'10 Things I Hate' With Andrew Zimmern
Culinary utility man dishes on what he dislikes
Life is filled with wonderful things and terrible things. During interviews, however, we pretty much only get to hear about the wonderful things. I Hate This is a chance for people in the food world to get things off their chest. We ask them what they hate, they give us a list. Next up: Andrew Zimmern.
You probably know Andrew Zimmern as the guy who eats things that you never even knew were edible. Sure, he's the host of Bizarre Foods (and Bizarre Foods America), but he's so much more than that. Zimmern is a modern-day Renaissance man who's made his mark professionally as a media personality, podcast host, writer and chef. As someone who travels around the globe on a regular basis, AZ has a lot more to complain about than the rest of us and, as you'll soon see, he wants to make the world a better, more socially conscious place. Take it away, Andrew...
- I hate that eating well in America is a class privilege. The food revolution and the 21st century popularity and fetishizing of food culture in America has many, many upsides. But the big downside is that the “food life” we all are selling in mainstream media is not available to all of us.
- I hate that most Americans are too time-poor to cook every day at home. Cooking at home and cooking as a family — with the end goal being at least one daily family meal. This is a joy and a way in which we perpetuate all the best things about our humanity. That we all don’t have that opportunity in our life pisses me off.
- I hate that 20% of Americans suffer from food insecurity. And I hate that the same number of our children are going to bed hungry and don’t know where their meals are coming from. In the greatest country on earth, in the history of the world, I find this especially shameful.
- I hate well-known people, with a platform, who do nothing with their newly minted status and heft in their communities. Volunteerism, charity work, service — these are all concepts that seem foreign to most young successful people. Giving back is an essential part of recreating our world for the better and I firmly believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. NO INDUSTRY does more for their community than the restaurant sector. We are asked to be everywhere and give everything and we say yes all the time. I am proud to be a part of that social movement, but as individuals, we still need to do more…and there are still many who don’t do anything to help anyone. Remember Sandy, 9/11, Katrina and smaller disaster scenes on the nightly news every evening. The first wave of first responders always includes restaurant chefs feeding their communities for free. Keep that spirit close to your heart.
- Well, here’s a big one: I hate famous TV people who squander opportunities to change their community for the better — not because they ignore giving opportunities away from the camera, but because they ignore them “on-camera.” If you have been blessed to have a TV show, one of the most powerful marketing and social consciousness-raising mechanisms ever invented, you need to have a message and a reason for getting up each day and creating that content. If you don’t have a civics-inspired core value to your product, I think you are squandering the biggest opportunity of all. Bizarre Foods is an entertainment program, for sure. But it has a serious message. It teaches the practice of patience, tolerance and understanding. It’s a quantifiable meme of the show and I can spend a lot of time talking about its value system in that regard but it’s well-documented elsewhere — you get the point.
ALL RIGHT, enough lecturing, let’s get snarky and selfish…
- I hate people who don’t understand that in life there really are boundaries. I love my fans and I am 99% available to them when I am in public, but coming up and physically grabbing me while tugging me towards your drunk spouse for a picture while you tell me “I don’t want to bug you but…” and all the while ignoring the fact that I am on the phone with my wife and my kid is crying and clearly we are dealing with OUR family issue, well, that is never acceptable. Please. A little awareness goes a long way, people.
- I hate not being able to use my electronics during take-off and landing while on a plane. Look, if cell phones really interfered with avionics then they should all be collected by security and put in lead bags and stored in a safe zone on the plane. And yes, Alec Baldwin is my aviation passenger hero. Why can you use a phone the moment you land while taxiing to gate after landing, but you can't use one when you taxi from the gate when you take off??? It doesn’t make sense. Secondarily, I hate loud talkers on planes, and emphatically no way should you ever be able to use a cell phone to talk on a plane after boarding. Use your text feature, finish your call before getting on board. But sweet baby Jesus don’t hold us all hostage while you complete your call to the boss, or finish a sales transaction. People should remember you are in a shared space on a plane. Respect other people.
- I hate not being seated when I arrive at a restaurant unless my whole party is present. Are you high Mr. Maitre D'? This is the hospitality business. Who lied about their friends being “on the way” when in fact they were dining solo and screwed it up for the rest of us for decades? It’s a silly rule that any good restaurant eschews in favor of seating guests while they wait for their pals to arrive.
- I hate it when dining out becomes a punitive experience. Chickens or steaks available ‘only for 2’ often feel like extortion techniques aimed at my credit card. Tasting menus I can only have when the whole table orders it at once seem like the antithesis of why we have restaurants in the first place. I want restaurants to figure it out so I can have a great meal and a good time with my friends, not penalize us because we want different dishes for our meal.
- I hate inexperienced chefs experimenting at my expense, and it's at its worst when they cook out of magazines and attempt to be someone they aren’t. I don’t want to eat your Expression of a Walk in the Woods unless you know what the fuck you are doing with foraged edibles. Just because you subscribe to Art Culinaire doesn’t mean you can cook like Wylie Dufresne. And don’t get me started on chefs who cook another chef's signature food without paying reasonable homage to where they found the dish in the fist place. Knowing where you come from is your obligation. Ignoring that aspect of our craft is an insult to those that made it possible for us to get to where we’ve gotten. And don’t lie about the big things. If you bake bread from scratch, that’s awesome. But I have dined in many restaurants using commonly available par-baked brands like the excellent rolls from La Brea and pawning it off as “homemade.” Don’t print lines on your menus like “our chefs purchase organic and sustainable products whenever possible and support local farmers” and then put out plates that obviously feature commodity foods purchased from mainline suppliers. It’s not a game.
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