HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


Maybe Andrew Zimmern isn't so bad after all?

I happened to watch Zimmern of Bizarre Foods last night, the episode in Sicily. It actually was a great show! Learned a lot about the foods of Sicily, and it was the first episode of BF that I would have tried anything he ate. I think he is at his strength when he is *not* eating bugs, worms, et al. As for the tuna sperm, why have American foodies not taken this up as the latest, greatest?!...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't mind him that much, his show is good for a chuckle sometimes.

    1. I think they have changed the shows format a bit. Seems to me that they are going away from the shock value of eating bugs and just trying to focus on exotic locations and less known food.

      I too have found the show interesting lately. Previously I never watched it because of the reasons mentioned.

      10 Replies
      1. re: hudsonvalleyfoodblog

        He's done some good shows recently, and I always found him bearable in small doses. He seems like a genuinely humble and curious guy, who somehow got talked into the "bug-eating" format. I like that he struggles to convey how disgusting some things are without offending his hosts. He did a great show recently on Appalachia and I tend to like his shows based in the U.S. better because there's not the "yuck, scary foreign food" vibe.

        1. re: newhavener07

          I don't have a problem with him, per se, but I don't like how he reacts to things he doesn't like. He'll eat bugs and testicles and things like that, but during the Malaysia episode, he actually spit the durian out of his mouth -- the farmer who owned the durian farm looked apalled. In a country where people are big on manners and very careful not to offend their hosts, I found his behavior to be unacceptable.

          Bourdain has a completely different approach. Even if he doesn't like something, he will be polite about it. In other countries, that's the diplomatic way to do it without offending anyone.

            1. re: boogiebaby

              As if a durian grower didn't know about it's controversial nature with foreigners (and locals, as well). I've seen enough of Zimmern to note that he's a respectful guy and in this particular episode (I didn't read the grower as being "appalled") he was just reacting naturally.

              I don't assume that foreigners are naive individuals. Those who enjoy dishes that are not especially mainstream appreciate that there is either an acquired taste or cultural gap in introducing it to those who are unfamiliar. If you recall the episode in Africa with the palm leaf pulp that was fermented in the ground for months he was not exhibititing disrespect in his reaction, he tried something that very few outsiders would attempt and tried to put in in teh context of his overall experience. To read so much into a single edited scene in a TV show is not especially fair.

              1. re: boogiebaby

                Come on, durian is famous throughout Asia as having a terrible smell -- you can't even bring it on planes! The farmer can't have been surprised at a foreigner's reaction.

                1. re: newhavener07


                  Its been banned by public transportation hubs, hotels, and various other public places.

                  1. re: newhavener07

                    terrible smell, yes, but once its in your mouth its a different story. Can't see why you'd have to spit once you got it past the sniffer.....

                  2. re: boogiebaby

                    I know I am replying to a post from four years ago. I found that scene to be phony. The supposed bad smell of durian is exaggerated. Yes the smell is unpleasant, but it isn't strong. You really need to get up close to it and take a big whiff. The taste is actually mild and good and not at all like the smell. It is not, by far, the most unpleasant thing he has ever eaten. Yet he rarely spits things out. So that scene really annoyed me, aside from being impolite. And BTW, I am not Asian. I'm your basic middle-class, middle-aged American who didn't know any foreign cuisines until my late 30s.

                    1. re: Just Visiting

                      How can YOU say it's not the most unpleasant thing he's ever eaten? Determining what might be the worse thing he's ever eaten is not up to you, you don't have his taste buds. What you might consider tastes good or not is your perception, not everyone else's. Every person is individual. I'm sure there are foods you don't care for or might think may be the worse things you ever put into your mouth but to someone else, like Zimmern, those same foods might be delicious.

                    2. re: boogiebaby

                      i love bourdain. but i have to disagree with you on bourdain's approach to foods he does not like. he may smile but then he will do the snarky voice-over later. at least zimmern will give his critique "to face", and i think, in a very respectful way. the durian thing is an on-going thing with him. it is one of the few things he cannot eat.

                2. I have always liked his positive outlook and attitude and willingness to try anything. He is curious just like me so I enjoy his shows. He is unpretentious, down to earth and refreshing. As a traveler it is interesting for me to see him go to many places I have been to - it is a joy to re-live trips and experiences.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: chefathome

                    I also like that unlike Bourdain, he will actually say if something is disgusting.

                    1. re: reiflame

                      Personally, I think it is more important to show respect to his hosts. I hate the ugly American stereotype that can happen, especially with a "famous" t.v. personality spitting out food. Especially in very poor countries where food is a very precious commodity.

                      1. re: nvcook

                        I"ve never seen him as disrespectful, just honest. He explains why he couldn't eat something, which is important.
                        Disrespectful Ugly American would be Jessica Simpson and her gal pal wretching at the sight of bugs in Asia (can't remember where). I mean, just say no! Instead, they made a scene which was so embarassing.

