Memories are made around the family dinner table, and so was—admittedly—one of Andrew Zimmern‘s best TV shows. The James Beard Award-winning chef’s latest series, aptly titled Family Dinner, is among the Magnolia Network’s original programming slate, which digitally launched on discovery+ July 15. In the food and travel show, Zimmern travels around the country visiting and dining with other families.
“I think that in a world that is increasingly polarized, that, you know, defines itself by our differences; in a world where we need more patience, tolerance, and understanding, where is the best place to learn that? Where is the best place to celebrate the human story? Where is the best place to eat food? It’s at the family dinner table,” Zimmern tells Parade.com in a new interview.
“To hear from families themselves what their stories are, what the food is, what their traditions and their own cultures and their own family histories are their own geographical locations—but most importantly, why they feel the need to gather—is something that is entertaining and funny and emotional, and we all are able to learn a little something,” the TV personality adds. “I think it’s one of the best TV shows I’ve ever made.”
Continue reading for more on Zimmern’s Magnolia Network show, his summer recipes, pantry essentials and a delicious family recipe that you can make for your own dinner table!
How did you get involved with Chip and Joanna Gaines and the Magnolia Network?
They asked! It was really lovely. I met them years ago when they started on the Discovery Networks when I was at Travel Channel, and they were just starting their more public phase of their career. The folks at Discovery and the folks at Chip and Jo’s office called us, our production company, and said, ‘Hey, we really want an intuitive content show on the network.’ I said, ‘Great, how about family dinner?’ It was that quick. And I was fortunate that they wanted me to also host the program. And they’ve been the best people to work for. As makers themselves, they understand that and give us the privilege of just making the show and delivering it to them. They trust us to make the content and I can’t say that about every company that I make content for. They’re really, really, really wonderful folks to create with. We make two different shows for them: My own and one with Zoë Francois, called Zoe Bakes. It’s really cool to be making products for other people who are makers.
How is Family Dinner different from your other food shows?
You know, first and foremost, it is a food and travel show, but all of my other shows, no matter what, have always had a family meal in them as an element. This show takes that element, and it makes it the whole show. I think sometimes the best things in the world are the simplest, right? You know, meat plus bread equals sandwich, and it’s really satisfying, right? Ice cream in cone equals happiness. It’s really satisfying. It’s not very complex. I think that in a world that is increasingly polarized, that, you know, defines itself by our differences; in a world where we need more patience, tolerance, and understanding, where is the best place to learn that? Where is the best place to celebrate the human story? Where is the best place to eat food? It’s at the family dinner table. So, to hear from families themselves what their stories are, what the food is, what their traditions and their own cultures and their own family histories are, their own geographical locations, but most importantly why they feel the need to gather is something that is entertaining and funny and emotional and we all are able to learn a little something and it’s not too earnest and it’s not saccharin. I think it’s one of the best TV shows I’ve ever made.
Related: What’s on Andrew Zimmern’s Bucket List?
Why do you feel family dinners are important in this day and age?
Well, I think that we’ve lost an ability to connect with the people who we love the most and love us the most. In America, culturally… we are hurtling through life at an incredible speed in a culture that puts way too much of an emphasis on immediate satisfaction, right? We have lost touch with the people around us. We get these emails every day at offices all across the country that you know ice cream social on Thursday and be kind to people Friday and we sometimes forget that all of that stuff starts at home. I mean it’s a cliche as old as the hills, but it all starts at home. So, what can we learn from families that have made a decision because of an event in their lives, or an awakening, or a realization that they need to put a bigger emphasis on family meals. I think we can learn a lot from those people, so we let them tell us. The stories are incredible. The food is amazing. And I learned that it really is about growing healthily where you’re planted right.
Were family dinners a big part of your childhood, and if so, did the show bring back happy memories for you?
Happy and very sad. We did have big family get-togethers when I was young, and then parents divorced, grandparents died, uncles moved and cousins moved away. I basically lost my mother when I was 13. It’s a long story, and had a father who was doing other things in life and thought that I was older than I really was. And he was just doing his best. I find myself at a point in time where I realize when I look back at my life and all my shows that I put those family dinners in and the families that I’ve spent time with, you know, every piece of content I’ve ever made has family food in it. I realize I’ve been the person in search of a family all along, that this is my healing, this is a way that I make myself whole. So I really connect with these families and it’s such a privilege to have other people just by inviting me to dinner, give me such a valuable lesson and heal me. It’s a really wonderful experience and it does bring my personal life full circle.
What is one of your favorite family dinner recipes?
Oh my gosh, I’ve been a broken record about this for years! My grandmother‘s roast chicken is the thing that I make the most often. We’ll have dinner parties, I’ll make four or five of them in these big racks that go into the oven or hang them from strings inside our fireplace. I cook a lot in my fireplace. I know I’m not the average home cook, but I love creating a meal around fire-kissed roasted chicken. I don’t think there’s a better food in the whole world.
