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Here's Why Andrew Zimmern Says It Is Important to Ask Where the Food on Your Plate Came From The Emmy Award-winning host and producer of shows like "Bizarre Foods" discusses his new docu-series, "Hope in the Water," which spotlights the people who are feeding the world while working to protect our oceans.

By Dan Bova

Andrew Zimmern

Most of us became acquainted with award-winning chef and TV creator Andrew Zimmern thanks to his always enlightening and sometimes horrifying show Bizarre Foods, in which he traveled the world eating cuisines that might be described as, well, bizarre to the American palette — rotten shark meat in Iceland, tarantulas in Cambodia, that kind of thing.

And while the show sank its teeth into these sometimes shocking dishes, what really interested Zimmern was the people and cultures surrounding them. His open and inquisitive worldview led to him becoming a Global Ambassador to the United Nations World Food Programme, and most recently, led him to team up with legendary producer David E. Kelley to create the three-part docuseries Hope in the Water, which explores innovative blue food technologies that could not only help feed the world but save threatened sea creature species and the water they live in.

Related: How This Celeb Chef Is Helping Refugees Rebuild Their Lives

I spoke with the four-time James Beard and Emmy winner about the series, which is currently available to stream on PBS, to find out what drives his passion to create and what small actions we all can take in our day-to-day lives that will make a big difference to our health and the health of our planet.

How did this project come about? What inspired you to want to make it?

Well, I've been seafood-aware, climate-aware, and conservation-aware since I was a young child. I grew up spending summers and weekends on the water in Long Island. And my mother was a very early conservationist and wildlife activist. Her work brought her into contact with a lot of people who made their living on the water. When I was little, we would go down to the beach at 5:30 in the morning and we'd see these giant 40-foot row boats slicing through the waves, being rowed by 10 fisherman heading out to set their nets. My mother told me that one day, and that day was coming very soon, this way of life would disappear due to commercial fishing endeavors. And she was right. The way of going out to sea to earn a living, which had happened for thousands and thousands of years, was changing before our eyes.

Why was this so impactful to you in you life as a professional chef?

When you get in kitchens and you're managing people in the kitchen, you come face to face with climate issues, scarcity issues, food costs, hunger, food waste, immigration reform, health care, gender equity, and pay equity. I mean, you can't be managing any aspect of a restaurant and not be aware of all that. As I began to be more educated about the terrible health, cultural and economic effects of pollution and bad fishing practices, I realized that there was a huge opportunity in aquaculture. Jennifer Bushman, who would go on to co-found Fed by Blue, David E. Kelly and I started doing panels together at South by Southwest about this, and one day we all looked at each other and said, "Why aren't we making a TV documentary about this?" We got off to a delayed start due to Covid but finally after three years of shooting on five different continents, my production company, Intuitive Content, released the series which I'm extremely proud of.

What was your approach to the storytelling?

You know, I think everyone is pretty sick and tired of seeing a scientist in a lab coat lecture us about the climate crisis. So I think having solutions-oriented storytellers who are actually the people building the solutions out on the water itself is the way you reach the audience. We don't have a host. We have these incredible explorers, talents like Shailene Woodley, Martha Stewart, José Andrés and Baratunde Thurston, who are sort of avatars for the audience out asking questions as the stories progress.

Related: How Chef JJ Started a Rice Bowl Revolution in Harlem | Entrepreneur

What unique challenges did filming on and in the water present when you?

In the first episode, we documented a pretty severe storm that the crew went through and we lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. And that happens sometimes. But the biggest challenge was trying to figure out which of the 300 stories that we had on our boards in the office would make it into the show. What's going to move the needle? What's the best variety of stories? What great stories are going to get killed because we just don't have time for everything? That was definitely the biggest challenge. Knock on wood, we get to make more episodes in future seasons.

Were there any standout stories that really blew you away?

There are so many, but we have an amazing segment about two villagers on the Scottish Isle of Arran that I just love. They're these guys who were just SCUBA diving for fun, not activists. But they saw firsthand how overfishing was killing off wildlife and, in turn, was going to kill their community. So they fought to establish the country's only no-take zone — an area closed to fishing — and it has now rebounded. And they gave us a ton of footage they shot documenting the transformation, it's really incredible.

What are you hoping for in terms of what viewers of the series taking action?

The toughest thing about a lot of these issues is that they are very difficult for people to digest. It can be overwhelming. They don't know what to do next. So here's something everyone can do: When it comes to seafood or anything you eat, you can simply ask where something is from and make sure that it's sustainable. If the restaurant or the market can't tell you where it is from, don't buy it. It's really that simple. I don't know how to save planet Earth, but I do know how to put healthier, more sustainable choices on my table for my family.

Stream Hope In the Water now on PBS

Dan Bova

Entrepreneur Staff

VP of Special Projects

Dan Bova is the VP of Special Projects at Entrepreneur.com. He previously worked at Jimmy Kimmel Live, Maxim, and Spy magazine. His latest books for kids include This Day in History, Car and Driver's Trivia ZoneRoad & Track Crew's Big & Fast Cars, The Big Little Book of Awesome Stuff, and Wendell the Werewolf

Read his humor column This Should Be Fun if you want to feel better about yourself.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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