Desiree, NBC Chicago Street Team
“Hi, I’m Desiree, Gal about the Globe,” I excitedly shouted, as I was introduced to Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s Bizzare Foods. Andrew, standing proudly in front of his “Strange Foods” table, smiled back, shook my hand and took my business card as I proceeded to flatter him, recounting why I love what he does and love to do it too. Well, the travel part that is; not really so much as eating chocolate covered grasshoppers, scorpions, caterpillars, or a stingray’s heart for breakfast.
Andrew, one of the “special guests” of last night’s Dos Equis Most Interesting Academy at the Museum of Science and Industry, was a sweetheart. His brown eyes were a bit glazed over from tirelessly greeting guests and plugging the goey-duck clams considered a delicacy in China (that’s pronounced gooey—duck), but he took a moment to ask how I got started in this “biz,” referring to the travel industry and working as a tour operator. “Well…” I realized that my story began when I up and moved to Rome to study in college, which followed up with me moving to London, Chicago, and the rest is history. He laughed with that coy, famous smile and told me something very valuable about myself. While he’s met a few other tour operators traveling the globe, their stories are the same, “they all got hooked while studying in college.”
This is funny to me, as I didn’t originally mean to keep traveling. I just didn’t want to go home. I wanted to stay in Rome. But, for the last few years at least, perhaps traveling has proven to be about the journey and not quite the destination as my trips have been whirlwinds. I conceded, asking where he’s actually from, and of course he responded, “New York City.” Although Andrew is from the center of the universe, I didn’t hold it against him, since, given his occupation, he’s probably the only New Yorker that makes it out of Manhattan. Likewise, he loved that I’m from Texas and recounted a show of his in the Austin Hill Country last year, just before we took a couple photos.
Andrew returned to his “Strange Foods” table, pampering the large, phallus-shaped clams and enthusiastically posed for more photos. But, it was not our last encounter. Throughout the evening, I was dragged over for more pictures with various groups of friends, forgetting that, hmmm…perhaps Andrew would rather us just try the clams instead, and get on with it. Most guests stuck with blood sausage, another favorite of his, and watered it down with some food located at a table nearby that should’ve been referred to as the “Safe Foods” table, as it included chips and salsa as well as buffalo wings.
Footnotes: Thanks to Reggie Brown, fellow NBC Chicago Street Team member (and famous Barack Obama impersonator) for originally introducing me to Andrew Zimmern and taking some photos.