It’s no secret that food fosters connections between all sorts of people. Want to get to know a new coworker of yours? Go out for lunch or some evening drinks. Bonding with your grandmother for the weekend? Have her show you her favourite recipes. First date? Go out to a nice dinner. How the culture of food connects us goes much further than just the food itself though. I mean, sure it tastes good, but there’s so much more to food than just eating it.
Eddie Zamora, or TheYumYumFoodie on Instagram, hopes to inspire people to bring this food-culture connection into their daily lives.
Eddie grew up in a Cuban American family, where food was the heart of his culture. Despite never having learned how to cook, he had a natural talent for it, as well as an eye —or tongue— for flavour. But he wasn’t always aware of just how easily he could catch on to the art of cooking.
It was unpredictable, coincidental circumstances that brought him to the life of food reviews and judging on cooking shows.
Beginning in south Florida, Eddie hosted a television show. Even though he couldn’t even fry an egg properly, let alone cook anything out of the ordinary, he was still known as the friend to go to for tips on where to eat in the city. He ventured out to different restaurants in his area, trying their dishes and storing the best ones away in his mind, ready to tell friends.
He fostered connection with his friends through the culture of Florida restaurant food.
His palate expanded when he took a trip to Spain in 2002. Over the course of a couple of weeks, he travelled through Europe with a friend and introduced himself to hundreds of brand new dishes and tastes. Brand new cuisine, bright flavours, and herbs he had never even heard of flooded his taste buds, turning food into something more artistic than he had ever imagined.
“It was like living my whole life with fogged up glasses, then a splash of water finally clearing them up. I knew I wanted to work in the food industry.”
Shortly after his television show in Florida had run its course, Eddie moved to southern California, fresh and eager to begin a new journey. He was offered a job catering for a high-end company and ended up working an event for a house much more lavish than he had ever lived in. Just like any other catering job, though, all he had to do was help serve the food and be a friendly face.
It seemed like a normal event… until one of the chefs didn’t show up.
Light chaos ensued, and through the commotion of uncertainty, their boss asked Eddie to take over for their missing chef on the grill.
Naturally, he panicked on the inside. He had never cooked so much as homemade macaroni and cheese before; now, he was tasked with grilling expensive meat and ingredients perfectly, with the expectation of no losses and happy customers.
Eddie took up the job, winging it in every sense of the word. And it worked. Like clouds parting above his head for a bright ray of sun, Eddie realised he had a knack for cooking, at least enough that he didn’t screw up this job. Why not take this and make something out of it? That’s exactly what he did.
It wasn’t an instantaneous switch, though. The cooking world is competitive, and often good opportunities only come by chance.
From his time as a talk show host, Eddie knew how to connect with people. He used these skills to land a job as a spokesperson for a car company, rendering him the money and means to travel all around the country and world. It also meant he could eat out at all sorts of restaurants: fancy Michelin Stars, corner shops, classic Italian kitchens, you name it.
It was here he learned the value of good food that’s prepared well. Sure, cheaper food is more affordable, but paying the extra ten dollars for a better cut of meat makes all the difference in how it tastes and how it will make your body perform. His detailed personal accounts of each restaurant became a hot topic amongst his friends and coworkers. Once again, he became the person to ask for restaurant recommendations. This prompted him to start his Instagram page, TheYumYumFoodie.
Here, he posts his reviews of different restaurants and thoughts about the food, and he has now garnered over 178 thousand followers since starting the account. He also posts his own cooking ideas, endeavours, and tips for us to take inspiration from. His feed is speckled with mouthwatering dishes and gorgeous shots of different scenic views.
Eddie’s love for good food grew and grew until one day, he decided on a whim that he needed to have a career in food. This was his passion, his truest hobby, and he couldn’t fully enjoy his job unless they matched up.
He wouldn’t have to wait long. Soon after, his agent called him about a job as a judge on a cooking show called Dinner Takes All. One week later, Eddie had his interview with the show creators, one of whom was Dave Noll, a co-creator of the TV show Chopped.
Another week later, Eddie got the job as a judge on Dinner Takes All and hopped on a plane to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Dinner Takes All is a classic cooking competition show, but the competitors are families competing against other families. This adds levels of humour, playfulness, and tender moments to each competition that takes place. One of Eddie’s favourite moments on the show is getting to see the eyes of the contestants light up when the judges like their dish. He remembers one time tasting a chocolate chip cookie prepared by the young girl of a family, maybe 11 years old. He took a bite, his eyes widened, and he exclaimed,
“You made these!?”
