Many of you already know TV host Jeff Corwin from his wildlife and conservation shows on Animal Planet. And while we’re all about saving the earth here at ES, we’re more likely to get excited about animals when they’re thrown on a grill, which is why we’re glad to hear this hungry heartthrob is turning his attention to food. In Extreme Cuisine, which debuts on the Food Network this Thursday, September 17, Corwin travels the world in pursuit of the tastiest, most far-out food he can get his hands on. In short, he has a job that makes us very, very jealous. We caught up with Corwin to find out how he’s handling this difficult new assignment.
We mostly know you from your shows about wildlife and conservation. What made you decide to transition into food?
In my heart of hearts I’ve always been a passionate foodie. I’ve worked in the restaurant business for a lot of my life, since I was 12 with my family. And as I travel around the world I always look forward to getting to that restaurant everyone talks about or getting to that great food destination. So I’ve always wanted to take the spirit of adventure and exploration that I bring to a nature show and apply that to food.
Working in restaurants since 12? Tell us more about that.
My great-grandfather, Maximallian Macadelli, opened one of the first pizza shops in the United States. Some would dispute that. There are those who say the first pizza came from New York, but if you ask anyone in my family, the first pizza came from Brick Bottom in Somerville, Massachusetts. So when I was a little kid I worked in restaurants, everything from dishwasher to busboy to prep cook to line cook to bartender, waiter – I did it all.
Do you watch the Food Network yourself?
I do. That was very much an inspiration. I’ve been a fan of Food Network for like 8 or 9 years and like seven years ago I had a conversation with one of their executives and this show eventually grew out of that. Food for me has always been an adventure. So part of the impetus for this show was so that my own family, my daughters, will know where food comes from. I once had a conversation with a little kid who told me food comes from the refrigerator. Well what if you didn’t have a refrigerator? What if you didn’t have electricity? What if every morning you woke up and your day began with making sure you and your family have enough food to eat for the day?
How did you chose what locations to visit on the show?
There are a lot of food shows out there, so I wanted to make sure we were doing new things that people haven’t seen, to give them the spirit of a new place they haven’t experienced. We wanted to be able to not just walk into a home and shoot, but to be there at five o’clock in the morning with a fisherman as he paddles out, or in the Andes as they go out to harvest potatoes.
Did you get to take anything home with you?
Absolutely. Anything I can. I brought back this mortar and pestle from Peru and I’m using it to grind up my spices now. We also went to a salt mine in Peru where these families harvest salt as it dribbles out of a mine and I brought some of that salt home. I’m putting it on everything.
Extreme Cuisine premieres on the Food Network Thursday, September 17 at 9pm ET
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