Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern Celebrates 200 Episodes

On the heels of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern reaching its 200th episode, Colleen Needles Steward of Tremendous! Entertainment, which produces the series, talks to TV Real Weekly about the title’s popularity and evolution.

He’s gulped down everything from skewered guinea pig and fermented shark to mayonnaise milkshakes, and yet the titular host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern still has room for more—his series celebrated its 200th episode last night, with additional chapters in the works.

“When we first started the show, the big question was whether we’d have enough strange foods to go for two seasons, and here we are doing the 200th episode,” says Colleen Needles Steward, the president and CEO of production company Tremendous! Entertainment and creator/executive producer of the show, which is sold internationally by Scripps Networks Interactive. “After more than a decade working on this series, we’ve realized there’s no end to the interesting foods out there, and better yet, the stories behind them.”


The show’s milestone episode featured renowned chef and TV personality Zimmern traveling to Philadelphia to do what he does best: chowing down on meals that would weaken the knees of the lily-livered (and yes, liver was on the menu). Among the host’s stops in the City of Brotherly Love was an Italian restaurant slinging scrapple, a Pennsylvania staple made of mashed pig organs, followed by a fishing adventure that culminated in a feast of fried fish egg sacs.

“The focus on Philadelphia is that it’s a blue-collar town and these are some of the traditions that have been around for a long time, sort of the city’s working-class food,” Steward says.

In fact, the producer adds that the episode encapsulates what has made Travel Channel’s longest running show still in premieres such a hit with audiences. Zimmern “truly treasures the traditions of the people that he meets,” she says. “He gravitates toward people who work the land or are doing a job that has been passed down from generation to generation…and I think that’s what he sees as the show’s ultimate goal, to preserve and expose these traditions to as many people as possible.”

Steward notes that the show has come a long way since debuting in 2006. “Our shows in the early years were less focused on a theme and a story line; we would just explore different foods in different regions of a city or a country,” she says. “Then as we became more experienced and certainly more sophisticated, we started realizing that there were more focused story lines in many places. So we started telling our stories through a different lens.”

Steward says that one of the show’s highlights has been a Vietnam-set episode that aired last season.

“Our episode was really about exploring the Vietnamese culture through the eyes of young people who were raised abroad and were returning to Vietnam for the first time,” she says. “That was something very fascinating for Andrew, to follow along with some of the young people who were going back to Vietnam to start businesses, and to really explore their culture through their fresh eyes.”

And though offbeat cuisine remains front and center, Steward says that shifting the narrative more toward the human angle is what’s helped the show amass its international fan base.

“We’re diving a little deeper into cultural stories and why the foods were developed and why they still persist through the years,” Steward explains. “At the end of the day, if you’re just traveling around sampling strange food, that can get old. It’s the stories of the people and their traditions that make the episodes richer and keep them fresh for viewers.”

With more episodes due out as part of the current season (and production on a new run set to start next year), Steward says audiences should look forward to more exotic locales, interesting personalities and of course, the sight of a gung-ho Zimmern feasting on oddball cuisine…with one exception.

“Walnuts are the one thing he won’t eat,” Steward says. “It just does something to his mouth. He’s eaten everything else on the planet, but that to him is the ultimate inedible food.”