On Saturday, the Travel Channel premiered the episode of The Zimmern List that celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern filmed in Houston this summer. You may remember our coverage back in July when Zimmern was spotted hanging around the city.
Well, a lot has changed since July. In November, Zimmern spoke to Fast Company about his career. He said about the early days of his show Bizarre Foods, in which Zimmern journeyed across the world and ate "exotic" foods: "There was a lot of cultural insensitivity."
Then, when speaking about Lucky Cricket, the Chinese restaurant he opened in Minneapolis, he said this: "I'm trying to prove a point. ... I think I'm saving the souls of all the people from having to dine in these horseshit restaurants masquerading as Chinese food that are in the Midwest."
The backlash was strong and immediate; soon, Travel announced both Bizarre Foods and The Zimmern List were taken off the network's primetime slate. Zimmern has apologized for his remarks, but the court of public opinion remains strong.
Meanwhile, the Houston episode did air (at 10:30 a.m. Saturday). Here are five things we saw in the episode:
1. Chris Shepherd remains the king of showing celebrities around the city.
It took about a minute and a half for the restaurateur behind UB Preserv, Georgia James, and others to show his face, as he met Zimmern at Gatlin's BBQ for brisket and sides, then chowed down with him at Crawfish & Noodles. Girlfriend Lindsey Brown joined, and she and Shepherd watched Zimmern eat crawfish with the shell still attached. It was weird. Zimmern also called the cuisine "Tex-namese" and not "Viet-Cajun." We don't know why.
2. 'The Lean Back' is a thing.
While eating brisket at Gatlin's, Shepherd demonstrated a common reaction to eating really good barbecue. "It's what I call the lean back. Just bite it, and lean back." I just call it "Oh man, I'm full."
3. Kaiser Lashkari is a superstar.
The chef-owner of Himalaya, one of the city's most beloved restaurants, quipped and joked around a bunch with Zimmern while he ate there. Notably, he fit a turban on Zimmern's head a few times.
4. The episode is a greatest hits of Houston food.
If you know a thing or two about Bayou City cuisine, there isn't anything revelatory about the episode. Zimmern visited Gatlin's BBQ, Crawfish & Noodles, Hugo's, Himalaya, and The Original Ninfa's on Navigation. He ate Viet-Cajun crawfish, fried chicken, brisket, tamales, and a fajita. It was Houston cuisine 101.
5. Something we already know: Is Houston diverse? Yes.
"Inclusive, diverse, international. All you have to do is come and eat it," says Zimmern to close the episode. Yup. And trust us: We won't need a Lucky Cricket here.
The Houston episode of The Zimmern List is available to stream on Amazon Prime.