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Will Work For Food

By Peter Bronski

Despite six years of separation during their times at Vassar, two of the college’s most famed foodies followed remarkably similar paths. Childhoods in New York City. Early education at Vassar. Acclaim in restaurant kitchens. Forays into food writing. Food-oriented Travel Channel shows. And prestigious James Beard Foundation recognition.

Anthony Bourdain ’77

Famously irreverent and sharp-tongued, Anthony Bourdain spent two years at Vassar. His work in seafood restaurants in Massachusetts, however, cemented his love of all things culinary. Bourdain ultimately graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and went on a meteoric ascent of the Big Apple’s culinary scene, culminating in being named executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles.

He wrote extensively about food for publications such as the New Yorker, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Gourmet, and Esquire, and met with immediate success in book publishing; his debut, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, became a New York Times bestseller. He’s since added six more food-centric titles to his roster, including 2010’s Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook.

Arguably, Bourdain is best known as the host of Emmy Award-winning Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, on the Travel Channel, where he travels the world in search of authentic, fiercely cultural street food.

In 2008, the James Beard Foundation inducted Bourdain into its Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, putting him in the company of Julia Child, Bobby Flay, and Nina and Tim Zagat.

Andrew Zimmern ’84

The sugar to Bourdain’s spice, Zimmern – a history major at Vassar – moved to Minnesota in 1992, where he began to cement his place in the culinary world.

He initially earned high praise as executive chef of Minneapolis’s Café Un Deux Trois. Zimmern left the kitchen in 1997 to focus on food writing—his work appeared in Bon Appétit, Delta Sky, Food Arts, and Restaurant Business. He’s presently a columnist and blogger for Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine, and in 2009, published The Bizarre Truth: Culinary Misadventures Around the Globe.

His move into broadcast media began with radio. Chowhounds, The Andrew Zimmern Show, and Food Court with Andrew Zimmern were hits with Twin Cities area listeners. That success landed him a gig with the Travel Channel as the host of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, for which he travels the world eating ethnic foods that turn the stomachs of many viewers. Zimmern has also appeared recently as host of Appetite for Life: Curbside Cuisine, a Toyota-sponsored Internet show on MSN in which Zimmern travels America in search of great street food.

In March 2010, the James Beard Foundation announced its annual awards, which Time magazine called the “Oscars of the food world.” Zimmern won for TV Food Personality, edging out nominees Alton Brown and Rick Bayless.

Foodies, Unite!

Bourdain and Zimmern, on parallel paths for three decades, finally converged in the August 6, 2007, episodes of their Travel Channel shows, when Zimmern appeared on Bourdain’s No Reservations and Bourdain appeared on Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods.