Andrew Zimmern at Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival 2021

Chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern is known for eating some pretty off-the-wall foods, as far as the typical American palate is concerned. In his 13 seasons as producer and host of Travel Channel’s show "Bizarre Foods," his global travels led him to sample guinea pig in Ecuador, porcupine in Vietnam, and bull testicles in Guatemala, among other dishes many viewers find unique. The adventurous chef has also explored the more unusual aspects of regional American cuisines, such as woodchuck in Missouri, and calf guts stew in Texas.

Yet despite how crazy these meals may sound to the average Joe, Zimmern has made a point of trying to normalize them. In fact, he’s even admitted that he hates the title of his own show — which he initially agreed to for the sake of marketing — as using the word "bizarre" is a way of alienating other cultures. In reality, there are plenty of everyday American foods that Zimmern simply will not touch. And, of course, there are some far-out dishes that even he abhors, as well as some that he refuses to eat again for personal reasons.

1. Walnuts

bowl of raw walnuts

Compared to the many types of animal genitals Andrew Zimmern has eaten (according to TMZ), a distaste for walnuts seems somewhat absurd. Still, the chef has flatly stated in multiple interviews (including People and Travel + Leisure) that he hates these ubiquitous nuts. He’s even tweeted about it, claiming that he dislikes them because they have a soap-like flavor.

Rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals (via Healthline), walnuts are used as an ingredient in everything from salads to ice cream. The most common variety is the English walnut (also known as the Persian walnut). There are other edible varieties, such as the black walnut, which according to Serious Eats, has a more intense, earthy taste. Walnuts can be eaten raw, toasted, or candied. Zimmern doesn’t specify if there is any possible way a walnut could be prepared that would make him like it more, but for anyone thinking of serving him a meal, just assume it’s a no-go.

2. Durian fruit

durian fruit

Durian fruit is perhaps the most notorious fruit in the world. Native to Southeast Asia, it is instantly recognizable by its large size, its green, spiky exterior, and most notably, its incredibly pungent, nigh insufferable smell. It is so smelly that Culture Trip reports it is even banned in many public spaces across Asia; Singapore, for example, has a strict ban on durian on public transportation. According to Malaysian durian farmer Chang Teik Seng (via CNN), who says he can smell the fruit up to 100 feet away, it’s a love-or-hate food. For Andrew Zimmern, it’s hate.

On his blog, Zimmern describes the odor as being similar to rotten onions, garbage, and dirty socks. Despite trying the fruit a whopping 15 times, the "Bizarre Foods" host could not acquire a taste for it. Many people who are confronted with durian fruit just cannot get past the stench to even venture a taste, but Zimmern writes that he doesn’t like the taste of the fleshy, yellow inside, either. Lovers of the fruit, like farmer Seng, adore its creamy texture and sweet, complex flavor — but not Zimmern!

3. Fourteen-day-old stinky tofu

stinky tofu soup

The way this fermented tofu from Taiwan is described may sound insulting, but it really is called stinky tofu (phonetically, chou dou fu) in Chinese. The people of Taiwan are proud of their iconic, smelly street food. According to Big Little Island: Taiwan Travel & Living Guide, stinky tofu can be served three different ways: steamed, stewed, or deep-fried. Not unlike durian fruit, people say that stinky tofu can smell like sweaty gym socks. Other comparisons include smelly cheese and rotten meat. Andrew Zimmern, it turns out, agrees with the latter.

For his part, Zimmern told The Boston Globe that the 14-day-old stinky tofu he ate at the famous Dai’s House of Stinky Tofu in Taipei was, to his tongue, exceptionally disgusting. "It smells and tastes more like a rotting carcass than any rotten carcass," he told the paper. (And that’s saying something, because he’s eaten plenty of rotten meat).

But like all foods, it really does come down to personal preference. A BBC columnist who went to the same restaurant after having watched Zimmern attempt to eat stinky tofu on "Bizarre Foods" thinks that despite the horrid odor, it tastes like delicious — albeit strong — cheese.

