Podcast Episode 62: Panel Discussion: Culinary Tourism Today and Tomorrow

At the first Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference, we brought together several chefs, food tour operators and culinary tourism experts to discuss the state of food tourism.


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What is “food tourism” anyway? How do you do it? And how do you make sure that you’re doing it well? At the first Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference, we brought together several chefs, food tour operators and culinary tourism experts to discuss the state of food tourism. Led by Gail Ciampa, the Food Editor of The Providence Journal, we heard from the top practitioners of food tourism in North America. This week's podcast episode features a recording of that panel discussion on Saturday, September 21, 2013, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Gail CiampaFood Editor

Providence Journal

Danielle BrodhagenDirector of Product Development

Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance

Jose DuarteChef and Owner

Taranta Restaurant

Cindy SalvatoPresident & Owner

Savoring Rhode Island

Joyce WeinbergOwner

City Food Tours

Meghan SheradinExecutive Director

Vermont Fresh Network

Sai ViswanathChef

DeWolf Tavern


Seth Resler: This is Episode Number 62 of the Find Dining Podcast. Welcome to the 2013 Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference.

Hello and welcome to the Find Dining Podcast. I'm your host. My name is Seth Resler. And we're doing something a little big different this week. In September of 2013, we hosted the Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference and this is the nation's first event for people who plan their vacations around food.

And on Saturday, September 21st, Gail Ciampa who is the Food Editor of the Providence Journal and also a huge supporter of the Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference, she hosted a panel discussion on culinary tourism, what is it all about, what is the state of culinary tourism, what are people doing. And on that panel, we had a couple of chefs, we had a couple of food tour operators and we had a couple of culinary tourism experts and they represented all kinds of different regions from Peru, to Ontario, to New York City, to Vermont, to, of course, Rhode Island.

This panel happened at Aqua at the Marriott in Downtown Providence and this is a recording of that discussion. I hope you enjoy it. You can find photos of the Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference on our website at TasteTrekkers.com. And now, let's listen in as Gail introduced the panelists.

Gail Ciampa: We have Chef Sai Viswanath of DeWolf Tavern. We have Cindy Salvato who is the owner of Savoring Rhode Island; Joyce Weinberg, President Owner of City Food Tours in New York and Philadelphia. And we have Danielle Brodhagen and she is the Director of Product Development for the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance called OCTA. We have Meghan Sheridan and she is Executive Director of the Vermon Fresh Network. And right here, we have Chef Jose Duarte, Owner and Chef of Taranta Restaurant and we're going to ask him right off the plane from Peru to tell us a little bit about his culinary tourism.

Jose Duarte: Well, thank you for the opportunity to bring a little bit of Taranta, Jose Duarte in Peru. Literally, I just got off the plane two hours ago. I took off from the Valley of Ica at 7:00 AM yesterday where I was doing a Scooping for Pisco 0:02:30 which is one of my specializations on the next trips that I will do in the next couple of years. So you should take a couple of trips to size things up and then line things up and then things are going to happen so, so on that first trip and then very good on the next trip.

I was born in Peru. I live in Venezuela. I own a small restaurant in Boston called Taranta that does Peruvian Italian cuisine, married to an Italian, no choice, I have to do that especially in the North End. We also do culinary tourism to Italy and right now, we're looking to do something into Spain as well. We do Peru as a destination, we started in 2008. We also do Chef Guided Tours in the North End working with sustainable seafood in Boston and also started something with East Boston which has a lot of the Latin influence in there. Thank you.

Gail Ciampa: Okay. Meghan?

Meghan Sheridan: Hi, I'm Meghan Sheridan. I'm the Executive Director of the Vermont Fresh Network and we're actually a non-profit organization and so my take on culinary tourism and what it's meant for our organization and the other organizations in the state that promote a particular sector of the food industry in the Vermont is that we have come together collaboratively because our resources are relatively slight being a small non-profit serving, you know, specific sectors of professionals in the food industry. But if we come together and we have grand information about the folks that are really doing great food experiences and food work in the state, so as organizations, if we come together and we share that information in a way that is accessible to the general public and they themselves can use that as a tool for traveling throughout the state, then it's a powerful tool for us.

And we have made great connections in the state with our own members but we have a long way to go about helping travelers or tourists who are coming to the state really eat like a Vermonter and experience the communities like Vermonters know, and so this website tool called DigInVermont.com is a collaboration of 13 non-profits, also the Department of Tourism and Marketing and the Department of Ag Food and Markets. So it's a real collaborative effort.

And as a traveler, you can come on to the site and you can see the breadth of different food experiences you can have within the state. We have over 300 listings and it really helps you navigate and figure out your paths so you can find where you can have a local lunch, wineries you can visit, where you can find local cheeses and go to a cheese maker or go to u-pick farm and you can put all of those together to craft your own trail, your own experience. You can also share those experiences that you're having with other guests to help promote your community or a community that you love or experiences that you have within the states.

So working collaboratively, I think we've been able to really help grab that tourist interests in culinary and actually have them actionable items that they can do to help support the Ag communities within the state. So it's our new project and culinary tourism is -- I just think a really emerging industry for us and something that we couldn't do singularly separately but we can do it with all of us coming together to help the travelers navigate. So that's it.

