Andrew Zimmern is a James Beard award-winning TV personality, chef, food writer and teacher. As the creator and host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and co-host of the Go Fork Yourself podcast, he travels the globe, exploring food in its own terroir.
There were highs (brilliant Filipino food!), lows (Twitterverse predicts Sriracha shortage!) and things that were downright baffling (New Yorkers lining up for pastry at 3 a.m.?). Here’s a round-up of the moments that captivated the food world this past year.
1. THE CRONUT
This is a brilliant marketing lesson that should be taught at business schools around the country. Here is a dish that has been cooked in many forms for a hundred years. But now a superb New York City chef, Dominique Ansel, has perfected a version of it—proving that with scarcity comes power. As thousands of people willing to line up in the wee hours of the morning have shown, the Cronutization of America is a social construct built around wanting something you can’t have.
2. FILIPINO FOOD
This is the year, finally, that Pinoy foods have their day in the sun. Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese: One by one, they’ve all delighted and inspired American diners, and Filipino cuisine is next. Just as the Southern food revival can be tethered to chef Sean Brock’s early legacy at Husk restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, the Filipino foods movement will one day be traceable to Paul Qui serving dinuguan (pork blood stew) at his restaurant Qui in Austin, Texas.
3. FRIED EGGS ON EVERYTHING
I love it, and do it at home all the time. Thirty years ago, I was a line cook in New York City and would do the same thing. It’s stoner food, it’s what cooks make each other for snacks—but it went mainstream and is now overdone. It’s like The Gypsy Kings: They were cool in 1983, but if I hear “Bombaleo” one more time, I will kill whomever is playing it.
4. SRIRACHA HOT SAUCE
It’s the most overrated item of last 20 years, but brilliantly marketed and distributed. I’ve written a lot on this subject and I’m bored with my own opinions of it. There are a hundred hot sauces and chile condiments I prefer, but I wish I owned this company.
5. CROWD-FUNDED FOOD PROJECTS
It works, it’s cool and it makes a difference. Kevin Sousa, for example, is trying to use food and restaurants as engines for urban renewal in depressed areas of Pittsburgh. His latest project is in the old steel town of Braddock, Pennsylvania. It’s a desperate place in need of real help. Sousa has launched the Kickstarter Braddock project, which will house a restaurant, a job-training facility and a farm in a former Chevy dealership. This is just one example of how we can help our communities by taking ownership, literally.
6. GREEK YOGURT
I devour it. I have always hated the thin, watery, American yogurt since the first time I visited Eastern Europe in the late 1960s with my dad. I dug into the thick stuff and never went back. And its mainstream appeal just continues to grow: Nearly every major brand is in on the Hellenic act, such as Yoplait, who launched a new Greek version this year, and Danone, who will be expanding its Oikos line to include Starbucks parfaits.
7. RAISING MINIMUM WAGE
This year Punch Pizza, a fast-casual restaurant in Minnesota’s Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul guaranteed all new hires a living wage of $10 an hour. This kind of investing in people is a smart trend that creates a more vibrant economy. It’s the type of big thinking that launched an upwardly mobile U.S. middle class and grew our country into a superpower. We should get back to that. Fast food workers should all be guaranteed the same fair wage. So should everyone else.
8. RAMEN BURGER
Everything that’s wrong with the world is summed up in this dish that has gone nowhere in a hurry but had its Warholian 15 minutes of fame this past summer. Who wants a noodle bun? It’s a terrible gimmick. Say what you want about the Cronut or sriracha, but at least they taste good.
As Greenpeace reports, “The fish don’t stand a chance.” This threat is real, yet for whatever reason, the notion that we need to eat sustainably is thought of as an idea or at best a suggestion. Fish are going to be gone from our oceans in thirty years unless we make some hard choices and diversify our food choices and our diets.
10. HIGH-TECH EDIBLE MARVELS
Hampton Creek Foods created a plant-based egg last year and is using it in a commercial vegan mayonnaise called Just Mayo. Plant-based eggs require very little energy to produce, cost less, present no health hazards like chicken eggs, are shelf stable and offer superior nutrition. Mark my words, HCF founder Josh Tetrick will win a Nobel Prize one day. You heard it here first.
VIDEO: Andrew Zimmern Loves Fish Guts—And Football!