4. Raw cookie dough

raw chocolate chip cookie dough balls

For many people, the best part about baking cookies is the guilty pleasure of licking the last remaining bits of raw cookie dough off the spoon. Unfortunately, the CDC warns people to steer clear of eating uncooked dough because consuming its raw ingredients (eggs and flour) can result in salmonella or E. coli. However, there are plenty of recipes (and even some grocery products) that now make it safe-to-eat raw cookie dough. It’s a huge boon to many sweets lovers — but not to Andrew Zimmern.

The "Bizarre Foods" host and producer finds the soft, grainy, salty-sweet food repugnant. In an interview with People, he curtly says, "Won’t eat it. Can’t stand it." In an article he wrote for Time, he elaborates a little more, explaining that the texture of cookie dough is what bothers him most. Whatever the reason, his palate is clearly vastly different from many other Americans, who would greatly prefer eating cookie dough over pork brain tacos — not the other way around. (Yes, Travel Channel says that pork brain tacos are one of Zimmern’s favorite "bizarre" meals.)

5. Fermented skate wing

fermented skate fish

Unless one hails from the city of Mokpo, South Korea, it’s hard to get behind fermented skate. The acrid fish dish called hongeo is the calling card of this southern port city, which NPR reports even most other Koreans can’t stand. Why? Because it ferments in its own urine.

Centuries ago, people living in Mokpo discovered that while other types of fish would rot after being left out for too long, skate (which belongs to the ray family), remains preserved due to the urine it secretes through its skin. Not unexpectedly, the smell and taste makes it hard for visitors to swallow. In an interview with The Boston Globe, Andrew Zimmern doesn’t even use the word "fermented," but skips straight to "rotten." The overpowering ammonia scent and flavor did not win him over. According to The Straits Times, though, many locals enjoy this unusual fish dish more for its stinging sensation in the mouth than for its aromatic properties.

6. Rotten chicken intestines

chicken intestines

There seems to be a theme to many of Andrew Zimmern’s dislikes: rotten foods. But really, who could blame him? While sometimes he uses the word "rotten" to describe unpleasant fermented foods, in the case of some chicken intestines in the Philippines, it is absolutely the right word.

It’s not the intestines that scared him off; he’s even tweeted about how much he loves intestines that are prepared well. As he told The Daily Meal, these particular poultry innards he was offered had peculiar discolorations, and the sight gave him legitimate concern for his health. Zimmern asserts that the very few times he has refused food, it was only for fear that he may actually end up in the hospital. Prolonged illness seems to be one of the only lines he is unwilling to cross. We can’t say we blame him there!

7. Oatmeal

bowl of oatmeal

Another commonplace Western food Zimmern told People and Travel + Leisure he despises is oatmeal. For the average American, this is yet another head-scratcher. After all, Fortune Business Insights reports that oatmeal is a multibillion-dollar industry, with sales continuing to increase steadily year after year. It’s projected to hit more than $3.5 billion by 2027!

Part of the reason this staple breakfast food is growing in popularity is that it is very healthy, providing the body with much-needed fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals like manganese and vitamin B1 (via Healthline). And although instant oatmeal is less nutritious than whole oatmeal — which takes much longer to cook — it also comes in a variety of flavors, from banana to apple cinnamon. If pushed, maybe Zimmern could choose a flavor that appealed more to him, but it’s probably a good idea to keep oatmeal off the breakfast menu if you ever have Zimmern over for breakfast.

8. Dog

Andrew Zimmern with pug, Pretzel

Most people in the Western world view the eating of dogs as completely appalling. Dogs are our beloved pets; the Humane Society reports that as of 2020, more than half of all American households owned at least one dog. These lovable creatures are considered by many to be part of the family.

