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Bizarre Encounter

Sean Brock (left) and Andrew Zimmern in McCrady’s kitchen; chef Brock’s grilled lamb heart salad. Images courtesy of Andrew Zimmern

October 12, 2011

Bizarre Encounter
Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern, is in town this week filming a segment for his upcoming season. We caught up with the daring foodie for a quick Q & A session on Unity Alley right before he dashed off to have lunch with Sean Brock, and then on to parts unknown

Written by Kinsey Gidick

Charleston magazine: So we’ve been following you on Twitter (@andrewzimmern). This week, you’ve been to FIG, Husk, and McClellanville for crabs—where’s the bizarre food?
Andrew Zimmern: We had a dinner with a family who had very strong Gullah roots. We went into McClellanville and had a venison, boar, and shrimp fest with a guy who’s a shrimper. We did a food crawl with Matt and Ted Lee all around downtown, which was a lot of fun. Since our show airs in 70 countries, I would imagine that there are people all over the world who would think it strange to rip up a very large, ocean-going insect like a crab, then steam it and inhale all of the mustard and what few organs that animal has—which everyone does here.

CM: What are you looking to share about American cuisine this season?
AZ: I want to show the rest of the world what the real American stories are all about. For example, many people have no idea what it’s like in Charleston. People have come here, wandered around the neighborhood we’re in now (the French Quarter), eaten at FIG or Husk on Saturday night, and taken a plane home Sunday afternoon. But they’ve not seen Rodney Scott get up at 4:30 in the morning and get 12 hogs going on the pit in Hemingway, South Carolina. The real stories. We want to give them a slice of life they’re not typically going to see.

There’s a lady who lives in a 400-year-old house right around the corner from Pirate Courtyard whose father was French Huguenot, mother was English, both sides been here for centuries. We got a chance to do a family meal in her home. There were pickled green tomatoes, chicken bog, butter beans, and a Huguenot "pie" for dessert. Sitting down and listening to her tell stories seems to be the most relevant thing in the whole world. What person coming into town for a weekend will get a chance to do that? So, is the chicken bog bizarre? Well, we describe bizarre as being something that is unusual and unexpected, so to see a real Charleston Lady, capital L, entertain in her home in the gracious style this city is known for, serving three dishes that are emblematic of what this town is all about, is very special.

CM: You’re capturing a piece of history that is fading.
AZ: Correct.

CM: What's happening in Charleston's culinary world that you think other parts of the country will catch onto?
AZ: Before filming here, Sean Brock and I had never met, but Mike Lata and I are friends. I’ve known him for seven or eight years, and I think most people would be shocked to hear me say it, but I think they would agree with it 100 percent: Sean and Mike are two of the most talented chefs in the country, not just in Charleston. But they are just the conduits through which people have a cultural experience here in Charleston. A lot of other chefs think of themselves as the experience. But Mike and Sean are smart enough to know they are not the well, they are just the pipes. They are supremely talented, but when you walk into Husk and you see that board of local purveyors, it communicates in very large letters, literally and figuratively, that something special is going on here, and even more importantly that something is happening here in South Carolina. That to me says more than any other image on our show.

One of the ladies at our table at FIG last night said her best friend’s husband shot a pig or deer—I forget which one—butchered it, and put it in the freezer. The next day, he went out and shrimped and put 50 pounds of shrimp in the freezer. And meanwhile, his significant other spent the weekend canning up some of the last tomatoes of the season. There are people doing that all over—we do it in Minnesota—but the fact that so many people do it here, that it’s part of the cultural DNA, is very, very special.

The new season of Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern begins in January 2012.

To find out more about upcoming episodes, including the one featuring Charleston, click here.

For more stories on local foodways, click here.


Wed, 10/12/2011