Gail Ciampa: Thank you. Thanks.

Danielle Brodhagen: My name is Danielle Brodhagen. I'm the Director of Product Development for the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. And so I come from Toronto Ontario, Canada and we are also a non-for-profit organization and we actually work with destinations throughout the province and actually around the world and we help them develop culinary tourism products, so both as their destinations but also individual businesses, so like restaurants and farmers. And we connect them, so a lot of business to business work.

We also have developed a software called EAT which is the Experience Assessment Tool. So we're actually able to help destinations decide if they're market-ready and if they should be accepting the food tourists. And we also do a lot of storytelling, so much like what we did today in our presentation, we share all the delicious tastes that Ontario has to offer. And you can follow us on Twitter @OCTAlicious.

Gail Ciampa: Thank you. Joyce?

Joyce Weinberg: Hi, I'm Joyce Weinberg and I am back here to visit my Alma Mater Brown and I come to you from New York City and also Philadelphia. I started City Food Tours roughly about 10 years ago. How many of you have been to New York and partaken our great food? How many? Okay. Well, I hope to see you guys on one of our food tours. I can guarantee that we will take it to some places that you definitely didn't find your last time and we're going to teach you about artisan handmade food so that you fall in love with a certain cheese or certain charcuterie or certain type of pizza only found in New York.

I started my career in Fortune 500 companies like General Mills, working on processed foods. There's no one here from any big food companies, is there? Please don't take a hit out on me, I have an 8-year old that needs a mother. And that was all well and good. I have a marketing background, business background.

But about 10 years ago, because of a number of factors, I came full circle and realized that there are so many people out there working so hard and so passionately and not getting rich quickly, making cheeses and breads and pastries and wonderful chocolates and coffees and things that if there aren't people like us, the chefs and guides and educators explaining how these things come to be and explaining why they are better for you and why they're better for the economy, we're not going to have any food choices.

And I have an 8-year old and I don't want his only choice in cheese to be something that's neon orange that doesn't naturally occur anywhere. So that's why I do what I do and we take people both on tours and if you don't want to come around with us, we will come to you and we will do a guided cheese and beer tasting or a guided chocolate tasting or honey tasting or olive oil tasting. So what we're doing is getting the word out on why all these wonderful foods are so important and why they have the flavors that they do.

Gail Ciampa: Thank you, Joyce. Cindy?

Cindy Salvato: Good evening, everyone. Thanks so much for coming out tonight. My name is Cindy Salvato. I am the owner of Savoring Rhode Island and I started my tour company when I was teaching pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University and I used to it as incentive for my students to come to class. And if it went well and we have perfect 10, so I took them to Federal Hill, I introduced them to some friends and we had something really good to eat.

Now, you would think that they were in a culinary school that they would want to come to class. But, you know, when you're 17 and 18, the party the night before is a lot more important. But when it did go off, it was just a blast and I said, I've got to open this up to the public and it was terrific. And I used to take my international students to Michele Toper Store in the North End of Boston and she encouraged me to start this down here and that was in 2001 and we've gone strong for like 12 years.

On my tour, I've done a lot of different tours over the years. We've done Bristol's as and as a matter of fact, Sai Viswanath was one of the chefs down in Bristol, we did a culinary history tour down in Bristol, Rhode Island and if you haven't been to Bristol, it's just so beautiful down there. And we've done oyster tours but I'm now primarily focused on Federal Hill and that's my major tour. We have public tour store in the week. We run private tours -- I mean, public tours on the weekend, private tours during the week and we do some bus tours, so it's been very successful. We taste balsamic vinegar, I teach you all about olive oil, we teach you how to taste olive oil correctly, we get behind the scene tours, you get to meet the chefs, you get to see these beautiful 100-year-old ovens at Scialo Brothers Bakery. We're eating, eating, eating the whole way and it's always fun on the Hill because everybody wants to feed you more, more, more, so it's a lot of fun and we hope to see you up on the Hill soon.

Gail Ciampa: Sai?

Sai Viswanath: My name is Sai Viswanath. I'm the chef at DeWolf Tavern in Bristol, Rhode Island. It's a beautiful little historic town and it's on a waterfront. We have a hotel next to us, Bristol Harbor Inn and the building has a lot of history to it. It used to be a rum warehouse and now, it's turned into into a beautiful restaurant, the stone and it was build in 1818. So it's as she was saying about Bristol has got a lot of charm and beauty to it and a lot of history to it.

And my path to DeWolf Tavern has been started in India in a cooking school, then I came to the country to go to a cooking school in Upstate New York and then I've at DeWolf Tavern for about 10 years. So what we cook is local ingredients with a little bit of Indian accent to it and we do have a tandoor in the kitchen and we try to make everything in the house and we do do breakfast, lunch and dinner. And that's it. Thanks.