But animals are not viewed the same way in every culture. In India, for instance, cows are sacred, while people in the U.S. eat cow meat every day. When it comes to dog meat, it is mostly Asian nations that still keep up this tradition (via Humane Society International).

Always keeping his mind and his mouth open on his world travels, Andrew Zimmern has eaten dog twice before in Vietnam. Ultimately, though, he told The Boston Globe in an interview that dog meat isn’t the meat for him. He cared deeply about his pug, Pretzel, who passed away in 2020.

9. Spam

Spam canned meat

Andrew Zimmern’s disgust toward Spam is a little aggressive. In an interview with ABC News affiliate KITV, he goes on a rant about all the things he hates about the canned meat, such as its high salt and sugar content, even going so far as to say, "I’ve considered it my mission in life to rid the world of Spam."

So, what’s the big deal? A blend of pork and ham, this cooked lunch meat has been part of the American food industry for nearly 100 years. In fact, this shelf-stable meat product helped sustain many troops during World War II (via Time). Today, it is a favorite ingredient in many Asian-American cuisines, enjoyed with rice by Hawaiians, Filipinos, and Korean and Japanese-Americans.

In Zimmern’s eyes, however, it’s an over-processed meat that represents the kind of culinary commercialization he despises. "It’s delicious when it’s made from scratch," he admits to the KITV news anchors. "I just don’t believe you should use commodity meats cooked in a can."

10. Ice cream on apple tarts

apple tart with vanilla ice cream

Apple pie is one of the most traditional American foods. It is so ingrained in American culture that people will give a suspicious look in the direction of someone who says they don’t like it. While the "Bizarre Foods" host and producer has nothing against apple pie, he does have a bone to pick with its famous companion: vanilla ice cream.

Ice cream and apple pie go together like PB&J — at least, that’s what most people think. According to ABC News, guests at a 2009 dinner gasped when Andrew Zimmern revealed he does not like ice cream on top of apple tarts. Separately, he has no reported issue with either food, but together, it’s a dessert no-no. Ironically, though, his blog does feature a guest recipe post by Michelle Gayer (former owner of Minnesota bakery The Salty Tart) for her caramel apple pie, which she recommends serving with vanilla ice cream.

11. A hamburger in China

Hard Rock Cafe

As a man who has built his life by traveling the world to sample every type of food imaginable, Andrew Zimmern is passionate about experiencing different cultures in the most authentic way possible. In an interview with Forbes, he recounts a time when he overheard people at a Beijing hotel talk about how much they were craving Hard Rock Café’s burger and fries. It’s an example of the main issue he has with Western travelers: they don’t want to leave their culinary comfort zone.

It may seem obvious, but one doesn’t travel to China for a hamburger. A trip to China means indulging in Chinese food, like crispy Peking duck and baozi. Not only is eating a hamburger not an authentic Chinese experience, but their interpretation of a hamburger will not be the same as the ones Americans enjoy in the United States. It’s a double disappointment, he attests, all in the name of homesickness. If there is one idea Zimmern is intent on sharing with his viewers, it’s that experiencing different cultures can be uncomfortable, but it’s worth it.

12. Giant sea squirts

Fishermen slicing piure in Chile

It’s not that Andrew Zimmern hates all sea squirts, it’s just that he hates a particular kind: the giant sea squirts of Chilé called piure (via The Takeout). These strange sea creatures look like rocks to the untrained eye, but inside, they are filled with bright red meat. To get to the fleshy part, one has to cut through the rough exterior with a sharp, strong knife. For Zimmern, it’s not worth the trouble.

Piure has an intense flavor that the "Bizarre Foods" star colorfully describes as tasting like "an iodine pus bag dipped inside a fish’s a**." What gives it its distinct iodine taste is vanadium, a rare metallic element (Live Science). According to Vice, this peculiar sea creature can be served raw, in soups and stews, sauteéd, or fried. For his part, Zimmern would much prefer eating smaller sea squirts like those he’s tried in Korea and Japan.