                        1. re: monavano

                          And honestly, when you feed a westerner durian, do you really expect him to like it?

                          1. re: reiflame

                            Well, I just hope they taste what I taste, which is creamy, custardy, sweet goodness. If not, then well...more for me. :o)

                            I actually hate Andrew Zimmern. His whole personality and just the general concept of the show is a little too "Wow, look at what these crazy, backwards people eat and now I'm going to eat it too! Look at how brave and awesome I am because I eat this crazy stuff that people living here just view mainly as an everyday part of their culture/cuisine!" It all comes off as so condescending to me 95% of the time. I actually grew up on a lot of the foods he showcased on the show, so I might just be a bit biased and insulted due to that...

                            1. re: yfunk3

                              Well, you can look at it that way or as I see it, he is speaking in the voice of the audience they are trying to pull into the show. Don't get me wrong, I think he does a bit too much complaining but if you think about who is watching the show: those who are thinking along that way too, he is actually softening some of the their stance against the so-called bizarre foods. I noticed that he really proselytize to the culinary conservative by gushing over how great what he is eating is tasting to him.

                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                Yeah, sometimes I get the good vibe from him and think, "Well, maybe he's not THAT bad." But then he almost always does or says something that rubs me the wrong way. It's probably more me than him, though. I am pretty sensitive to things that sort of thing, but it means the show just causes me more irritation than pleasure.

                                I also just find it seriously funny that he's disgusted by spam and durian, but he's eaten the testicles of every domesticated animal known to man. I've had testicles from a couple of animals before (no jokes, please! LOL) and...I'll be diplomatic and say that it's not my cup of tea, nor is it the most pleasant texture I've ever encountered. So on that count alone, I personally find his judgment questionable! Heh.

                                1. re: yfunk3

                                  personally I liked the "Rocky Mountain Oysters" I've had, but then that just means for this occasional viewer that plate's a yawner.

                    2. Andrew Zimmern has always respected the country he visits and their foods & their cultures..He will try anything and for him to not like something says alot. What was he supposed to do with a mouthful of something even he couldn't swallow? How many people who criticize him are willing to eat 90% of what he tries? Just by reading the chowhound boards, most people won't try simple things never mind "exotic".

                      It's not disrespectful to remove something from your mouth that you don't like...These boards never cease to amaze me...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Cherylptw

                        To me, there's a difference between removing the item (durian in my example above) from his mouth, and saying "OK, I can't eat this" as opposed to spitting it out and acting like someone is trying to poison him. There was a polite way to do it, and a offensive way to do it, and he went the offensive route.

                        Disclaimer: I'm quite familiar with durian -- my extended family is in Malaysia and I've grown up around durians. Hated them until I was about 20 years old or so, then slowly developed a liking. They have a unique smell -- not gross, but different. It's strong though, hence the warnings not to take durian into enclosed places.

                        1. re: Cherylptw

                          Plus, he really tries. I remember when he had an ant pie in Mexico, which he clearly didn't like, but he ate some and said "I can honestly say that is the best ant pie I've ever had." :o)

                        2. I like the show, and most of the time now,can stomach most of what I watch him eat. But will someone PLEASE tell the man to stop smacking his lips?It's bone-chilling gross...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: KCBarbieQ

                            I was looking for someone to mention the smacking of the lips thing! I mean really - you're taught not to do that as a child. I like the show - but please stop with the lip smacking!

                          2. I can't stand Zimmern's kind-of-whiny, Little Lord Fauntleroy personality. But I am a huge fan of his show. With all his drama-queen antics, he manages to provide a lot of information, not only on the food, but the country's history, traditions and how the food is relevant to the location. He's a very intelligent man as well as being annoyingly pseudo-flamboyant.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: bigmackdaddy

                              I've always liked him, but his "Little Lord Fauntleroy" thing kind of bugged me, too. That's why I was totally floored to learn that his druggie past makes Bourdain look like a piker. Knowing that he came back from the brink of self-destruction makes me like and respect him a little more.

                              1. re: bigmackdaddy

                                I will -always- in my mind's eye nowsee Andew Zimmern wearing a short-pants suit, big floppy bow and wearing a blonde corkscrew wig, thanks to you!! *LOL*

                                That made me laugh waayyy too much today!

                                1. re: Honeychan

                                  Well, I didn't have that picture in my mind, until you desribed it. Thanks a lot, now I won't be able to sleep.

                              2. I've learned to tolerate his peculiarities and enjoy the show (particularly several of his female co-hosts). But he's obviously a bright guy, so somebody needs to help him develop his vocabulary beyond "outstanding" and "amazing". Maybe we should all pitch in and send him a thesaurus?

