For the pilot episode of Bizarre World, Zimmern found his way aren’t exactly welcomed happily was just another escapade for Zimmern.
“Everyone was great. I got to stroll the Bay of Pigs and taste some of the world’s finest cigars at the Partagás factory,” he says. “It’s really a dream world; classic cars fill the streets, and delicious, unique, and fresh food [is] everywhere.”
Unfortunately, it’s not always so friendly for Zimmern, as he found out after the Cuba episode of Bizarre World aired in early September. Zimmern took some flak from some fans and viewers for taking part in a traditional Cuban Santería ceremony, which is practiced in front of an altar, where offerings are made to the saints. During this ritual, Zimmern found himself kneeling on the ground, encircled by a group of passionate devotees called Santeros. Moments later, the sacrificial blood of a live chicken was being dripped on his head by a priest (called a babalawo).
“The Santería ceremony was loving and inclusive for me as a participant, and that particular belief system comes under a lot of scrutiny and is the victim of jingoistic rumor mongering,” he says. “I was proud to tell that story.”
Religion is actually a central theme among many of the episodes of Zimmern’s new show. But that’s not because of a slant toward any certain belief system. Rather, Zimmern feels it’s fundamentally necessary as a way to show the authentic side of the places he visits.
“Some people think I go too far. It comes with the territory. I think we leave more gritty stuff on the vine, so to speak, than anyone realizes,” he says. “The voices that decry participation in certain rituals or events are practicing contempt prior to investigation, which I think is problematic, as a devout globalist. In fact, it borders on ethnocentrism.”
In fact, you won’t catch Zimmern showing favoritism or criticism toward any group or belief system. For all intents and purposes, he seems to live his brand as an unbiased, thrill-seeking food-and-travel junkie day in and day out. It seems that in every place he travels to -- be it a foreign country or his own stomping grounds in Minnesota -- locals know him as “that guy who will eat anything.”
“That’s the way it has been everywhere for the last two years or so,” Zimmern says. “I’m lucky in that way. People from countries around the world tune in and see me doing things they have never experienced, and they get to know me through these events. It’s great.”
Those warm receptions are well earned. During his stint as host of Bizarre Foods, one of the Travel Channel’s highest-rated programs, he made a name for himself by eating the most bizarre foods on the planet. From fresh goat testicles in India to sea squirts off the coast of Chile, there’s nothing he didn’t (or won’t) try.
“I’m like this everywhere I go -- it’s no stunt for TV that I eat weird foods or partake in taboo activity,” he says. “Whether it’s hunting with my family back home or filming an episode in Asia, I like the rush of doing or trying something new.”