On this episode of The Story & Craft Podcast, we sit down with chef, TV host and world traveler, Andrew Zimmern. We covered his early years and how he traversed difficult times as a young adult. Then, became one of the most recognizable figures in culinary and travel programming. He’s a James Beard and Emmy award winning TV host, who is known for shows such as Bizarre Foods, The Zimmern List and What’s Eating America. His vast library of programming has been seen on HGTV, Travel Channel, Food Network, the Cooking Channel and MSNBC. Now, he has a new show on the Magnolia Network called Family Dinner, as well as Wild Game Kitchen on The Outdoor Channel. Andrew can also be seen as a judge on the Netflix reboot of Iron Chef. He is also a busy entrepreneur and philanthropist and offers up his time to multiple charitable organizations and endeavors, including his role as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme. He’s a busy guy, but took some time out to chat about his career, the rigors of life on the road, his friendly competition and friendship with Anthony Bourdain, and more!
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TV Personality | Chef | Writer | Social Justice Advocate
Andrew Zimmern is an Emmy-winning and four-time James Beard Award-winning TV personality, chef, writer and social justice advocate. As the creator, executive producer and host of the Bizarre Foods franchise, Andrew Zimmern’s Driven by Food and Emmy-winning The Zimmern List, he has devoted his life to exploring and promoting cultural acceptance, tolerance and understanding through food. In 2020, Andrew returned to television with MSNBC’s What's Eating America, and in 2021, he premiered Family Dinner on Magnolia Network. This year, you can find him judging the epic culinary battle Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend on Netflix and on Outdoor Channel’s Andrew Zimmern’s Wild Game Kitchen.
A Taste of the Good—and Bad— Life
Andrew knew from a young age he wanted a career in food. After attending The Dalton School and Vassar College, he cooked in New York City restaurants for Anne Rosenzweig, Joachim Splichal and Thomas Keller, amongst others. Andrew helped open and run a dozen restaurants, and at the same time was also an addict spiraling out of control. After a year spent living on the streets, an intervention by close friends brought him to the Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota. Transforming his life around sobriety, Andrew took a job washing dishes at Minneapolis’ Café Un Deux Trois. In 1992, he was named executive chef and during his six-year tenure, turned Un Deux Trois into an awarded, national caliber restaurant.
Making Moves in the Media
Andrew's menu at Un Deux Trois drew the attention of media. Local news appearances led to regular TV work as the ‘in-house chef’ on HGTV’s early slate of programming. Eventually he found a job as a features reporter for the local news, became Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s dining critic and restaurant columnist, and hosted his own drive time radio show. In 2003, Andrew filmed a pilot for the show that ultimately became Bizarre Foods. Since Bizarre Foods first aired in 2006, he’s created the spin offs Bizarre World, Bizarre Foods America and Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations.
In 1997, Andrew founded the Minneapolis-based, multi-media company Food Works. A full-service operation that develops and manages content, Food Works oversees his digital, print and social initiatives, including podcasting, his website (andrewzimmern.com) and publishing projects.
Andrew’s first book, The Bizarre Truth (Broadway, 2009), offers a behind-the-scenes look at cultures in his favorite destinations. Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World of Food: Brains, Bugs and Blood Sausage (Delacorte, 2011) gives younger fans a backstage look at his culinary adventures. A book for young adults, Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, Wonderful Foods (Feiwel & Friends, 2012) is a pop culture-influenced look at bizarre ingredients. His latest offering, a grade level reader series called Alliance of World Explorers, Volume 1: AZ and the Lost City of Ophir was released in February 2019 and won the Gold IPPY in Juvenile Fiction.
Creating Compelling and Impactful Content
In 2014, Andrew founded Intuitive Content, a full-service production company that develops and produces dynamic original television and specials, while partnering with companies to create brand-driven series and digital content. In 2021 and 2022, Intuitive Content was named one of the top 100 production companies in the world by Realscreen.
