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Q&A: Andrew Zimmern on pie, salty fish and betting on Detroit

Andrew Zimmern is a hard guy to get a hold of – but it seems Detroit has gotten a hold of him in many, many ways.

All of his Motown love will show tonight during the world premiere of “Bizarre Foods: America” featuring his Detroit visit, which happened last fall. Everyone who met him was wowed by his charm and unique sarcasm. It’s the reason we rabid fans love his work. And it sounds like our loyalty will be met with a great episode, which starts at 9 p.m. EST on The Travel Channel.

Check out what the man had to say about our city, our food and our people. Zimmern has been traveling non-stop for weeks now, and he took the time to answer the Hub’s questions. I totally dig his commitment to eating and helping a reporter on the fly!

The Travel Channel

Q: Detroiters called you sharp, witty and a good eater. What would you call them?
A: Vibrant, welcoming, with a lot of heart. The people there have picked up where society has let them down. There’s a self-sufficiency there that’s just incredible.

Q: What surprised you the most about what you ate here?
A: Detroit is one of the most culturally diverse cities I’ve visited in a long time. It definitely shows in the food. It’s home to the largest Arab-American population in the country, not to mention its thriving Polish, Mexican and Bengali communities. With that comes honest, authentic food. What’s more, people from all over the United States have relocated to Detroit. I’ve eaten some of the best soul food in the country here. I’d argue that this kind of cultural cross pollination defines America, and it’s the kind of thing Detroit is doing well, maybe even doing it better than any other city in the country. Out of an absurd challenge, has come a renaissance.

Q: They say Detroit has great audiences — but do we have great food? People here would like to get on the foodie radar.
A: Absolutely. There’s so much happening here on a micro level. Eastern Market is simply amazing, and peppered mostly with entrepreneurs who are bringing this city back in a big way. I could’ve done the entire show there– not because there are so many different foods, but because of the stories we found. We met a woman who was selling iced tea (Grandad’s Sweet Tea). It’s a bottled product. Three quarters of their family were unemployed so they started making iced tea. Now it’s sold in eight or nine states and they have 20 employees. This kind of story is everywhere in Detroit, and it think it’s the key to revitalizing the city. I was thrilled not only by how great the food scene is there, but by how it’s also bringing hope to the community.

Q: What does Detroit need that you did not see?
A: Detroit is one of the most culturally diverse cities I’ve visited in a long time – I can’t think of anything I would add.

Q: What one memory will stay with you about this city — given that you’ve seen so much of the world?
A: There’s a place called Love’s Custard Pie. It is the best pie I have ever eaten in my life. It’s worth going just for that … chess pie, sweet potato pie, blueberry pie, buttermilk custard pie.

Oh, and the salted, fermented fish pizza from a little mom-and-pop shop (Amar Pizza) run by a Pakistani family in Hamtramck. I liked it because I like anchovies on my pizza. They have 20 pizzas, and their best-seller is still tomato sauce and cheese, but their fellow countrymen and people from Bangladesh love that salted fish pizza. It’s the best part of the show.


P.S. Here’s my favorite comment from Zimmern’s personal blog post about the show. Hip, hip, hooray!

If I was a betting man I would be taking Detroit and giving the points, even doubling down. Plenty of people gave Detroit up for dead, and maybe it was already dead and no one knew it, but this city is gaining traction in its neighborhoods and small enclaves of commitment and its thrilling to see. I can’t wait to get back there.

That’s some food for the soul.

P.P.S. If you want to watch with some of the local Mower Gang guys who were in the show, head out to Ferndale’s Emory tonight. Everyone is welcome and The Emory is donating a portion of the bar tab back to the Mower Gang’s gas, gatorade, and beer fund. The event, which starts at 7:30 p.m., will be held at 22700 Woodward Avenue in Fab Ferndale.

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One comment on “Q&A: Andrew Zimmern on pie, salty fish and betting on Detroit

  1. Pingback: Weekend Hot Links: ‘Bizarre Foods’ and Cannonball Edition — A Healthier Michigan

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