Welcome to The Tastemakers, a series in which we chat with the most talented, connected and influential people in the world of food and drink.
"From the time that I was eight or nine, I knew that I was going to be in the food business. I would sit with my dad, digging clams in the bay during the summers, surf-casting for stripers from the beach, crabbing, eeling . . . I loved it all."
Andrew Zimmern's intuition as a child was right on—not only did he get into the food business, but he's made a name for himself eating things much beyond clams and eels.
As the co-creator, host and consulting producer of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods, Zimmern bravely travels the world in search of the weirdest eats out there—an incredible 18 seasons worth of eats. He is also a contributing editor for Food & Wine magazine and the owner of three James Beard awards for his work in television.
It all started, he says, with his dad.
"I got to travel and spend a lot of time eating my way around the world with my father before I was even 10. I was hooked."
We chatted with Zimmern about the jobs he's loved, the best advice he's been given and, yes, the weirdest thing he's ever eaten.
What's the best job you ever had?
"Washing dishes at Dubins Café in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1992. I had cratered a very successful career in NYC during the 80s; found myself in Minnesota, living in a halfway house; and was told to get a job, so I did. Those 90 days were some of the happiest of my life, keeping it very, very simple."
What's a meal that's on your bucket list?
"The next one."
If you could redo any meal or dish you've ever made, what would it be and why?
"I blew a blondie recipe the first year I got married, and I've never heard the end of it."
(As if you've never been asked this before) What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
"Palolo, or small coral worms off the coast of Samoa. They rise to the surface when atmospheric conditions are just right, die in the sun and sink, fertilizing the coral to regenerate. They are scooped off the surface by locals and eaten on bread, in all their bright-blue algae-infused briny intensity."
Who was the best boss you ever had?
"My dad. He taught me everything I know that's useful. All the rest is bullshit. Had I taken all of his advice and been less selective, my life would have turned out much better. But that's the nature of those relationships."
What's the best bite you've had in recent memory?
"Marmite oysters. Derek Dammann came down from Montreal to cook a special dinner with Jamie Bissonnette of Toro NYC in Jamie's private dining room. At one point, Derek, the chef partner at Maison Publique who made a global name for himself at DNA (the now defunct but legendary Montreal restaurant), came out and placed a dozen baked oysters in front of Chris Cosentino and me. These Marmite baked oysters used a centuries-old technique: shucked oysters in the shell; topped with a reduction of the oyster liquor, lemon and cayenne; mounted with Marmite and a homemade mayonnaise heavy on the yolks; then broiled until it puffed and glazed. I could eat my weight in those little gems."
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What's one food or dish you secretly can't cook?
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
What's the best piece of advice someone's ever given you?
"My dad taught me to gamble and play cards when I was young. All of that poker advice now seems to be morality tales for life. Never draw to an inside straight, fold more often, pay attention to the other players more than you think, then double that amount."
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern premieres Tuesday, June 21 at 9pm ET/PT on Travel Channel.
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