by Eric Doksa
Andrew Zimmern, the host of Bizarre Foods, is in town this week filming an episode for his latest Travel Channel series.
I got a chance to chat with Zimmern at Bowen's Island Restaurant to get an idea of where he's been in Charleston and what we might see on the show.
Of course, Zimmern visited Husk, McCrady's, and FIG, but he spent time with local seafood purveyors pulling clams, oysters, and crabs at Bull's Bay and enjoying wild boar and venison in McClellanville. He mentioned that Scott's BBQ blew him away. "There is something so unique about the hog selection and the process that Rodney [Scott] goes through that has got him in a league with the other BBQ gods around the country that I think is truly special."
Most people are probably wondering what "bizarre" foods exist in Charleston, and I asked Zimmern just that. "What I love, and the reason why I call it Bizarre Foods, is because I get to redefine what that word is," the affable host says. "So, we have a couple of issues. The first one is that our show airs in about 70 countries, and while I make it primarily for a U.S. audience, it does air in 70 countries and I do want people to think about what it means for something to be bizarre."
He adds, "The second thing is that in some places we go I'm as interested in the culture there because it has a food identity all to its own, and that's sort of more about what our Charleston show is all about. When I say the word 'Indianapolis,' you don't taste it. I love Indiana, no knock to anyone there. The same thing goes to my adopted home town of Minneapolis. We don't have enough of a food identity to where people can taste it, but when I say 'Charleston', you can start smelling crab and shrimp. There's a food identity here that only a couple cities in the country share."
Although Zimmern says that the Holy City episode of Bizarre Foods America will be a love letter to Charleston cuisine, there will be a few what-the-heck moments. "Now, along the way are there going to be some little oddities that we're tasting? You bet. Are there things that are served here that are bizarre with a lowercase 'b'? Sure. I mean look at what Sean [Brock] has done with pig ears. You tell people in Indianapolis about pig ears and they kind of laugh at you," he says. "This show is more about the exploration of people in this part of South Carolina, what they eat, and what their food life is like."
Look for the episode of Bizarre Foods America to air in early 2012.