Intuitive Content’s Andrew Zimmern

Andrew Zimmern, a four-time James Beard award-winning chef, TV personality, writer, teacher and social justice advocate, talks to TV Real about his production company, Intuitive Content, and its new titles Family Dinner and Zoë Bakes.

Zimmern’s television work has included serving as the creator, executive producer and host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods franchise, Andrew Zimmern’s Driven by Food, The Zimmern List and Food Network’s Big Food Truck Tip. Over the last five years through his production company, Intuitive Content, Zimmern has continued to create impactful stories and brand-focused entertainment through the lenses of food, culture and travel. Intuitive is producing Family Dinner and Zoë Bakes for Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network, and both are testament to the type of engaging shows that Zimmern wants to bring to the TV landscape. A preview episode of Zoë Bakes will drop on discovery+ this Friday, February 5. New episodes of Family Dinner will drop on Friday, February 26.

TV REAL: What led to the launch of Intuitive Content?
ZIMMERN: For years, I wanted to start my own production company because I noticed a considerable amount of tension among the various departments and stakeholders at the networks and the makers. I realized that creating great content could be ***Image***done differently and could solve some problems for the buyers. Having been in the talent seat, I have a unique perspective, which I knew would be invaluable to the content I’d create within my own production company. So I began my research, and I learned that many other people, with roots in the TV and film industry, had started their own production companies. I’m a serial entrepreneur—a chef, author and content producer—and the most exciting part about what I do is ideation, developing concepts that have resonating public appeal. I found that my particular voice would be meaningful to creating impactful television, so I launched Intuitive Content and never looked back. It’s been a thrilling ride.

TV REAL: What are the types of stories you want to tell through Intuitive Content?
ZIMMERN: It’s important to tell stories that will make the world a better place after having told them, and great storytelling doesn’t necessarily fit within nor disqualify any one genre. This is my top priority: a framework for efficiently creating robust content that cuts through the daily noise. Recognizing the virtues of entertainment, I want to create television that will put a smile on viewers’ faces; that will, in essence, release them from their tough, arduous days and help them relax with a glass of wine. There are incalculable ways to actually make the world a better place through content, so that’s the chief tentpole at Intuitive.

Another tentpole is what I’ve defined as “adventure learning” because I think that learning should be a fun adventure where we collectively remain teachable. While that sounds onerous, in my opinion, it’s an incredibly freeing concept. No matter the genre of show—whether it’s true crime, culinary or travel and adventure, or if it’s scripted or unscripted—I want viewers to relate their own experiences to whatever they’re watching; I want them to be amazed by what they learned, to think, Hey, I didn’t know that! Remaining teachable is such an integral part of living, and I’m confident that content production, at its best, can satisfy these desired life experiences.

TV REAL: What makes Family Dinner and Zoë Bakes unique in the food space, and how do they differ from shows you’ve done in the past?
ZIMMERN: Family Dinner and Zoë Bakes are firmly planted within the food genre but are also departures from the series that I’ve done in the past. Globally, we’re living in a unique age, and the need to come together and spend time with our families and loved ones has never felt more paramount. Family Dinner doesn’t restrict the term “family” to its biological definition. It redefines family as a group of people who simply yearn to get together and break bread in the presence of others. At its core, Family Dinner unites the world at the table. So, while Bizarre Foods features dinner gatherings, its purpose is to show how people in different parts of the world eat and underscore the commonalities among disparate cultures. We expanded on that idea in Family Dinner at this critical time when the world is increasingly defined by the differences among people.

Zoë François was my pastry chef at a restaurant that I opened in Minneapolis 20-some years ago. I recognized her star quality instantaneously, and since then, I’ve been trying to find the perfect way to introduce her to America. We’re beyond thrilled that Magnolia Network joined forces with us to create an in-the-kitchen baking series with a culinary artist whom I consider this nation’s most entertaining and talented baker. The show blends side excursions to reveal where Zoë gets her inspiration and how she applies them in her kitchen to cook up some phenomenal sweets. Sharing Zoë’s creations with the people in her life, Zoë Bakes instills a sense of community that we crave so much, especially during a time when the term “social distancing” has become part of our vernacular.

