Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern eats his way through Denver - and Parallel Seventeen chef Mary Nguyen's fantastical menu
His show, now in its seventh year, is one of the most-watched on the Travel Channel, where it airs, and it's clear that he's still remarkably passionate -- and grateful -- for the privilege to wander around the globe, his crew of fourteen in tow, and bring to viewers more than just canned mouthfuls of trite glib that requires (these days) little more than spiked hair, overused soundbites and wisecracks and the ability to mug for the cameras.
"When we first did the show, we had no idea what the hell we were doing, but now it's an award-winning show, a blue-ribbon commodity," he says. "But the reason why it works so well is that while a lot of other food shows just show great footage, we try to tell a story by explaining cultures through food. We can come to Denver and spend time in the largest Mongolian community in the country, and we love that."
And while there are a coalition of food personalities who find it amusing to poke fun -- sometimes ridicule -- the very same people who make their shows a success, Zimmern doesn't play that game. "I remember the crossroads in my career, he says, "where I was in Japan and the guy I was interviewing handed me this horrific frog concoction." He had a choice, he recalls: "I could either make fun of the guy who handed me the frog, because of of his voice or whatever, or I could remind myself of the reason why I was there." He made the right choice -- to choke it down -- because, he stresses, "otherwise I'd be like every other asshole out there. I'm not that asshole."
He says, too, that Bizarre Foods, which has taken him everywhere from Namibia to Chengu, has made him the "luckiest guy in the world" -- and that's not simply because he gets to eat pig brains boiled in tongue-searing chile oil...although that's definitely a perk of his travels. "I love what I do, because we're concerned with the story in front of us," he explains. "This isn't standup; I get to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, where I want to do it, and the show is about what interests me as a chef, and it's about being open-minded and getting fantastic food stories."
And Denver, he says, has fulfilled his expectations. "It's amazing to see what's going on in Denver and meeting people who are fulfilling a full and robust eating life. I've wanted to come here for a long time."
Zimmern is here (sorry about the rain, you pig uterus fiend) for the duration of the week, and his itinerary is likely to include stops at Euclid Hall, Biker Jim's, Coors Field, Continental Sausage and the Buckhorn Exchange.
Whatever he eats at those joints -- sausage is obviously on the docket -- the dinner at Parallel Seventeen may be his most memorable. "I feel like a schoolgirl before the big varsity football fame on a Friday night," said Zimmern after his first spoonful of pig uterus. And just in case you missed it, here's a recap in photos.