Yum! What are summer menu staples for you?
I’ll tell you, in the summertime, we keep it as simple as possible. We have a farm market a few miles from my house. I go there all the time and load up. Our counter is a sea of vegetables and fruits. Every week we keep moving through the seasons. Here in Minnesota, we’re a little behind the rest of the country, but we have our strawberries and our asparagus and our tender baby leeks and all the rest of that and I’m just eating tons of them. Either poached and served cold with a great sauce, grilled with some fish or something light that comes off the grill. My diet lightens up incredibly during the summertime. Here in Minnesota in winter, it’s five below zero so you know a big bowl of beef stew or a Mexican-inspired pork and green chili soup or, you know, a meal in a bowl is something I eat a lot. During the summertime, I try to do as little as possible to everything that comes out of the garden or farm and put it out on the table and let people graze, I mean, is there anything better than lots of vegetables. Steamed grilled, hot, cold, a good bottle of olive oil, some salt and great bread in the summertime, I’m not sure there is!
Do you have one recipe that you use to beat the heat in the summertime?
Absolutely. All of my à la tonnato recipes with a tuna sauce. I mean, it is my summertime go-to. I think I have a grilled chicken with an herb salad and tonnato sauce. I have a veal with the tonnato sauce. I have a ton of different versions of it on my website. The other thing we always do is I make cold soups and I put them in pitchers in my refrigerator. Because when you come home, instead of eating cookies or chips, have a glass of gazpacho or cold cucumber and yogurt soup or a cold corn soup. It’s so refreshing. It’s so good. And then have a light dinner later on. I mean it’s just such a simple and easy way to eat. And a lot of ugly food stuff that’s dented and bruised overripe, that has phenomenal flavor. While it may not look gorgeous sliced on a plate, the blender does not know that it was ugly.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Discovery’s Streaming Service
What are some of your summer pantry essentials?
I’m a condiment geek. I think chefs are. We tend to collect them in a way a lot of other people don’t. There’s a vinegar company in France called Huilerie Beaujolaise. I write about it a lot. I talk about it a lot. I Instagram about it a lot. They make eight or nine different oils and vinegars that I have every single bottle of and I build menus around one of their products. They have a lemon vinegar that is both sweet and tart that on vegetables, grilled vegetables with feta cheese over it is something that I then [think], ‘Okay what am I gonna add to that?’ Well, I’ll make some homemade flatbread. I’ll do a quick bread. I’ll take something out of the freezer that’s easy and throw that on the grill. Cold poached meats are great. I keep a lot of imported canned tuna packed in olive oil from Spain, the really good stuff, and Italy, and I make a tonnato sauce and serve it with everything.
Poached Shrimp Remoulade
- 3 Stalks celery, Chopped
- 5 Cloves garlic, Peeled
- 3 Medium eggs
- 1 tsp Chesapeake Bay Seasoning
- 2 Tbsp Paprika
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup Whole seed mustard
- ¼ cup Yellow Cajun mustard
- ¼ cup Prepared horseradish
- ¼ cup Heinz Chile sauce
- ½ cup White vinegar
- 6 Scallions, Chopped
- 1½ cups Vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp Hot sauce
- 12 oz Brown ale
- 3 Ribs celery, Chopped
- 1 Onion, Chopped
- 1 Lemon, Sliced
- 1 qt Water
- 2 lb Shrimp (u-15 size are best), Peeled and deveined
- 1 cup Cajun seasoning
- 3 cups Ice
- 3 cups Escarole or iceberg lettuce, Julienned
- Cherry tomatoes, For garnish
- Lemon wedges, For garnish
- Parsley, For garnish
First, make the remoulade. Place the celery, garlic, eggs, Chesapeake Bay seasoning, paprika, Worcestershire, mustards, horseradish, chili sauce, vinegar and scallions in the bowl of a food processor. With machine running, slowly pour oil in to emulsify. Season with hot sauce and salt. Place in the fridge while you finish the dish, the longer it rests, the better.
In a large pot over medium heat, add the beer, celery, onion, lemon and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp one at a time. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until shrimp are just cooked through. Strain into a large colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle the Cajun seasoning over the shrimp and immediately add a few cups of ice. The ice will melt, drawing the seasoning into the shrimp as they cool.
Place the shrimp on a platter or individual plates over the escarole or lettuce. Garnish with tomatoes, lemon wedges and parsley. Cover shrimp with a healthy dose of remoulade and serve.
The Magnolia Network launches digitally on July 15 on discovery+.
Next, find out what else is available on the Magnolia Network!