Both Family Dinner and Zoë Bakes have that trademarked Intuitive Content look and feel, and both take “adventure learning” to new heights. Our viewers are going to feel really good when watching these shows—I can just taste it.

TV REAL: Having so much experience in front of the camera yourself, what are some of the qualities you look for in the hosts of Intuitive Content’s programs?
ZIMMERN: I’m lucky. I met incredible, unique talent years before I launched the production company, and Zoë is the perfect example of this. She has a magnetic presence that you’d recognize the moment she’d walk into a room. I like to think we all have certain superpowers, and one of mine is to instinctively see and know talent, especially when others might somehow gloss over them. I think it’s incumbent upon us, at the creation level, to make sure that we’re making the case for strong talent. We’re developing a handful of people who are downright mesmerizing as experts in their fields and beacons of curiosity. The talent are often the avatars in the unscripted space, drawing out the viewers’ natural inquisitiveness and guiding them to ask questions that could teach them something new or reveal a fresh perspective. Therefore, the talent must be able to evoke a constant curiosity while engaging the viewer in a fun, adventurous, entertaining way.

TV REAL: What’s coming up for Intuitive in 2021?
ZIMMERN: This is going to be a massive year for us and our busiest by far. We’ve never been in a position to start the year with so many fully developed shows, which are ready to sell, and with a coffer of content well into development. Currently, we have three different shows that are up for renewal, and we’ve recently tapped an extremely talented pair of leaders to be at the helm of the company. Emmy Award-winning producer Patrick Weiland, who runs Intuitive Content, is one of the most talented TV minds in the country, and supporting him is Patrick McMahill, our VP of production and development. Looking further, we have been expanding our physical space by adding a slew of edit suites and sound rooms to get ready for big things in the pipeline and beyond.

TV REAL: Are there further genres you’d like to see Intuitive move into?
ZIMMERN: We’ve had immense success with our first-ever true-crime series, How to Survive a Murder, so it’s a genre I’d like to see the company further develop, and we’re hopeful about the shows in this space that are about to launch. We also are moving more into documentary specials and series, which began with MSNBC’s What’s Eating America, and making great progress with several titles that will go to the big streamers this quarter. I believe the best approach to expansion is to measure where you’ve already had success, and so these two hit series have served as ideal benchmarks in our decision to move forward with those genres.

We’re also experimenting with the game and competition space by adding these types of shows to our slate. Without revealing too much, my absolute favorite show is one we’ve been stirring up for years and involves cooking, comedy and characters that aren’t real human beings. And, 2021 is going to be our year for dipping into the scripted landscape. No matter how we branch out and explore new genres and formats, Intuitive Content’s through-line has always been about crafting and telling great stories. Through our superb storytelling, we hope to inspire an unyielding thirst for “adventure learning” and make the world a better, more curious place.

TV REAL: How did TV first intersect with your culinary career?
ZIMMERN: Thirty years ago, I had my first taste of TV. At that time, morning shows began to introduce chefs to their viewers, and we would teach them how to whip up something delicious or provide cooking tips. I think my very first appearance was on Today, and I soon realized I was an effective communicator. So, it was at that very point in time where my two worlds—cooking and television—merged.

TV REAL: Of all the many hats you wear, what do you enjoy the most?
ZIMMERN: The process of creating is the thing I most enjoy, and that’s what makes me tick. Regardless of whether I’m creating content for Intuitive, I’m also an author, I write for magazines, and I’m a chef! I’m always creating, and my biggest fear is leaving this planet before all the ideas in my head physically take shape. To me, the saddest thing in the world is dying with an idea unspoken or unmade, so being a creator at heart can be both a blessing and a curse. I hope for us all, 2021 is the year when we can put our worthy ideas into action.