Travel Channel star brings food agenda 
out to Washington

“Bizarre Foods America” host Andrew Zimmern made a recent trip to Washington, and he had more in his sights than navy bean soup.

The Travel Channel star, who was filming a seventh-season episode that will air later this year, was emphatic that D.C.’s buttoned-up reputation belies its diversity of eating cultures.

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“Everybody feels that it’s an industry town; everybody feels that Federal Washington is Washington, and that’s not necessarily true,” insisted Zimmern, who sampled the fare from Takoma Park’s La Chiquita, the U Street Corridor’s Habesha Market and Foggy Bottom’s food trucks, among others. “It’s ground zero for incredibly vibrant ethnic communities ... it’s a really, really cool thing!”

But looking for the best restaurants isn’t Zimmern’s only concern. A passionate advocate for changes to food policy, he says he has more than a few problems with Washington’s handling of the issue. “We need to throw out the farm bill, because it doesn’t work,” he said. “One of the things that needs to happen to heal our broken food system is to stop subsidizing some of these giant [agriculture] companies that don’t need it.”

Zimmern, 50, also criticized what he describes as the farm bill’s failure to address hunger. “We live in the greatest society in the history of the world, in my opinion. I love my country more than anything. That there are children in America that go to bed hungry at night is criminal. Why are we doing anything before we solve that problem? It’s embarrassing.”

Although he chose to keep nameless the many politicians he counts as fans of “Bizarre Foods America,” he did admit to a long list of officials he’d like to grab a bite with and talk shop. 

Along with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, because he’s “geeky about all that cloak-and-dagger stuff,” as well as his fellow Minnesotan Sen. Al Franken (D), who has declined requests to appear on his show, he’d love to bring his agenda to the Senate Agriculture Committee. 

Most of all, though, he wants to dine with President Obama and the first lady “just casually.” He says, “Let’s make a sandwich in the White House kitchen, elbows on the table, stools pulled up to the counter, because I want to talk to them about kids and cooking in America.” And electability. His own, not Obama’s. “I would like to be the first 70-year-old Jewish-American president,” Zimmern explained, perhaps only half-jokingly, “so I need some advice from the current resident of the White House.” 

Season 6 of “Bizarre Foods America” kicks off with a retrospective special at 8 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the season premiere at 9 p.m. ET/PT, July 9 on the Travel Channel.