Gail Ciampa: So Sai, why don't you just hold on to that? When I spoke to Sai, he talked about the thing that he does when he's a culinary tourist is he wants to pack as many things into his time as possible. So he is not going to go to a three-hour dinner at one restaurant, he's going to go to three restaurants and have a bite at each one of those. So I wanted him to just tell you a little bit about how he does that and then I wondered if anybody else in the panel wanted to address that kind of urgency that we culinary tourists have.

Sai Viswanath: Well, the thing about me is about accessibility like how much can I make skill or my restaurant more and more approachable and accessible for people. Well, we all have a busy life and food is we eat out so often now, so it's not a one-time thing that we're going to do that we can make a reservation on a restaurant three months ahead and make it to that one thing. I couldn't make a plan to go to India in two months, so I don't know if I can make to a dinner.

So the point that I'm going to is when I want to go to eat somewhere, I want to be able to experience multiple things and have a game plan literally like when I go somewhere, I pick up a neighborhood, a small neighborhood and I do a little homework on it and I see what I want to go and see if I can call up ahead and make a reservation in the last minute. And I love sitting at the bar and eat and, again, making it much more informal and much accessible. And I see that like now, we have all this farmer's market stuff that's -- and I call it an accessibility to a good produce at a reasonable price and the chefs have more time and energy to focus on creating those stuff to make it much more interesting.

Gail Ciampa: Thank you. Joyce?

Joyce Weinberg: Being a New Yorker, I'm used to getting things correct whether it's shopping or eating and I don't the patience a lot of times to sit in a restaurant for all three courses and also, it's rare that a restaurant excels equally at an appetizer and an entrée and then a dessert. So I like the trend of -- I think it's all across the country. I was just in Seattle and it was certainly there as well as here on the East Coast of having more casual restaurants where you can go in and I often will have maybe two or three appetizers instead of ordering an entrée and then I'll go somewhere else for dessert.

And this is kind of what gave birth to City Food Tours because my favorite way of eating is going to a few different places, grazing, having -- that's the wonderful thing about New York or a lot of other cities, you can have a banh mi Vietnamese Sandwich, you can walk a few feet, you could have great Neapolitan pizza, you can go a few other feet, you could have a great French pastry. It's just being able to have that mix and that eclecticness that I think is becoming more and more prevalent as we're having more and more of our cultures mix and integrate I think is more fun.

Gail Ciampa: Thanks, Joyce. So, Danielle, I wondered if that could lead to you talking about one of the things that your group does is you may create a tour over somebody's desire to may be started a winery, have a little lunch somewhere. How do you make that all happen for tourists and connect to people?

Danielle Brodhagen: Well, yes, well, definitely, that's the keyword, the connection and that came up a few times in conversation today that community and the sense of communication and connection. And our organization looks at all the assets in that community and then combines them together. So we help bring your story to life through connecting them through trails and tracks, also through events. So we were talking -- Gail was talking to me about this region in particular and to wineries are far apart and how do you connect them through different experiences.

And so really, our organization looks for that authentic taste of place. So we want to know what reflects the region and how come we reflect that region through food, through your cooking heritage, the farmers and the agriculture in the region.

Gail Ciampa: And Meghan, this is vital for Vermont as well to connect and bring authentic experiences to people who might say here's something way up north and something up south and this is what you do on your website is bring that together.

Meghan Sheridan: Yeah, I mean, it's very similar to what she does. I mean, we're not navigating it for each individual. We're putting the information out there so that they can set their own navigation and absolutely, in such a rural state like Vermont, it's really how do you get them out into the Back Roads and help them feel comfortable stopping in that farm or knocking on it because we're not going with them. They don't have a tour operator.

So how do we have visible signage so that they know that this is the right place and that we get in there? So it's really about the information and making sure that the data is right and the mapping is the right. And so we're a lot of logistics behind the scene with the information piece of it. But it is trying to help people feel comfortable having a unique experience and helping them open that door.

Gail Ciampa: Thank you.

Danielle Brodhagen: Finding those hidden gems.

Meghan Sheridan: Yes.

Gail Ciampa: Chef?

Jose Duarte: So our trips are at the beginning, well, you have to see that -- my concentration is Peru and Peru is a really biodiversed country. There's almost all the micro-climates available so the products are very unique. There's 3,000 now, 5,000 varieties of potatoes catalogued. Each of them tastes differently, has a different shape. There's 600 varieties of tubers that are edible. There is 400 varieties of peppers, 500 varieties of corns. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to eat a full dinner from the Amazonia of Peru that is worked with a chef that is Peru Miguel Chafenio that is working with an agronomic engineer and a botanist to bring those products to civilization.

So, with all these array of products, you know, I find myself, okay, I have to specialize and this is what I'm doing, I'm specializing. Our first trip that we did was potatoes. We concentrated in the Andes Region. It was potatoes quinoa, amaranth and kiwicha, that's it, for three days. And not going to a market and actually buy potatoes and look at the potatoes going to the fields, engage with a farm, a community of potato growers and understand the native potatoes that grow above 9,500 feet, how they are trade and the whole ceremonial process of actually harvesting that potato in which I create experiences.

