5 Questions with Joyce Weinberg of City Food Tours in New York City
What do foodies need to know about New York City? We asked Joyce Weinberg, owner of City Food Tours.
Joyce Weinberg, the owner of City Food Tours & Events in New York City, is a seasoned food industry professional with 20 years of varied experience. She has managed Fortune 500 confectionery and dessert businesses, designed and managed her own restaurant, bought chocolate and candy for Bloomingdale’s, sold gourmet chocolate throughout the United States, run her own chocolate brokerage firm and has taught restaurant design, marketing, management and strategy at New York University. She participated in the panel discussion at our 2013 Food & Travel Expo. We sat down to ask her a few questions...
1. What advice do you have for foodies coming to New York City?
If you just walk around by yourself, you'd miss a lot about what you're seeing, what you're eating and where you are. So, take a food tasting tour, preferably one of ours. Our guides are food experts as well as official NYC tour guides.
Do not go to a chain restaurant while you're in NYC. There's no reason to have any meal that's less than fabulous in NY. Whether it's a quick Banh Mi, a hot bowl of ramen or an amazing pastrami sandwich, it's all here, accessible and you don't have to break the bank.
Before you come, read up and make a list of places you want to try by neighborhood. Downtown Manhattan, in general, has more of the small, artisan places with foods to die for.
2. What is City Food Tours all about?
We teach people in a fun way about how buying local supports local entrepreneurs and small businesses, and how most of the jobs created in this country are in small businesses. All the guides encourage people to try new things on the tours. If a guest is hesitant, we try to find out why, and try to ease their fears. We love it when someone tries something for the first time and they end up loving it. We love introducing people to banh mi sandwiches, for example. If one less person eats at a Subway franchise and eats instead at a local ethnic sandwich shop where everything is homemade, that's a win.
What people eat on our tours is healthier because there are no trans fats. There are usually no preservatives and more organic ingredients are used, so there are fewer harsh chemicals and antibiotics ingested. Even with sweets, when you eat something made with high quality ingredients, like real cocoa butter and cocoa mass, you eat less overall because you're sated with just a little bit.
Using local ingredients usually means that the energy used to get them is less than if you're buying veggies and fruits from Chile, California's Central Valley, etc., so it's better for the environment.
We try to be as paperless as possible. We support businesses that are sustainable. At the Roasting Plant, for example, they get beans in bulk. They come with minimal packaging and are put right into airtight hoppers for roasting and storing. We teach our guests about innovations in sustainability, whether it's in local architecture, green roofs or processing.
3. How did you get into food tourism?
I got into culinary tourism more by accident than by a long-range strategic plan. I always wanted to have my own business, but I didn't know about food tasting tours. I've always been interested in food and marketing. I started City Food Tours long enough ago, that we were one of the first culinary tourism cos. in the country. I didn't know about the small, growing industry. I went to a local chocolate tasting event one night, and I thought that the expert did such a poor job, that I swore that night to start my own business teaching people about chocolate and food in a fun, anti-snobby and well executed way. The next day, I called the American Museum of Natural History to do a series of chocolate tours for their members during The History of Chocolate Exhibit, and the rest is history.
4. How do you keep up on everything going on in the city's food scene?
I keep up by reading, eating and continually exploring the city. I hear about new places from friends, my guides and just by walking and driving around. I live in Manhattan and explore this borough and Brooklyn and Queens plus the Bronx all year round. Part of the reason why I really need to lose a few pounds!
5. What do you think of as the quintessential New York City food experience?
The Quintessential NY Food Experience: An egg cream at Gem Spa in the East Village followed by a hot dog topped with pastrami at Papaya King. Don't forget the chocolate-dipped cheesecake at DeRobertis. And that's just brunch!