for an hour and a half and didn't get to one. That's a good thing.

I was on TV when Adam came up; he was on the same network that I was on. We've been friends ever since. He is a great human being, and we always get distracted and talk about a whole bunch of stuff that friends talk about. I think people are going to like the episode. If you like food and you travel and you want to explore new ideas, Adam and I talking for 90 minutes is as good entertainment as it gets.

For the latest from chef Andrew Zimmern, follow him on Instagram, and catch him on "Andrew Zimmern's Wild Game Kitchen" on Mondays at 9:00 p.m. ET on the Outdoor Channel. Plus, click here to learn more about the annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One, and be sure to check out the highlights from this year's event.

This interview was edited for clarity.