So I create experience of becoming into a community, being hosted by the community. They welcome you, they dress you, they throw flowers at et cetera and then you go to the field, of course, you pay respect to the earth with coca leaves, so you're just not going to harvest. So the whole experience that you have with the potatoes, you understand it. Then we see it in the market. We see what's happened into the potatoes. We see that at table, that communal table with most of the creativity of the chef starts, the smells, the senses, you know, that extra sensorial experience with, you know, with getting all those flavors.

And then at night, we do -- went off the market a little bit and then we do a little bit of lunch in a casual restaurant. And fortunately and unfortunately, Peruvian gastronomy has become one of the most wanted cuisines right now. The concentration of chefs from around the world has the eye in Peruvian gastronomy. And what this has produced is this super sophisticated set up and composition of traditional cuisine that to a Peruvian is almost like plain, I'll feed you, you feed me, you know. It's just very small.

So a dish that will normally be a whole plate of potato stew right now is deconstructed, tripled the price, half the amount with foam on the top. I called those diversiones like entertainments which I love. I love technique. I love the way it works. But I also exposed that because it's part of the Peruvian evolution in cuisine and that's how I tried to connect. And I create all those relationships between the producers, the land, the farmers, you know, the people that produces that, the lady that makes it traditionally in the field and the chef that actually brings it to another level.

Gail Ciampa: So that always makes me think now. So this has to benefit the little farmer who you are bringing tourists from here to go and this is going to improve his business.

Jose Duarte: Well, yes. The communities that we go, there's no one doing what I do right now. They have never taken people to come and see how they harvest potatoes for the culinary background. The idea is to help them to expose themselves to a new, I will say, a new segment of a market that they can benefit from. You help small communities with tourisms, stuff like that. They have been producing potatoes for sustenance, you know. There's not like there's hunger. All they do is four, five potatoes, they barter, they first dry the potatoes, they go through the winter.

But I think we're exposing this gastronomy and creating those memorable experiences. From the social aspect, you know, the social responsibility aspect I think is very important for them as well, so...

Meaghan Sheridan: Can I ask him a question?

Gail Ciampa: Of course.

Meaghan Sheridan: Or actually all of the panel members. In light of that, like how do you get the value back to the producer that you're visiting? So like for the potato grower, like, do you support them financially for the visit or is there sort of buying expectations when you're taking people to the small producers?

Sai Viswanath: So what we do is literally we were all dressed with handcraft, ponchos and hats that takes about four to five months for a weaver to produce. They gave it to us as a welcome, and not gift, you know, dress. But at the end, we all bought it. I wouldn't care. I paid, you know, a fair value for that. You know, the woman actually set up all their products in there and every single person, my groups are no more than 16 people, every single person bought something and, you know, they bought it. And I said, "Oh, can I barter with them?" And said, "Listen, what are you going to barter? I mean, this people are opening their land, their house. They're spending months in making this. You know, just take it and it's going to be memorable."

So we help in that way. We do give them some money for that but they're not really interested in the money because they have -- you know, in fact, we were at one of the places, you know, where they do the quinoa and somebody was a little hungry. So he sent down the lady to bring some food in potato and cheese and then I said, "Can I give you some money?" He said, "No, just give me some coca leaves."

Danielle Brodhagen: If done right, food tourism can be a huge economic driver to any communities. So when I say done right, going back to that person that grew the food and that's something that we really feel strongly about in Ontario. So going back and making sure that the producer is recognized and so it follows, it filters down from the tour operator all the way down to the farmer.

Cindy Salvato: On Federal Hill, what I do to give back to the producer or to give back to the store owners, they're all mostly family-oriented small businesses, I supply a shopping list of everything that I talk about and I talk a lot and with specific ingredients and a coupon at the bottom so they can go back and shop. So they see who's coming and they can see immediately who's buying and what they're buying. So it works out great. And when you introduced, like in my tour and probably with Joyce's tour, too, when they are in a small neighborhood, you're really introducing them to the family and to the people and you're holding their hand and you're getting them to go back, which is great, and maybe venturing the tourists into a new neighborhood where they never would have been before.

Joyce Weinberg: One thing I want to say is with culinary tourism, we're in a business that doesn't have that many repeat customers, not that many people are going to come back and take your tour over and over and over. And I'm in New York City, we do have repeat customers but it's a small percentage, so it's important that our guests -- it's just like with shopping, see it, like it, buy it; see it, like it, buy it. So they have to go back right then and there.

And New York is so dense with choices of every type of food imaginable literally on each block. They're just chockfull. So our guides are skilled at getting people to say, "You know what, you like something, buy it now, buy it quick." So we have certain vendors that people buy more at than others, some we support because we buy 16 sandwiches a day or whatever it is and others.

We support a Chilean wine store run by the government of Chile and we have a lot of people buying there, or a candy store that makes all artisan candy, it looks like stained glass, so people buy there. Some, of course, is not as practical, at the gelato store, there's only so much you can do. But we do try -- we don't get any kickbacks at all but we do try to recommend to people that they do make a purchase right then and there because we know that a lot of times there isn't a second chance.

