Andrew Zimmern Reveals What Bizarre Foods Was Really Like Behind The Scenes - Exclusive

It's easy to underestimate the amount of work that went into the production of the Travel Channel classic, Bizarre Foods, which entertained and educated audiences for 22 seasons. If you have decent footage from your own travels, perhaps you've thought to yourself, surely it can't be that involved to capture on film the adventurous palate of Andrew Zimmern, as he bit into larvae, chewed some fermented shark, or tasted whatever other local delicacy he was willing to try in the name of quality content.

But here's where you would be wrong. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Zimmern, who is now the star and producer of the Emmy award-winning show, The Zimmern List, said he thinks that most viewers would be shocked by "the colossal amount of time and energy that it takes to make an hour of quality television." Which, when you learn what Zimmern and his crew actually did, sounds like an understatement — while no lives actually were lost, some were put on the line. Here's why it was so involved.

The Bizarre Foods' production team got to know the culture for weeks before they began filming

While snagging footage of your own adventurous eats might be as easy as taking out your iPhone at a restaurant, the Bizarre Foods' team had to first earn the trust of cultures that might have never even met an American before — and that wasn't an easy process. Zimmern said that when he watches episodes he filmed over a decade ago, he'll remember: "Oh, yeah. That was 10 days of camping in sub-zero weather at night, in Mongolia, on the steppes, just to record 15 minutes of a show, so that people could see what it was like with a family that is truly living a pastoral lifestyle, living with their animals, herding them across the steppes over the year, depending on rainy and dry season, and profiling their lives."

You might not be able to tell from a single episode that frostbite and camping had been required, said Zimmern — or that some episodes not only took time to earn trust, but the filming alone could go on for more than a week. "The 10 days that we spent in Botswana, with the Gantoise, a protected tribe in that country, two-and-a-half days to get in, two-and-a-half days to get out, and seven days of nonstop shooting, I don't think we turned our cameras off," he recalled. "It was mind-boggling. It's a lot of work for 42 minutes of TV."

The Bizarre Foods' production team sometimes even risked their lives

Sometimes, production would be more than just time-consuming and labor-intensive — there were a few episodes that fell into the category of "life-threatening," Zimmern added. "Once a year ... we had an 'we-almost-died-doing-that' sort of story," he said. "It's an awful lot of work and an awful lot of blood and sweat and tears." Neither the blood nor the sweat nor the tears are figurative, either.

Zimmern has always been the face of Bizarre Foods, but he said that if it weren't for his courageous and talented team, the show would have never been able to offer such a rare glimpse into the foods — and lives — of a part of the world rarely caught on camera. "I think that there's no amount of talking [that] can underline how much of a group sport TV is," Zimmern said. "People always think of whoever the face of the show is, but it is as much about the writers and editors and casting producers, and on, and on, and on. It's as much about them as it is about me."

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