Chef, author and host of Bizarre Foods, Andrew Zimmern, has “gone bigger” this year with The Munchies: People’s Choice Food Awards. In its third year, the online contest honors 20 categories of the top food experiences America has to offer, and the public has the chance to vote daily through March 31.
Andrew opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about his passion for food and cooking, his 9-year-old son Noah who seems to be walking in dad’s chef footsteps, and his best advice for “time-poor” parents of picky eaters. Continue reading about his fun family foodie game, including food questions and a mason jar.
CBS: This is the 3rd Annual Munchies: People’s Choice Foods Awards. How has it evolved over the past years? What new this year?
AZ: “I’ll tell ya, we’ve just grown and grown and grown in every way possible. We have expanded our footprint of panelists, which is great because the more panelists from around the United States, the more choices we have to present to the consumer, and the better the list they get to vote on.
People can vote through March 31st. We are about three times ahead of where we were last year in terms of participation. And, that’s the whole point — participation.
We have gone bigger this year in terms of showcasing the event. We’ve sponsored a big closing party at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival so we’re really excited.”
CBS: You probably dine out a lot with your family. How did you get your son Noah to try new foods?
AZ: “There’s no such thing as a child that won’t try new foods. Children are not picky by their nature. There’s nothing in, for example, a Minnesotan child’s DNA that says that they won’t eat oily fish jerky. All you have to do is look at communities all around the world from Scandinavia, to Inuit communities, to Asian and South American communities where that’s what kids eat. It is psychological and cultural.
We got to Noah, and I would urge other parents to get to their children, before pop culture or your own biases get to them. That’s really the place I think we have the most work to do as parents. Children take queues from us. They pay attention when foods come to the table and we say, ‘Oh, its gross,’ or we’re not open-minded about.
With Noah, we decided when he was ten months old that we would take him to every restaurant we went to, we would feed him what we ate, we would not do multiple choices for dinners, and we would educate him about food, which included telling him how bad McDonalds was for him. He is an extremely good eater because of that. Our culture and our biases affect our children. We have to stop it.”
CBS: Do you have any advice for families trying to make healthy meal choices on very limited time?
AZ: “Absolutely! Spend a lot of time on AndrewZimmern.com – we have a lot of family driven recipes. In my Instagram feed I document a lot of what I’m cooking at home for my family. Everybody is time-poor, including me. I cook once a week — I make three or four meals worth of food. Last week I braised pot roast and I actually doubled the recipe. We had one that night and the other one I reduced the sauce, cooled the meat, and froze it in a zip lock bag. We have a whole other pot roast meal that all I have to do it take it out and defrost it the night before in the refrigerator and just heat it up 25 minutes in a pot with a lid on it and it’s ready to go.
People have to remember that the smaller you cut things, the faster they cook. We did pork chops the other night on the grill. It was warm enough out. I took all of the root vegetables because we’re in that transition season and I didn’t have a lot greens, but I had a lot of rutabagas and potatoes and onions and sweet potatoes. I cut them all really small, made hash out of it in a sauté pan, and it was great side dish. Everybody chomped through it.
The other thing I do with vegetables when I’m cooking on that one day a week, is steam a head of cauliflower or roast a tray of brussels sprouts. I’ll put that stuff in the fridge so I can do other things with them faster when I come home from work.”
CBS: How can parents teach their kids how to have a healthy relationship with food?
AZ: Well, all of the other things I just talked about, but the other thing we did with Noah was I typed out 100 food questions double spaced on my laptop and printed it out. Things like, ‘What’s a healthy sized piece of meat to eat at dinner?,’ and silly questions like, ‘Name your three favorite green vegetables.’ I cut these into strips of paper and put them in a mason jar.
We kept that jar in the middle of the dining room table for two years. Every night Noah would get to ask three questions and we’d go around the table. Some of them were pretty provocative. It was stuff about dangerous foods, about hunger issues in the world, water safety, food-born pathogens, but there was also a lot of fun stuff like, ‘What are your favorite ingredients on pizza?’
Through all of those questions, without us bringing it up, we made it like a game where he brought it up we got the chance to educate him about a lot of food issues.”
CBS: On your show, Bizarre Foods, you’ve raised awareness of cultural delicacies. Was there ever a point when you refused to try a certain dish?
AZ: “Twice out of the tens of thousands of things I’ve eaten in the last twenty years, twice I have refused it. Both times because of food safety issues. It was food that was so far gone and I didn’t’ know where it had come from and it was too goofy even for me. I knew I would get so and so I passed.”
CBS: How do you decide what foods to introduce to your audience?
AZ: “I don’t have a hoot about the food in my show. My show, to me, is not about food. My show is about telling stories of people and about their culture and I use food as a lens to do that. We actually go after communities and cultures and people and tell stories about them, and then what they are eating is sort of an explanation point at the end of a sentence.”
CBS: What’s Noah up to these days?
AZ: “School, a lot of swimming, which he loves, rock climbing, biking. He’s a very active kid.”
CBS: Do you think he’ll follow your footstep and become a chef?
AZ: “Yeah, he loves to cook. He’s really in to it. He loves food, he’s getting more and more into the fact I do what I do for a living, so who knows?”
CBS: How do you balance travel and family?
AZ: “I don’t. It’s a huge struggle for me. I’m trying to spend more and more time at home with my loved ones.”
CBS: Noah must miss you a lot when you’re on the road. How do you handle being away so much?
AZ: “Well, I don’t know how I handle it. I handle it poorly is how I handle it. I miss my wife and son a lot. I don’t know if I could even be able to do what I do if it wasn’t for things like Skype and Facetime and all of the rest of that.
I was in Palenque three hours outside of Cartagena, Colombia in a tiny little village in the middle of the jungle. I looked at my phone and I had full bars. I decided to try my Facetime, and Noah picked up and I got to walk around and show him kids living in a small village in the middle of the jungle in Colombia, South America. It was thrilling, so I get to bring him with me and I get to show him where daddy’s working and that’s a lot of fun.”
CBS: What is your favorite thing about being a dad?
AZ: “My favorite thing about being a dad is just having someone in my life that no matter how much I screw up still loves me. That’s really cool.”
CBS: What other projects are you working on?
AZ: Oh gosh, new seasons of Bizarre Foods, new shows, and we’re really focusing a lot on AnderewZimmern.com – one of the most vibrant websites in the food business that’s growing by leaps and bounds. Our podcast Go Fork Yourself is doing really really well. I’m just trying to keep all the balls up in the air and going.”