Sai Viswanath: I'd say most of them as a business owner, I see this as more as introducing my restaurant to a different group of people with a different interest to it and that's very valuable to me like building a structure because I think if there is more reasons for people to come to my restaurant and wherever you'll be, you are advertising it in the newspaper or doing a fine dinner or having a historic tour which ends at DeWolf Tavern, all this leads to the same goal to me. And that is some of the costs that we have to bear to build these structures initially. And then once people have different reasons to come, there's more ways for them to get to us.

Gail Ciampa: So it seems that it's all on a very personal that you're bringing people places, they're doing things. You're bringing them to Peru like exposing them. But I guess I wonder about the future and is it something that -- you know, we look in Rhode Island and Rhode Island is like other states. It's looking to being in revenue. Is there a way that culinary tourism can help contribute that to a state like Rhode Island or any state?

Cindy Salvato: Oh, yeah.

Jose Duarte: We all do.

Gail Ciampa: So how? How does it happen?

Cindy Salvato: Well, you know, this is what I always about food, it's all about the food. So no matter what kind of tour you're on, the bottom line is everybody is going to eat, everybody wants to eat, everybody wants to know, you know, where is the fun place to eat and it's all about the food. And I love the culinary tourism has really taken off and in areas that are just so small and interesting and unique and it brings people to those.

Gail Ciampa: So but that's again still very individual. How do you bring it to a bigger...?

Jose Duarte: Specialization. I think if you specialized. I mean, interesting today, I got off the airport and in the airport says, oysters and clams, oh, I'm in Rhode Island, right? Of course, I was in three airports before. But if you specialized from, you know, destination, as a destination, think as a destination, you need to -- just don't think what's coming already in here. Try to bring them here for that, you know, so…

Danielle Brodhagen: Unique taste to place, what is it? What's your story? And like you have amazing stats in here, 71% of Americans are traveling for food. That's huge. And in Ontario, we find that buying local puts 3 to 1 back into the local economy. Buying local Ontario wine is 12 to 1 economic impact. It is the huge, the amount of power that we have as food tourists for destination.

Meghan Sheridan: So I'll just add on to the statistics. So we actually -- for the chefs, as a culinary tourist experiencing local foods through a chef and the chef actually dedicating themselves to buying local products and prodding them, it's 56 to 1 buyback from our chefs and the numbers that we've done. So every dollar that the consumers are spending, our chefs are buying or well -- I'm sorry, I missed at that, for our organization, for every dollar and our operating budget, our chefs are buying $56 worth of local product from the market place and so accumulatively, it's almost $12 million worth local product, that is just moving through the restaurants because of the dedication of the consumers that are going there.

It's both the chef's dedication but also the interest in the consumer to actually ask and be interested in the taste of place and the products that are coming out. And it's an important market mix for our farmers. And so when I think -- when you said it's all about the food, I was like, "Oh, yeah," and so take it down a notch, like, and what is all about the food mean, because to me, all about the food means all about the producer, where it came from, the ground that it was grown on. But then I'm like, and then there's the chef personality which is tremendous and how does it mix in and then there's the taste of place, like, what does it mean when a tourist comes to Vermont, what do they expect, it's not scallops and seafood, you know. it's what Vermont has to offer. And so it's all about the connection to the land I think.

Audience Member: When people are coming to a particular place that's know for its food, let's say, a lodging, there's a new one there, the Hotel Vermont, okay, with the Hen of the Wood, but when people are coming in, there's others spin offs. I don't know if it's been measured in terms of night stays and other economic impacts that the food brought them but they didn't spend that money on food.

Meghan Sheridan: So I don't know that we have the statistics yet about that, like where else they spread them around. But I know, like, we did sort of the mass and we figured it out. If we could get just couples, people who travel in couples coming through the State of Vermont, if we could get them to spend $5 on local products, like somewhere they wouldn't have gone, like go to a U Pick or go to an orchard and go to a brewery, $5 dollars, It was like $22 million that those travelers could possibly set. So you realized like it means nothing. It's like an impulse purchase but what it does to the whole economy if they, you know, if we can get people to participate is tremendous, like it's absolutely astonishing but I don't know the numbers in that way.

Audience Member: So being a producer that actually works in economic development and business driver sectors, it's two folds, one, how do we engage our producers so they understand the impact of having tourism and secondly, how do we get economic development to measure the impact so that they can see the positive that it has on the producers.

Danielle Brodhagen: Education, education, education and communication and you need to measure it and that's exactly what our organization does, for our destinations in Ontario. So we go in and we look at that. That is actually a challenge for the province. If each person spends $10 of their grocery money a week, $2 million each week will go back into the local economy and so we measure that and we can show those stats and we go to economic development offices and we tell them that.

And then we put on summits, I think very much like you do, where it's a farmer-chef meet and greets, where we're teaching the farmers about that economic impact and what it can do for their business and the value that food tourism can have for them.

Joyce Weinberg: Also, farmers are pretty smart. When they see that they can have premium products and charge more…

Jose Duarte: Right.

Joyce Weinberg: …for a specific type of potato…

Jose Duarte: They won't sell it to me.

Joyce Weinberg: …it's going to work.

Jose Duarte: Plus Canada, you subsidiate a lot of the farmers and a lot of the provinces, have a lot of money to promote and educate; here, we get nothing.