Her excited smile was enough to warm the hearts of the grinchiest of people.
Eddie is Cuban American. He once tasted a dish from a Dominican American competitor that was so good, they salsa danced together in celebration.
The confidence in the contestants grows with each word of praise from the judges. The experience and excitement grows in each judge with every unique experience the show brings. Each moment someone’s eyes light up showcases how the culture of food connects us in wonderful ways.
Meaningful, lifelong connections are fostered through food each episode of Dinner Takes All.
More than once, through the different competition dishes, Eddie has learned heaps and bounds about different cultural dishes. Foods from all around the world he had never seen before were suddenly brought before his eyes. Dishes that he made one way as a Cuban American were prepared a different way by another Latin American competitor. Cultural foods thrive in Dinner Takes All, with opportunities to learn about and try new dishes around every corner.
Food brings cultures together and connects us as human beings all together on this earth.
That’s what Eddie hopes to show the world on his podcast, Kill The Bottle. Over a bottle of scotch or wine, he and his co-host Megan invite chefs, TV show hosts, and food connoisseurs to talk about food and life itself. Katsuji Tanabe –a 4-time Top Chef competitor– and Joe Sasto –a Chopped champion– have even made an appearance!
More often than not, no matter who guests on the podcast, the conversation strays into philosophical discussions about life, or rambunctious chatter.
But it always comes together with a bottle of scotch and a discussion about food.
Though most guests on the podcast are chefs or TV hosts or just foodies, there is a wide variety of people that end up sitting in that chair. Different cultures, backgrounds, upbringings, and values enter the scene with each different chef or host. With over an hour of talking time, Eddie and Megan get to know each guest down to their very bones.
No matter who they end up having on the podcast, they can always find a connection over food.
How the culture of food connects us is never more evident than during Kill the Bottle episodes.
In essence, this is how the whole world can be.
We are all different. Each one of us comes from a different country, culture, background. We all have different tastes and morals, different ways of living life. Wide varieties of looks, languages, and love speckle our history and identities. We are different.
But we can all find a little connection over food. Everyone loves it. We all have our own special dishes. There’s always someone who’s down to talk about the amazing restaurant they went to last week. And we all die if we don’t have it. That’s a joke. Kind of.
Think about the festivals of the many world cultures, or holiday traditions. Chances are, they involve cultural foods and traditional family recipes.
Christmas brings milk, cookies, turkey feasts, and copious amounts of red and green cookies. Chuseok is like the Korean Thanksgiving, and they celebrate with family time and a table full of songpyeon, sanjeok jeon, and jujubes. Día de los Muertos greets many Mexican families with Tamales De Rajas and Calabaza En Tacha.
Immigrants from other countries may practice holidays and food traditions from their countries of origin and the current country they live in. Many countries have a universal culture that draws from the cultures of their citizens from all over the world. Meals are a time to socialise and connect with each other, share recipes, or celebrate each unique culture and background at the table.
Food is one of the universal things that reminds us of our humanity and of others’ humanity.
How the culture of food connects us becomes evident as our similar love for food and family tie us together. We may be different, yet we are all connected to each other under the same sky.
How the culture of food connects us can become our key to humanising the world around us.
If there’s one thing Eddie wants to inspire us to do by listening to Kill the Bottle, it’s to give people the courage to take a risk, or make a new connection. Speak out into the world and make your voice heard. Try cooking that Wagyu steak even if it terrifies you to mess up. You might be surprised at where your instincts take you. Let food become something that liberates you and humanises you.
For those of us who have culture outside of the US, food is often the first starting point to reclaim that part of you that may have been lost.
Learn traditional recipes or try them at restaurants. Those foods kids at lunch would make fun of for smelling “weird?” Bring that food to work. Ignore the comments and weird looks. Turn your culture’s food into something you’re proud of. Use it to connect with others that are both like and unlike you.
Eddie’s own career began connecting with food and culture. Who’s to say we can’t do something just as great at our own level?
Tune in to Dinner Takes All on BYUtv for engaging, humorous cooking competitions.
Listen to Eddie’s podcast Kill the Bottle to experience how the culture of food connects us.