Andrew Zimmern on SoBe "Horse-Sh*t Restaurants," TV, and Miami's Creative Spirit
Andrew Zimmern had been sitting all day.
Yesenia Hernandez Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods America and Appetite for Life.
On a recent wind-lashed afternoon, while his film crew prepped the outdoor set at Wynwood's Blue Starlite Drive-In, Zimmern sipped a Starbucks Frappuccino and yearned to stretch his legs.
Earlier that day, he had taken an airboat ride across the Everglades, hunted for alligators, and eaten the white-fleshed meat skewered on a stick. But that simply wasn't enough for the host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods.
So when he finally sat down again, he spoke in bursts of energy -- quoting Malcolm Gladwell, discussing the ethos of the millennial generation, and talking smack about all the "horse-shit restaurants" in South Beach. And though you probably know Zimmern for his intrepid appetite, there's something you might not know: He's a pretty wise guy.
The writer, celebrity chef, and TV host was in town last week filming Appetite for Life, an online series sponsored by Toyota and broadcast on MSN. We sat down with Zimmern and chatted about his shows, storytelling, and the rise of Miami's dining scene.
Short Order: What do you look for when selecting chefs and cooks for Appetite for Life?
Andrew Zimmern: People distill it down and say it's a long car commercial, but it's actually not. We don't set out to make commercials. I've made plenty of those in my life.
In this round in Miami, we're featuring the Toyota Corolla, which is an entry-level car for young, aspiring professionals -- people who are older millennials that are looking at the world in a different way than my generation looks at it now. When we're looking for stories, we're looking for people who are doing interesting things with their lives.
We did some stuff yesterday with Sam Gorenstein of My Ceviche -- perfect guy, young chef, worked for Laurent Tourondel in New York and here. He could have gone the more traditional route and stockpiled some investors, tried to make a swanky little restaurant down in South Beach, and instead he decided to go back to his own roots and do something that's much, much different. He's about to open his third location. Those are the stories that intrigue us.
You have the ability to showcase local businesses on a national -- at times, international -- level. Do you think this platform comes with some sort of responsibility?
I do with Bizarre Foods, because it's all my say. We have a crew of ten or 12 people, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I've said out loud in many, many interviews that it's shameful that a lot of people who have achieved the success that I have don't use their platform for greater good.
What stories are you trying to tell when you feature Miami on your shows?
When we were down in Miami a few years ago, and we did this thing at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink -- we were telling the story about his fishermen. We ended up bringing some pretty unusual species back to the restaurant. His divers go diving for them and shoot them with a Hawaiian sling.
There was a creative spirit that was alive then -- to show the sort of unbridled passion that people down here have for food. My favorite story was the one with the old Greek sponge divers. Actually, no, my favorite one was dressing up in drag at Lips in Fort Lauderdale and singing. That was great.