Gail Ciampa: So Danielle, how can we reach the economic development in Maine, in Rhode Island, in Massachusetts, how do we convince them?

Danielle Brodhagen: By showing them best practices. I mean, yes, we do have subsidies in Canada, but there's also -- I mean, we are not-for-profit, that is not government funded. We went from 80% government funded now to 20%, right, as a process for sure. But I mean, it has to be a process and you have to start somewhere. And I think by showing them best practices from all over the world because where we are today isn't where we were five years ago, so -- and it was by looking at somehow we could do it and -- I mean, at the end of the day, food tourism is pretty young, so going to the economic offices, the tourism offices and showing them that the best practices from around the world.

Cindy Salvato: And here in Rhode Island, I did farm tours and it was really a lot of personal conversations with the farmers. Like for example, we have a really great farm in Rhode Island that has -- it's called Dame Family Farm and they have a really fascinating family history that they don't mind sharing with people. But to get them to come along on the tour business and to be part of small group tourism took a little bit and took a lot of coaching and a lot of personal relationships and bringing them on tours that you do already so that they can see, you know, so that they can just experience it as a tourist and get excited about it and then they're in. And then people start going back to the farmers. But as we've said, it's so young still. People still have all the big question marks in their head but it's really a lot about personal relationships.

Meghan Sheridan: So that's one of the things like thinking about the culinary tourism taking the Back Roads and actually showing up on the farms and getting people out there has an element of danger involved in it even in the United States and so we're looking at that, too. Like you were saying, like who's ready to take people, what do you need to have to have people show up and does it work in your business plan.

I mean, we have a number of cheese makers and people love to stop and watch cheese being made but the farmers can't do it, like can't handle the impact of people coming in. so like really trying to help them, like you're saying, like think through the process and what does it mean to have people in your place. And I dare say the emergent trend that I see is in third world developing countries, they're really trying to use culinary tourism as a push for economic development. I mean, like, how is safety involved in that and I think…

Jose Duarte: It's call waivers. You don't sign, you don't come. And you also send me your insurance copy. And that's it. I see your clear liability with that. I mean, we take -- we do -- see, a lot of the issues that we have here -- and the farms there, I mean, believe me, I take people 10,000 feet above the sea level. I have to worry more about the guy that has a lung surgery and wants to come in the trip or, you know, how much coca leaves I have to give him to actually bring him down after, right?

But, yeah, there is risk but I think that what you were talking is how -- they're afraid of liability, they're afraid of somebody suing them because she's getting contaminated because they're coming in. And there is ways of fixing that. I mean, there is -- look at Europe, I mean, you have the perfect example of Europe, I mean, how did they it. They are injured, they put a glass, I mean, there is way of doing it. I mean, it is doable.

Audience Member: Yes, it's cool. It's eyes wide open.

Jose Duarte: I think the unfortunate part is that in the United States, there hasn't been that, you know, push that help to start developing and let it go along the way. I don't see, you know, somebody can tell I've been one of these proponents to change the farm bill for a while but it doesn't happen, you know. but I think that's one of the things, you know, so.

Gail Ciampa: So it seems all be personal. It's all going to be built on one person at a time.

Joyce Weinberg: Well, I think in the United States, we have a lot of factors working against us. We're very litigious society. We try to have everything be so carefully the i’s dotted, the t’s crossed. But I think what will happen is through education, when people realized that Farmstead's raw unpasteurized cheese is actually better for you than the pasteurized cheese, that's never been touched by human being that it gets listeria in the system because it's continuous batch.

And then you have a huge problem when people realized that you don't have to be worried about the little things or the, you know, something where it's not an industrial size, then I think it will snowball and then there'll be more of a tide of change and will be able to have more culinary tourism and it's just like with every political wave, I mean, my god, when we had segregation and everything else, it takes years and years for things to change but I think the industry is infant, it's only about 10 years old, I would say, from the beginning of culinary tourism in this country. So it's not an excuse but I think it's part of the process of educating and going forward.

Danielle Brodhagen: And as consumers, what with your dollar. Dine in restaurants that serve local food, choose their artisanal products of cheese.

Gail Ciampa: I'd like to open it up. Does anybody else want to weigh in and have a question?

Audience Member: I just want to address that thing that was just talked about. Two weeks ago, I was in the back woods, it was a small cheese producer called Good Shepherd and, again, people are coming to the farm and it's a serve-your-own honor system, the refrigerator is there, the cheese is there with some maple syrup. So people drove in from Michigan. So I asked them how they found the place. They actually found it through a website in Vermont that had the cheese trail on it. They incorporated going on the Back Roads over it in West Minster, Vermont. They incorporated that into their trip to Vermont.

So although their trip was not culinary tourism, they ventured off the main track, they went to a Farmstead, never met the farmer and never interrupt to what the farmer was doing and they bought the cheese, they left their money and they went back down the road. So there's that kind of liability where people are coming in and there's way of doing as that always like an organized tour where you need to have waivers or worried about quality of the food and suing somebody because it's contamination some of it's different kind of logistics.

