Chef Andrew Zimmern, best known for his show, Bizarre Foods, on the Travel Channel is embroiled in controversy as comments he made about Chinese food in the Midwest have struck a nerve. For now, Zimmern’s shows have been bumped from the prime time rotation on the channel, and can only be seen on Saturday mornings.
Page Six says that Zimmern is opening a chain of Chinese food restaurants in the Midwest called Lucky Cricket, and comments he made recently suggest that he’s doing the Asian right, and others are doing it wrong.
The chef says that he’s doing God’s work with the new restaurants.
“I think I’m saving the souls of all the people from having to dine at these horses**t restaurants masquerading as Chinese food that are in the Midwest.”
Zimmern was immediately rebuked by many writers and chefs, including Washington Post food writer Ruth Tam, who clapped back at the chef for his dig at Americanized Chinese cuisine.
“[He] has the noble cause of ‘saving’ white people from eating bad Chinese food. When Chinese people make Americanized Chinese food for white people, Zimmern calls it ‘horses**t.’ But when he does it, it’s ‘unique.'”
Eater also wrote a retort accusing the Minnesota-based chef of cultural appropriation and totally ignoring the contribution of the Hmong community in and around the Twin Cities.
Hillary Dixler Canavan continued saying that Zimmern seemed to mansplain the cultural differences between the Midwest and the “big city,” saying that he thought that Minneapolis “wouldn’t get” the individual takes on Chinese food found in big cities, but he would like to introduce them to it.
“So what I have to do is I have to introduce them to hot chili oil, and introduce them to a hand-cut noodle, and introduce them to a real roast duck.”
Zimmern only made things worse when he started on a diatribe about who can present the food of a particular culture to the masses, and he uses the chain P.F. Chang’s, created by Philip Chiang as an example, awkwardly bringing up the topic of “ethnic purity” and who is and who isn’t Asian.
“I mean, was P.F. Chang’s not a ripoff because Cecilia Chiang’s kid owned it? Because, despite how he looks on the outside, he’s a rich, American kid on the inside, right?”
After the interview ran, Zimmern took ownership of his comments adding that he’s sorry if anyone was offended.
“I am completely responsible for what I said and I want to apologize to anyone who was offended.”