Andrew Zimmern Dishes on His New Collaboration with Babson College

The Travel Channel star will serve as an entrepreneur-in-residence for students.

Andrew Zimmern spoke to a crowd of students on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Justin Knight.)

While Travel Channel personality Andrew Zimmern is known for dining on roasted raccoon and insects aplenty, the Bizarre Foods host also has an agenda when it comes to raising social awareness about food. The most recent example of this is his new collaboration with Wellesley-based Babson College, a school known for its entrepreneurial prowess. Zimmern will serve as entrepreneur-in-residence and work directly with the school’s Lewis Institute Social Innovation Lab plus the Lab’s ‘Food Sol,’ an ‘action tank’ that’s focused on food-related innovation.

To kick off the collaboration, Zimmern visited the college on Monday afternoon to give a talk in front of several hundred students and faculty. Per The Herald, he used the talk as an opportunity to encourage students to interact more with faculty, and also take the time to travel.

Prior to the lecture, I chatted with Zimmern on the phone to learn about his new responsibilities as entrepreneur-in-residence at the business school, and I was encouraged to learn that he’ll be serving as more than a mere famous figurehead. “I am going to coach food business consulting teams — both undergrad and graduate — support independent studies that are done there, create webinars, do interviews and help to co-author what we are referring to as ‘living cases from the field,'” he says. This means several return visits to campus (and hopefully opportunities to delve further into the Boston dining scene).

Zimmern notes that his rare breadth of both national and international encounters with food makes him an ideal consultant. “There are thousands of farmers markets around the country, and there’s only a handful of people that have visited as many as I have,” he says. “Plus overseas — add that in and I have probably seen more in more countries than anyone in the last five years.”

In addition to serving as a springboard for student ideas, he’ll be assigning his own projects, too. One of these he came across when filming his Boston-themed episode of Bizarre Foods America, which airs on February 13 (learn more that episode here), in which he went fishing for dogfish, an invasive species that comes out of Marblehead. Zimmern wants to find a way to get both local and national restaurants to use this inexpensive fish (which he says is currently popular in Europe and great for breading and frying) in order to support Marblehead fishermen. “What if we could find a way to invest in the system that the dogfish is a part of? What if there was a way to incentivize everyone to fish the dogfish? Maybe having a chef do some demos with it, it could be that simple. I think it is going to take more than that,” Zimmern says. “We can invest our entrepreneurial brainpower, expose more people, and use modern standards to create a managed fishery.”

It’s great to see a celebrity his wield influence in the food world in a positive way (especially in the wake of a certain Southern-fried Food Network star), and it’s also exciting to see Babson join the fold of other local universities like Harvard, MIT, and Tufts who have recognized the power of using food as an educational tool.

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