Gail Ciampa: So because there is money to be made, there is money to be made, right, isn't there? What are the things that we have to watch for as this industry grows?

Meghan Sheridan: There are some cautionary tales for me and like thinking about some of those things and, you know, as emerging trends, I see the combination of independent traveling combined with tour operating guides and what are the responsibilities of the tour guides as they're taking people because -- I mean, there are some realities out there like livestock farming isn't pretty, like it's real and those cows die and that sheep die and that's what you're eating.

And those are subjects that are a part of the story and how did you, as guides, you know, approach those kinds of people. It's like, "Oh, look at the fluffy lamb and then we're going to go eat it," and you're like, "Yeah." It's the education piece and that's sort of the emerging -- how do we talk about that.

Jose Duarte: Yes, I think planning is very important and then the planning -- actually, short story, I was visiting Pisco Porton which is the Pisco that you had there before in Johnny Schuler, so it took four chefs there and he has Peruvian Paso horses in there. Pisco Porton was actually the first -- the oldest distiller in the Americas that was just bought by a Texan that gave him $40 million to make Pisco the best thing in the world and he has like 14 Paso horses there. So he led the chefs, go on the horse and I said, "Hey, Johnny, we haven't signed anything here, you know, you be careful." And he said, "Nah, in Peru, no problem," I said, "No, but Bill is a Texan millionaire, you know, and you never know."

Why did I say that? The next thing you know, I see a guy with one foot on the horse, bled on the ground, the horse, of course, and the body stopped. He was taken to a hospital, he's fine and everything but there wasn't planning, there's no planning. So you really have to plan every single step of the equation, you know, from an allergy in a place to actually airlifting somebody from Puno.

Cindy Salvato: Yeah, and we've had somebody slipped on a floor in a bakery and those are the horrible things, you know. So now, if it's a really hot day in the bakery, it's 120 degrees in the backroom when they're lighting the ovens. You know, we're all supposed to be holding on to the table and I say, "If anybody feels dizzy, you immediately sit down and raise your hands so we can sit you down so that nobody is fainting."

Gail Ciampa: So that's part of the authentic experience?

Cindy Salvato: Exactly.

Jose Duarte: Yes, experience.

Audience Member: So in Maine, we are very lucky because a legislator passed a farmer's protection bill. So as long as you have a sign up and says you're not liable, you're not going to be liable for these guests that come on to your farm and that was a great benefit to relieve that part of the farm experience. But we still struggle and we struggle daily and monthly on how do we engage our producers to understand the importance of allowing people to come visit so that we can have culinary tourists and we can engage our chefs because that's a very unnatural condition form.

Audience Member: Yeah, farmers.

Audience Member: I'm sorry, I forgot your name, the one from Toronto, Ontario. You had mentioned something about an assessment program to determine whether or not somewhere was ready to accept food tourists. Could you speak a little to that?

Danielle Brodhagen: Sure. We have it as a software program, it's called the Experience Assessment Tool, so EAT, and what we do is we put businesses that are interested in developing food tourism at their destinations, so it could be a restaurant, it could be a food tour company, it could be a farm. And we put them through this software program. There's over 50 data fields that it looks at and then it spits out a number, a market readiness rating and also a term. So we call them champions, leaders, subscribers or followers.

And so the champions and leaders are market-ready. And what that means to be market-ready is they would have signage at their farm, for example, they have a website, they have hours, consistent hours of operation that's huge because if I'm driving an hour and a half to go to your farm and no one's there, I'm going to be really disappointed and that sucks for a region actually.

So we do a lot of education about what it means to be market ready and what are the expectations of a food tourist, so we've looked at research from around the world and actually spoke on this around the world, what a food tourist is looking for. And then we teach and train businesses on how to become market-ready and how to open up their doors to the food tourists.

Gail Ciampa: So show of hands, what you looking for as a food tourist? Is it authenticity? Is it a good time? So it's all of these pieces together and people just don't know where to go get that without a lot of help.

Danielle Brodhagen: So you want to be educated? You want to taste? And usually, you want to take something home, don't you, to brag that you were there?

Audience Member: Yes.

Danielle Brodhagen: Those are the three components that a food tourist wants. Do you have that plus signage?

Audience Member: Can you say it again?

Danielle Brodhagen: Okay. So I will say it again. So you want to be educated, so it needs to be an educational component. Hands on education is really great. You want to taste something while you're there, so sample. And then you want to be able to buy the product to take something home as souvenir so we can brag to all of our food friends.

Gail Ciampa: Does anybody else have a question?

Audience Member: Hi, my program is Blackstone Culinaria Secret Ingredient Food Tour in Northern Rhode Island and we run tourists every Wednesday where people go to a different restaurant and the chef does a demonstration and then we all enjoy a meal. And I'm just wondering from what you just said, I just picked something up, people will be willing to pay over $20 to go see how A&W root beer is made and have a hamburger and fries but they bring home a half gallon of root beer firstly made. But yet sometimes, we've had to cancel a food tourist, they might not want to go to a well-established restaurant in Northern Rhode Island to have, say, chicken masala but yet they pick up on Diamond Hill Vineyard, a Vietnamese restaurant, the local Mexican restaurant in Central Falls that's very new and family-oriented, family-owned, I mean.

