What Andrew Zimmern Really Thinks About TikTok Food Influencers - Exclusive

The landscape of food media is undoubtedly changing, thanks in large part to the rise of social media and the platforms it has created for food influencers everywhere. No longer does one have to tune into Food Network or stock up on published cookbooks to learn new recipes and kitchen techniques. Anyone with access to TikTok and Instagram has the opportunity to capture a limitless audience, and share whatever they want about food and cooking. And for home cooks at any level, you can find a video of whatever you could possibly want or need on social media – from a tutorial on spatchcocking a chicken, to a ranking of the best grocery store cookies, and an endless stream of trendy recipe hacks that may or may not work. It's exciting and encouraging and yet overwhelming all at the same time.

Is this a good thing? Is this inundation of influence from social media platforms a positive step forward for the foodie community, or is it a breeding ground for misinformation that effectively helps delegitimize the work of professional chefs? For some perspective on the situation, we turned to someone who has been a major part of the traditional food media landscape for nearly two decades: Andrew Zimmern. He's an award winning restaurant chef and acclaimed cookbook author, and he's been a fixture of food TV since the wildly popular franchise, "Bizarre Foods," first launched in 2006.

Speaking exclusively with Tasting Table recently at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, Zimmern shared his thoughts on the changing landscape of food media, thanks to the rise of social media food influencers, and what he thinks are the best and worst ways to engage with foodies on TikTok.

Social media influencers serve a positive purpose, but not all the time, says Andrew Zimmern

Social media isn't inherently good or bad. It depends on how it's used and who it serves, according to Andrew Zimmern. For him, anything that gets more people enthusiastic about cooking and learning about food is a positive thing. 

"There's a difference between entertaining people with food who have an appetite for it," and claiming to be some kind of expert, Zimmern says, adding that "99% of food TikTokers are just highlighting something they love. That's positive. That's great." The way he sees it, "There's 800 million people in the world who have no food life." So if the work of food influencers on TikTok and beyond "can generate that excitement for the people who don't have a food life ... that needs to be supported." For him, "step one is getting everyone else to appreciate how great food is, so I am pro-TikTok."

Zimmern clarifies that people should be mindful of information they consume on the platform and take anything beyond basic inspiration with a grain of salt. "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," he explains. There are longstanding vetted resources for that knowledge, and when seeking out culinary information, Zimmern says "people should take that to mind, to heart, when they're making a selection." 

He adds that if you're not asking yourself "Does this person know what they're talking about?" when choosing who to listen to online, more than likely, "you're going to be disappointed anyway."

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.