In 2020, Intuitive Content created the MSNBC series What’s Eating America, which explores the most provocative stories of our time told from Andrew’s singular perspective with his passion for politics, people, food and travel. In 2021, they premiered Family Dinner on Magnolia Network, which follows Andrew as he discovers how the cultural, regional, and historical facets of who we are inform what and how we eat, and in 2022, they will premiere Andrew Zimmern’s Wild Game Kitchen on the Outdoor Channel.
Intuitive Content’s first television series, Andrew Zimmern’s Driven by Food, premiered on Travel Channel in August 2016. In their second series, The Zimmern List, Andrew reveals his favorite food experiences in cities across the country. In 2020, the show won a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Travel and Adventure Program.” Other Intuitive Content series include Big Food Truck Tip, Crash Test World, Zoe Bakes and How to Survive a Murder.
Beyond television, Intuitive Content works with clients on branded entertainment and advertisements, including a partnership with Renaissance Hotels to create The Navigator’s Table and with Caribou Coffee to film Behind the ‘Bou. In 2021, they partnered with Cointreau and the Independent Restaurant Coalition to create a Super Bowl ad featuring restaurant workers affected by Covid 19. The ad was awarded a silver Telly. Their digital work includes Andrew in the Kitchen, a companion series to Bizarre Foods that was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2018, Bravo TV’s Beats + Bites with the Potash Twins, instructional cooking classes for Food Network Kitchen and workshops for Magnolia Network.
Innovative Culinary Concepts and Partnerships
In 2015, Andrew launched Passport Hospitality, which creates unique culinary concepts and provides consulting services to various restaurant and retail projects. Passport Hospitality oversees several brands, including the quick service concept Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen at Target Field in Minneapolis and the hot dog and burger concept Patty & Frank’s, located in Atlanta’s Chattahoochee food hall. His first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Lucky Cricket, opened in 2018 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
Passport Hospitality has partnered with Robert Montwaid and Gansevoort Construction to develop experiential food halls and markets in Atlanta’s recently opened Chattahoochee Food Works and in the historic Dayton’s building in downtown Minneapolis, projected to open in 2022. Andrew has also collaborated with Minneapolis chef Gavin Kaysen to create KZ ProVisioning, a unique catering company for professional sports franchises. KZ ProVisioning works with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and the NBA’s Timberwolves to provide healthy meals to the team’s players, families, coaches and locker room staff.
In 2020, Andrew was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host. He has won James Beard awards for "TV Food Personality" (2010), “TV Program on Location” (2012), and “Outstanding Personality/Host” (2013 and 2017). In 2021, the annual Taste Awards created a new special achievement award, The Andrew Zimmern Discovery Award, that honors his mission to discover new cultures and flavors. In 2016, Andrew was named one of “America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food” by The Daily Meal, one of the “30 Most Influential People in Food” by Adweek and as one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business.” According to Eater, “Zimmern knows more about the foods of the world and the history of modern gastronomy than anyone else in our solar system. He’s a walking, talking food encyclopedia, and a true omnivore.” Andrew has appeared as a contestant on Iron Chef, and as a guest judge on episodes of Chopped, Top Chef Masters, Iron Chef and Top Chef. In 2016, he co-starred as a mentor for Season 2 of Food Network’s All-Star Academy.
Andrew hosted the three-part 2019 Conversations at Copia in partnership with the Culinary Institute of America to publicize, educate and amplify the hard conversations around social justice and food. He is an entrepreneur-in-residence at The Lewis Institute for Social Innovation at Babson College. Through the James Beard Foundation and the Culinary Institute of America he funds Andrew Zimmern’s Second Chances Scholarships, which offer students faced with extreme challenges an opportunity to follow a culinary path. Andrew sits on the board of directors of Services for the UnderServed, Project Explorer/EXPLR, Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project and Soigne Hospitality. He serves on City Harvest’s Food Council, is the International Rescue Committee’s Voice for Nutrition and was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme in 2021. He is a founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, fighting to save restaurants affected by Covid-19. Other charities Andrew works with include Lovin’ Spoonfuls, ONE, Food Policy Action Committee, No Kid Hungry and Giving Kitchen. In his rare downtime, Andrew relaxes in Minneapolis, spending time with family and his dog Luca the Lagotto.