I’m Andrew Zimmern. Most of you know me as the guy from “Bizarre Foods.” I am very proud of that show. Twelve years in the TV business is five lifetimes in the real world, and we won tons of awards and accolades over the years, including my four James Beard Awards. Insanely humbling. I never imagined when I got into the food business at age 14 that anything approaching that level of recognition could ever happen to someone like me. I am equally proud of the Emmy Award–winning “Zimmern List,” “Driven by Food,” “Delicious Destinations,” “Family Dinner” and MSNBC’s “What’s Eating America,” which I think is the most important television work I have done to date.
I’ve written four books, taught entrepreneurship in the food space at Babson College, hosted drive-time radio shows here in Minnesota, written award-winning magazine articles for a half-dozen publications, contributed to “Food & Wine” magazine for a decade, created an award winning website and launched a hospitality company and a production company, Intuitive Content, that was named one of Realscreen’s Top 100 production companies in the wold.
Business owner, entertainer, writer, teacher, chef: those are the words that most often describe me. And while those are accurate, there are some other words I use: father, friend, citizen, recovering alcoholic and addict, and long ago a homeless thief—a user of people and a taker of things. In January 2022 I will celebrate 30 years of sobriety. My son has never seen me use, never seen me be arrested, never had reason to be ashamed of who I am. The life that used to define me—and believe me, chemical dependency is a life, I devoted everything to it—still is my North Star in a sense.
I cratered my life in the late ’80s and in mid-January of 1992 checked into a flophouse hotel in NYC to try to drink myself to death. It didn’t work out, and here I am today with an immense debt to repay to society and an obligation to myself to be of service to others, not only to chip away at what I owe but to maintain the spiritual balance in my life and an attitude of gratitude. It’s how I stay sober, joyous and free. And it’s reflected in all the work I do. Even “Bizarre Foods!” Some see that show as a fat guy going around the world eating bugs. That’s fine. But I created that show to be a lesson in patience, tolerance and understanding in a world that was increasingly defining itself by its differences rather than by our similarities. Twenty years ago I saw divisiveness replacing community, and it scared me. At the same time, being head, ass and overcoat into my recovery I saw the benefits of sharing and selflessness in my own life. I’m no saint but when I’m not thinking of me all the time, my life works better.
Food and travel defines me in many ways, but it’s my service work and civic contributions that give me the most satisfaction. My board work with Services for the UnderServed, the advisory council for City Harvest, the Milken Center for the Advancement of the American Dream, World Central Kitchen, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, Lovin’ Spoonfuls and ReThink (who are doing amazing things in the food rescue space), the Independent Restaurant Coalition that I co-founded, the International Rescue Committee that helps people around the world affected by humanitarian crises, and many more. Last year in 2020 I received the National Voice of Recovery Award, the honor I am proudest of.
I wanted to join Substack because I had no place to put my views out on the issues of the day. For decades I have used food and travel as lenses to bring issues into focus, from serious concerns like immigration reform or just to try to make a fun and surprising family meal inspired by a trip to a far-away land.. I want to entertain, amuse, educate, inspire and lead. If something gives me pause, makes me think a little differently, I want to bring it up here and I hope you get interested in it too. I believe that it is in exploring ideas, ones I’ve learned at home and abroad and those I’m still trying to figure out, that we can best understand each other and move forward together as a global community.
I look forward to trudging this happy road with all of you, and I want you to subscribe to this newsletter. Every new post goes right to your inbox, so you won’t miss a thing. It costs $6 a month or $50 for a year, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit our charities of choice, like World Central Kitchen. You will get access to all my posts, articles, unique recipes created only for my Substack community and interaction with other member of this community on in the comments section.
If you can’t afford to subscribe, no worries: Free content will be available as well. Just remember, don’t eat until you’re full, eat until you’re tired.
I adore you and I adore your shows. I learn so much culturally by listening and soaking in all the information that you give for every episode. I am really enjoying Family Dinners and hope the show continues forever. I also love that you are from the Midwest (Nebraskan here)!
I'm on this trip with you. Let's get going!!!