                                1. Compared to the "Gorge Shows" and the "Neurotic Iron Chop Shows", he is a pleasure!

                                  1. no no no he is evil and has to be stopped!

                                    although I much prefer him to the Man vs. Spew shows. I wish Bourdain (they seem to actually have some sort of conviviality) would get joke-snarky and start referring to his as "that freak show"

                                    I mean how many variations on testicles are there out there and how many times do his producers think we'll care?

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: hill food

                                      Hear, hear. The concept itself is a gimmick that has run its course. Zimmern may have pulled through some tough times, and congrats to him, but so what? He's another round, sweaty man-child at play in real places the show frames as exotic theme parks , all of which end up becoming one big food court designed to amuse, well, other round, sweaty tourists.

                                      1. re: bob96

                                        So it's gimmicks that displease you. Please pitch your food show here, and by all means do not rely on cheap gimmicks. I'm waiting.

                                        1. re: Atomica

                                          Gimmicks always start out as concepts and are what make popular entertainment, and while some are more successful than others, they all run their course, which is what I said about Zimmern. I personally can't abide his stuff your mouth innocence, or the conceit that "bizarre" is a cheap code word for anything you've not yet heard of. Others disagree. I'm not in the TV business so I'm under no obligation to pitch anything. I just know what I respect and enjoy, and what I don't.

                                          1. re: Atomica

                                            Atomica - was that 2.5 year response to me or bob?

                                            I just finished reading "Blue Highways" by Wm. Least Heat Moon. it's sort of as if Thoreau went on the road in a Ford van with a copy of Whitman, a cookstove, rudimentary maps (it was published in 1982 so no GPS) absolutely no clue, specific destination or advance team, just the intent of circumnavigating the continental US. He developed a rating system of all the disappearing small town diners based on how many calendars hang on the walls. but also delved into local basics (not 'specialty' foods) as well as the history of place names and towns that once were.

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              let's be clear, there's only so much novelty under the sun to be found and exploited.

                                      2. No, sorry, he's still BAD. His comments re: foods he finds revolting are so offensive sometimes, I can't believe the recipients aren't kicking his ass out of the country. Compare his behavior to Anthony Bourdain - who when dining on something not to his liking, is extremely polite about it.

                                        In addition, if you're the host of a show called "Bizarre Foods", you have absolutely zero business offensely disliking anything. You decided to do this; YOU deal with it politely in every instance.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Breezychow

                                          Bourdain does seem to project a deeper respect for his hosts, and while being adventurous not exploiting the novelty of the offerings. but AB's isn't just about food really. it would seem to be more about all the intersections of life and culture that share paths with food. AZ tries to hit that, but I don't think is nearly as successful.

                                          1. re: hill food

                                            As a long-time Bourdain fan, I disagree. I actually think Zimmern is able to create a Bourdain-like show more successfully and with plenty of respect towards his hosts and less of the Bourdain snark. Zimmern is really hitting his stride.

                                          2. re: Breezychow

                                            At least with AZ, you know you're going to get his honest opinion. Half the time his hosts have NO CLUE what he's saying, but he does so with a smile on his face and he's genuinely appreciative of their largess. Many times his host understands how strange their foods are to Americans.
                                            I also appreciate that he'll try anything, and take at least 2 bites. He once ate salted and dried seahorse. Took one bite, said it was foul and then took another! Yuck. I think it shows his willingness to truly give anything edible a shot.
                                            I loved the episode (equador?) when he got the full, royal treatment from the town's medicine man. AZ was stripped to his skivies, got smoke blown on him, hooch spit onto him, fire blown at him, a guinea pig rubbed all over him and smacked vigorously with some weeds that caused him to break out in hives all over!
                                            I was hoping that somebody in the crew carried an epi-pen.

                                            1. re: monavano

                                              i think AZ always shows respect to his hosts and the food. he always describes the food's texture and taste, whether he loves it or not. i think it is ok not to like everything. he shows great example of how to act, when one encounters strange foods; with good manners. actually, i think he is better at this than AB and would be a good example for kids on how to act with good manners. AZ is rarely as snarky as AB. he's only spit out a few things, durian being one of them. funny thing is that AB love durian. now, i want to try durian, because i love stinky runny cheeses.

                                              1. re: ritabwh

                                                AB's episode of Greece comes to mind. His opening salvo about the women, their weight and Dress Barn was cringe-worthy.

                                                1. re: monavano

                                                  Agree--saw it by chance again last night and wondered if the next few shots of him drooling over simple meze might have been an editorial course correction.

                                          3. Compared to Adam Richmond, AZ is a (Jewish?) saint.

                                            14 Replies
                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                Hmm...not getting the analogy, Passadumkeg. Could you explain? TIA.

