Eden Grinsphan can cover a lot of ground in 24 hours.
In fact, the host of Cooking Channel’s newest show, “Eden Eats,” has just covered a lot of ground, period. Since the day she walked out of the Cordon Bleu in London with her degree in hand, she’s been on a quest to not only discover who she is as a chef, a food enthusiast and a person, but to turn the way America thinks about food onto its culinary ear.
On each episode of “Eden Eats,” the willowy Eden visits cities all over America to visit immigrants who have brought the taste of their homelands with them.
“It’s really about people – people and food,” she said. “It’s about people who emigrate from all over the world, and they recreate their customs and their cultures through food, right here in America.”
In the first season alone, she visited cities like Honolulu, Tampa, Salt Lake City, Charlotte and Nashville.
“It’s so incredible the people we find in each city,” she said. “There’s a part of Nashville called little Kurdistan. We were there in the middle of the night, making naan with them, drinking chai, hearing all about their stories and how they came to America.”
In San Diego, Eden met a “beautiful family” from South Africa who moved to America to give their children a better life. There, she learned about their traditional street food, including a traditional dish called “Bunny Chow,” which – despite sounding like how meat eaters refer to salad – is actually curry stuffed into a hollowed-out loaf of bread.
Eden not only spent her show’s first season listening to stories and tasting exotic foods, she became, even for a little while, a part of each culture. She approaches each city, each family, each person, each dish, with an open mind but even more importantly, an open heart. In a nation fraught with debate over immigration, Eden takes a gentle approach by using the one thing that unites every human being: good food.
“This show helps us see America in a different light,” she said. “So many people think of America as burgers and fries, but there are so many people coming here every day from all over the world. It’s so nice to see how these people are immigrating but still holding on to their culture. It’s amazing to hear their stories about why they left their homeland, and why it’s still so important to them to maintain their cultural identity.”
For Eden, this journey began well before Cooking Channel’s cameras started rolling. After graduating from the Cordon Bleu in London, she traveled through India and Southeast Asia. The combination of traveling and her love of food uncovered a passion she didn’t know she had.
“I love learning about different cultures and different people, and I found out that a great way to get to know people is to ask about their cuisine,” she explained. When she returned to the states and settled in New York, she didn’t want to give up all that she’d found during her travels. And “Eden Eats” was born.
“I could do a whole season just in New York,” she said. “The variety of food and cultures represented are absolutely amazing.”
In every city she visits, Eden covers six or seven cultures. She is out and about in the cities at all hours of the day and night, talking with people, getting schooled in their cultural mores and folkways, nearly every interaction seasoned with a taste of the food that defines them as a people.
“We have met people from all over the world,” Eden said. “We focus on places you wouldn’t expect to see them. I met a woman in Salt Lake City who had emigrated from the Congo. She has a smoker set up in the local farmers’ market and makes the most amazing smoked tilapia. She seasons the smoker itself with spices and herbs and it infuses into the fish.”
Not everything that’s offered to Eden during her travels is as comfortingly familiar as fish. She’s eaten everything from pig tails to balut, a fertilized duck embryo egg. Pretty exotic fare for a woman who says her favorite summer foods are ribs, corn on the cob and a margarita.
“I’m open to all food,” she said. “It’s mind over matter when you’re offered something you’ve not only never seen before but that seems strange or intimidating. You have to remember you’re about to eat something that has significance to the person who’s offering it to you. If they’re willing to take the time to prepare it and share it with me, I have to be willing to try it.”
“Eden Eats” airs Fridays at 10 p.m. EST on Cooking Channel.