The Real Reason Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods Was Canceled

For more than a dozen years, Andrew Zimmern's show Bizarre Foods took viewers on a weekly journey outside their culinary comfort zones. The chef and writer, who co-created the show for the Travel Channel, traveled the world in search of the most unusual things that people eat. A curious and enthusiastic eater, Zimmern gladly tucked into tarantulas in Cambodia and fermented skate in Korea.

Zimmern was on a mission to share different cultures and appetites with the world, using his signature slogan (via Facebook), "If it looks good, eat it." Then in December 2018, the show was taken off Travel Channel's prime time roster, and parent company Discovery, Inc. moved it to a less-viewed Saturday morning viewing time, according to Page Six.

The sudden change in programming for "Bizarre Foods" came with speculation that Discovery was reacting to a controversial video filmed for Fast Company, in which Zimmern discusses opening a chain of Chinese restaurants throughout the Midwest. While talking about the concept, called Lucky Cricket, he said, "I'm saving the souls of all the people from having to dine at these horses*** restaurants masquerading as Chinese food that are in the Midwest."

Andrew Zimmern apologized for insensitive cultural remarks

Andrew Zimmern's comments about the quality of Chinese restaurants in the Midwest received immediate backlash. Writer Ruth Tam wrote in The Washington Post that the chef "is trying to make money in America, except 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***.' But when he does it, it's 'unique.'"

According to Eater, the flagship Lucky Cricket restaurant closed in July 2019 for renovations; Minnesota Monthly reported that it reopened in September 2019. Additionally, Zimmern issued an apology for the interview on his Facebook page. "I am completely responsible for what I said and I want to apologize to anyone who was offended or hurt by those sound bites. Food should be for everyone, and yet culturally there is a terrible and centuries-old history of white people profiting off of other cultures, in food, music, and elsewhere."

Though many thought that Zimmern's controversial interview was the cause of Discovery's decision to relegate "Bizarre Foods" to a less desirable time slot, that wasn't the case at all.

Andrew Zimmern's career has flourished since the demise of Bizarre Foods

The Daily Mail reported the schedule change was made because Andrew Zimmern shared "racial and culturally insensitive remarks where he asserted that Midwest Chinese food was 'horses**t." As it turned out, Discovery had a more "supernatural" reason for making the change. The Washington Post reported that "Bizarre Foods" and its spinoff, "Bizarre Foods America," were canceled when Discovery shifted Travel Channel's programming "to focus on ghosts, monsters, and the paranormal."

The fact that classic episodes of "Bizarre Foods" can be found on the Discovery+ streaming service (with a subscription) supports the case that Discovery didn't cancel Zimmern in the absolute, cancel-culture sense of the word. Rather, his shows no longer meshed with Travel Channel's identity. Meanwhile, Zimmern's career continues to flourish, despite the demise of "Bizarre Foods." In early 2020, according to MSNBC, the chef hosted a series called "What's Eating America," which tackled subjects such as immigration, climate change, addiction, voter suppression, and healthcare. Additionally, during the COVID-19 lockdown, Zimmern hosted cooking tutorials on Instagram, sporting a beard and entertaining viewers while teaching valuable skills on his "AZ Cooks Live" cooking segments, filmed in his home kitchen.

Zimmern's latest show, Family Dinner, celebrates our similarities

The demise of "Bizarre Foods" might not have been the worst thing ever from Zimmern's perspective. In any case, it wasn't exactly the kind of show he would have made. If the show's style had been entirely up to him, "Bizarre Foods" would have been less commercial and had a different name. "The idea to call the show 'Bizarre Foods' was not mine," he told AsiaLife. "I still don't like it. I think it gives people the wrong impression." After all, one person's bizarre food is another person's family dinner.

Speaking of family dinners, in 2021, the Magnolia Network released a new Zimmern show that seems personally meaningful to him (via Southern Living). With "Family Dinner," Zimmern is sticking to the United States — not because he wants to sample what some Americans might label "not bizarre" foods for a change, but because he wants to spotlight the unique and diverse family cultures that exist within the nation's borders. Zimmern shares meals made in the Creole, Cuban, or Italian traditions of the families he visits — just to name a few. "The more different the families are ... the more similarities all the families have in common," Zimmern said, "which is celebrating food, laughing, and really connecting with each other."