                                                1. re: monavano

                                                  I find the gorging on Man vs Food a wee bit disgusting. Mr. Richmond is a fine actor, but the gorging message sent to an already obese nation, I find the wrong one. I find AZ to be the quintessential American tourist; full of foibles, but w/ genial good intent.
                                                  AB is the archtypical NJ bad ass, but enjoyable when he sticks to the food and not pontificating on the dark side of over indulgence.
                                                  My personal views, for what it is worth.

                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                    Thanks! Great points. I don't get the "bragging rights" that come with over-eating either and think of the true discomfort that eating way too much causes. I've stuffed myself maybe twice in my life, and the thought of doing it frequently is gross. It's a terrible feeling!
                                                    After taking a 10 or so day cruise, I was sick of eating. I subsisted on salads for days and days afterward, until my enjoyment of eating returned.

                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                      Old post, sorry, but had to concur. I worked in Las Vegas for a few weeks. After the 5th casino buffet, I too craved salads.

                                                2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                  I've always found Adam to be respectful and genial to his hosts and the food. I'm not a big fan of the challenge part. But the other 20 minutes, it is fun to see the local food attractions and how the community loves it.

                                                  1. re: Jase

                                                    Exactly--many of us enjoy seeing very very local foodways--especially those not on the overcropped Tuscan estate circuit--but question (I do) the mind-numbing premise of some challenge, competition, or carnival stunt. And to make the host some kind of genial buffoon, rather than an engaging, knowledgeable (gasp!), and, yes, self-effacing expert.

                                                    1. re: bob96

                                                      Yeeeees! The Food Channel is not about food and the Travel Channel is not about travel; they are both about lowest common denominator sensationalism.
                                                      *I have only had cable acess for not quite 3 months and am saddened by the plethora of crap.
                                                      HL Menken was right.

                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                        oh don't even give H.L. that small posthumous dignity.

                                                        as you know he wouldn't appreciate it anyway. he'd probably even 'accidentally' grind your toes with his heel as he left to mark his regard.

                                                      2. re: bob96

                                                        I don't find Adam to be any kind of buffon. He's a guy that likes to eat and doesn't pretend to have any high credentials or anything of that sort. His personna is of a regular guy that has the opportunity to try out local eats. Nothing wrong with that.

                                                        For those kinds of local places, I don't think you'd be able to engage and make a connection with the customers and owners as well as Adam if the host was coming across as some kind of expert regardless of how self effacing they are.

                                                        1. re: Jase

                                                          Agreed-I question the "entertainment" aspect of watching someone eat way, way, way too much food, but I've met Adam when he was scoping out the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.
                                                          He was so, so nice and really, sincerely interested in the eats there. I like to think that I helped to steer him to the segment he did in that episode, on DiNic's roast pork italian ;-)

                                                          1. re: Jase

                                                            Millions of chubby nice guys like to eat and never pretend about their credentials. They'd gladly admit they know nothing about where they are, and go love 'em for it. They'd probably also jump at the chance to scarf down something with a cold local beer. Why would they belong on TV?

                                                            1. re: bob96

                                                              Uhh so they can show these places to people who are like them? I'm not sure why this concept bothers you so much.

                                                              1. re: Jase

                                                                What are they showing--a frat party in a Bangkok street market?

                                                    2. I've kind of wondered how other cultures view the show, most of them seem kind of amused by this kind of goofy fat guy trying all their local foods. I don't find it disrespectful. Does anyone really think they don't explain to the vendors that it is a TV show where the guy tries stuff he's never eaten before and might not like it??

                                                      Maybe I've been watching the wrong show but Bourdain has struck me as much more of a wise guy than Zimmern ever was.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: Shann

                                                        During an interview that AZ did, he said that production checks out everything before he eats it, so yes, the locals understand it's a tv show. It's not as organic and spontaneous as it looks.

                                                        1. re: Shann

                                                          Yeah - but Bourdain is a "polite" wise guy. You'll never see him making a face or spitting something out or insulting the person offering the offending item. In addition, Bourdain's show isn't entitled "Bizarre Foods". Like I said before, if you've contracted to be the host of a show like that, than you should suck it up.

                                                          1. re: Breezychow

                                                            Why? It's his show why can't he do what he wants?

                                                            1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                              Oh, he can definitely do whatever he wants (within Food Network's limits, I imagine). But that doesn't mean the folks that have tuned into his show have to like it or agree with it. Which is what this thread is about. :)

                                                        2. Bad compared to what? A genial raving sycophant with a sunburnt tope sucking up to people who barely understand English serving incomprehensible bloody bits?

                                                          Oh, wait a minute, that is his show...

                                                          1. Zimmern is just a pig. What's so bizarre about a fat guy devouring pork so quickly that he literally cuts his lip and bleeds from a pork bone? Now that's a hog on hog. He calls food he's never tried "fantastic" before he even tries it. Then he rolls his eyes after taking the first bite, lip smacking and all, like anything can really be that good. I just wish someone would slap him whenever he does that.