“Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern marks its sixth season and 100 episode with the premier of “Bizarre Foods Celebrates 100,” guest-starring Arthur Zak, a fearless eater from Bensonhurst.
For the commemorative episode, producers put a call out for fans of the show to create a video about the foods they would most detest eating. Winners of the contest would appear on television with Zimmern and eat the food they fear most.
Zak, a recent NYU graduate in biology with a minor in nutrition, has been a great fan of the show since he was in his teens.
“I love Andrew Zimmern [the host]. We have the same initials and it’s a given I’d be on the show with him,” said Zak with a laugh.
For his casting video, Zak chose Palm Weevil grubs because they’re “disgusting looking critters with mouths and claws.”
When a strange number appeared on his caller ID, Zak was in the biology laboratory of his university, dissecting a cat. He recalls almost not answering the call, but quickly changed his mind when something told him it was the Travel Channel.
“I even answered saying, ‘Hello, is this Travel Channel?’ as a joke and it was actually the producers. I was jumping up and down,” he says.
Grubs and other strange foods are at the center of every Bizarre Food episode. For the new season, the theme isn’t the usual foreign fare, but the interesting things Americans eat. From road kill to bugs, Zimmern is road tripping across the land and checking out the unique side of the American palate.
There also happens to be another reason why both Zimmern and Zak are into exploring bizarre foods: Eating bugs and other foods lightens the load on the mass farming of chickens, cows and the other foods Americans normally reply on for protein. Many bizarre foods also happen to be quite nutritious.
“Bizarre foods helps show people that that there are other proteins out there. Grubs are high in protein, sustainable to produce and cheaper by the pound to produce,” said Zak.
When filming began, Zimmer revealed to Zak that Palm Weevil grubs were actually illegal in the United States because they are considered pests. After that news, Zak says he felt a little anxious. He looked down at his empty plate and knew that he would have to eat something crazy, he just didn’t know what.
Zimmern then showed him his new meal, similar-looking cousins of the grub that were still alive. The food show host dished out the wriggling grubs and Zak dug in.
“We shared a toast with a grub,” said Zak. “It tasted just like it looks. It tastes like sawdust with a menacing pop when you bite into it!”
Overall, Zak is thrilled with his experience. To him, Zimmern is a great role model because of his adventurous palate.
“I come from a Russian background. Tongue and head cheese may be bizarre to someone but normal to someone else,” says Zak. “Zimemrn always says, ‘Don’t be afraid to try things more than once even if you don’t like it.’ ”
The special episode guest-starring Zak and his tasty grubs premiers July 9 at 8 p.m. followed by the new season of “Bizarre Foods America” with Andrew Zimmern at 9 p.m.