The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium in New Orleans features exotic creations at the museum’s Bug Appétit café. Patrons can enjoy numerous snacks like cookies, crackers and king cakes, all made with insects.
“We usually have crickets, mealworms, which is a type of beetle larvae, and wax worms, which are a type of caterpillar,” Zack Lemann, the curator of animal collections and visitor programs at Audobon told In The Know. “We may have them boiled, fried, roasted — but we put them in several different kinds of dishes. So we try to appeal to different palettes.”
Lemann has worked at Audubon since 1992, but it wasn’t until 1997 that he was asked to start up an edible insect event. He had little experience with insects, but taking on the role of bug chef turned out to be a surprise hit. In 2008, Bug Appétit became a permanent part of the Insectarium and today it remains a worthy attraction for visitors who get to sample items like chocolate “chirp” cookies.
“If you’ve ever had a chocolate chip cookie with nuts in it, the cricket replaces the nuts and it’s really good,” Lemann told In The Know.
The “cricket king cake” is another staple of the café. Modeled after the popular Mardi Gras treat, the item is available each year starting at the beginning of Carnival season.
“Crickets on the inside and crickets on the top. It’s fantastic,” Lemann said of the cake.
In the video above, you can watch Lemann earn his title of bug chef as he shows off a bowl of fried wax worms with cool ranch seasoning. Lemann says in the clip that customers usually eat with forks — but that’s before he unabashedly takes a handful of wax worms and shovels them into his mouth.
If you’re not convinced bugs are edible after watching the clip, perhaps these parting words from Lemann’s 2018 interview with the Daily Advertiser will change your mind.
“The question isn’t why eat bugs? It’s why not eat bugs? We eat crabs and shrimp, which are basically aquatic bugs and the FDA permits insects and bits of insects in everything from chocolate bars and ketchup, to fresh raisins and frozen broccoli,” Lemann told the paper. “Insects are eaten all over the world over by about 2 billion humans on a regular basis and they taste good.”
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