Following his treatment, Zimmern opted to stay in Minnesota, and became a real force in the culinary culture as a chef for the Minneapolis café Un Deux Trois, where his menus received the highest acclaim. He established himself as a food writer and radio personality in the Twin Cities.
Although Zimmern isn't proud of that dark period in his life, he said that it's become part of who he is today. "Any decision that I make, anything that I do, every single consideration of my day goes through the prism of what my former experience has been," he said. "I have a life based on completely different principles now, and I try to stick with those."
"I think it has been the secret to my success," he said.
"Bizarre Foods" is now in its fifth season, and in May Zimmern was awarded the TV Food Personality Award from the James Beard Foundation, the nation's most prestigious award for culinary professionals.
These days, he lives and eats by just a few rules. Rule number one is to always try something twice. As for rule number two, "Never tell someone that has cooked something that their food sucks," he said.
After three years on the job, and who knows what all that has been in his mouth, Zimmern says he has never gotten sick.
Despite a diet that includes tongue tacos or stomach soup, Zimmern insists that he is a normal eater. "Regular viewers of the program know, I love something, I'll look at the camera and say 'this is the best donut hole I've ever eaten,' he said.
And if he doesn't like something?
"I look at the coffee and say, 'This is very interesting. Thank you,'" he said. "I will play Russian roulette with some food. But I won't play Russian roulette where the gun is loaded in every chamber at very high caliber," he said.
Zimmern said he does the draw the line at one thing: he won't eat human beings.
Everything else, however, is some potentially good eatin.'