David George Gordon has been cooking with bugs for over 20 years. The Seattle-based chef has served up deep-fried tarantulas and crispy crickets to tens of thousand of people around the globe at places like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums in Hollywood, San Francisco, Times Square and Yale University. But you might know him from The Late Late Show With James Corden (weekdays at 12:37 a.m. ET on CTV), where he encouraged guests to step out of their comfort zone and sample his creations.
Gordon really likes insects, so naturally, he really likes feeding them to people. He first launched The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook in 1998 and re-released it a few years ago. He even signs off on his emails with “Bug appetit.” That’s true commitment.
“When I first started this endeavor, I was like the only weirdo in the room,” Gordon said. “Now there are dozens of startups selling bugs.”
The industry is certainly seeing an interest in eating insects. In Canada, a chef in Windsor is putting cricket powder on popcorn, and in Seattle, the Mariners are selling toasted grasshoppers with a chilli and lime seasoning salt at their home games — the creep into the North American market is evident.
“At last year’s Eating Insects Detroit conference, there were about 150 people, most of whom were directly involved in some aspect of the business,” said Gordon, indicating that this is a significant increase. “And with the rise of foodie culture, eating insects has become pretty hip.”
In other words, the new-age protein is coming on strong, and we’ll all have to face it eventually. Here’s what Gordon had to say about it.
What’s the texture and flavour like?
“Most bugs have crunchy exoskeletons and slightly chewy interiors. Many have similar flavours to seafood. Grasshoppers have a very ‘green’ flavour, similar to arugula or green peppers. Scorpions taste like soft-shell crab.”
Is there another type of food that you can compare bugs to?
“Sushi comes to mind. But the best answer is that bugs taste like bugs — and that’s a good thing.”
What would you say to someone who is adverse to eating bugs?
“Eighty percent of the world’s cultures eat some form of edible insect. To them, bugs are just another food group — no more unusual than eating string beans or grapes. Bugs are incredibly nutritious and they’re good for the environment.”
How do people react after tasting one of your creations for the first time?
“Some people act surprised that they’re still alive. But most give my dishes a thumbs-up. In some cases, they’ll ask for seconds.”
What’s your favourite dish to prepare?
“Time magazine called my Othopteran Orzo — pasta with wingless cricket nymphs — my ‘signature dish.’ But I really like making deep-fried tarantula spiders and grasshopper kabobs. All of my recipes are fairly easy to prepare and they highlight rather than conceal the bugs.”
If you’re looking to give insects a taste, but are too afraid to order an entire cricket or tarantula, start out with a dish where you don’t see the entire insect — like cricket protein powder in a smoothie. Once you’re comfortable with that, it’ll be easier to let go of your fear when it comes to stomaching whole insects and actually enjoy what you’re eating.