I'm just wondering, I've been a little discouraged the past couple of months having to cancel a few of the weekly tourists and we always do try to educate, enjoy a good meal and bring something home if they can, but I'm just wondering why sometimes the tourists don't sell. I think it must be something has to be unique, different, new, maybe -- it seemed like a small ethnic restaurants are very popular like Vietnamese, who knew there was one in Pawtucket, you know, or a new Mexican restaurant, a new Peruvian restaurant.

Gail Ciampa: Jonah, those tourists are $19.50, so you would imagine they would be jammed every Wednesday night. So I guess she's asking what she can do to improve…

Sai Viswanath: I think cross marketing with the restaurant that we always look and keeping other people being part of the community and making it into a very bigger question, how it is like by interest or if it is by you and me working together, that I think is really important and it's all about, you know, packaging it to me again. It needs to have something it need to say, you know, I want to do this. you know, a lot of times when I might think about doing it but I would never do it. But it needs to have -- and especially if the restaurant also or other entities also participates in it, there is more curiosity to it I feel.

Danielle Brodhagen: I think it's, what's your criteria, to be honest, like I want to know -- as a food tourist, I want to know where if you're credible, I want to know if I should trust your opinion and I'd like to see that like in your marketing and then how do you pick the restaurants and what's their unique story, why, is it the chef, is it the food they're using. I think as food tourists that are really dedicated and hard core into that, that's what they want. And so really to find that criteria and why you pick those destinations is important to tell that story, that uniqueness.

Gail Ciampa: We're almost to the end, so if somebody has a question, put your hand up but…

Audience Member: As food tourism destination, is it a one and done situation? Do you think that we can build on our regions because obviously, as that repeat customers, like is this the hot city this year, and this is the hot city next year or do we build like…

Jose Duarte: Yes, so I bet you that in five, six years, Pisco and the Ica Region is going to have several tours doing the route of the Pisco. But nobody started it, just me and two guys trying to find out how we can make this happen and we're sitting in this valley and we look at the structures and are we in like Argentina right now in the winery. But it's clear and it did get you drunk fast, so it's got to be better. By the way, I bought some brochures from Peruvian Pisco. They're just informative.

Danielle Brodhagen: I want to go to Peru.

Gail Ciampa: We all want to go to Peru.

Jose Duarte: We'll take Michelle and Jim together.

Gail Ciampa: We all want to go to Ontario as well. So is it money? I mean, this is all priced points for these tours, right? People are willing to pay very little and very much.

Jose Duarte: My tours don't make money. For me, I mean, first the tours, they don't make money. I tried to build, I don't work with any operators. I build relationship with owners of hotels that they give me wholesale rates. I build prices and hire the experts. I work at the best restaurants, the best chefs, the best airplanes, the best -- but it's another tweet from my restaurant. It's another engagement on the news. It's the reason why I'm here, right? So I do that. Eventually, they will make money but I will have to hire somebody because right now, I am leading them as talent. I go with the group. We go hand to hand. But if I have to make money on the tours, I have to do at least 10 a year and I'm not going 10 times to Pach Pichu.

Cindy Salvato: And my tour is at $50 a person and here in Rhode Island, a lot of people go, "Wow, that's a lot of money," and, you know, a lot of local people don't want to spend that money. But then they come on the tour and they say, "That's the best $50 I ever spent," because we eat and sample and take something home and all the really fun stuff. And I should say that first start of my tour, I was at $40 and it was so hilarious, it was all Rhode Islanders for five years and now, like today's tour, we only had one Rhode Islander. It's like on the complete opposite. It's fun to see that happen. But I'm afraid to raise my price, I don't want to raise it and be out of the market because it's still Rhode Island. I think in Boston, the prices are like $55. I don't what, Joyce?

Joyce Weinberg: You're high.

Cindy Salvato: I'm high.

Audience Member: Yeah.

Audience Member: Yeah.

Cindy Salvato: And they get cookbooks and they get food and they get, you know, take home stuff.

Gail Ciampa: So are all the problems a manifestation of just the fact that this is all so new, hooking up farmers, going to new destinations? It's just, we're going to look back and say, this is just how every industry grows?

Audience Member: We figured it out. It's growing pains.

Gail Ciampa: It's growing paint, she says.

Jose Duarte: And also understanding of markets, who likes clams. Brazilian like clams. I'm finding out that Peru has been the country that live of archaeology, history. You know, I'm also the tourist, you know, they go there because of, you know, Seven Wonders of the World et cetera. But right now, we have an immense Brazilian wealthy population coming into to eat. They don't care about the ruins. They look at and they go pssshh -- they want to go to restaurants, to market, to each region and markets. So understanding the markets is very important and who the market is and how you can approach that market to make that culinary tourism grow and how long can you maintain it because that's important as well.

Danielle Brodhagen: You're your own tourist as well, right? So build the ambassadors in your community and then they'll start sharing that story and encourage people to share. Also, I want to say the price point, there's something for everyone in food tourism and that's the best thing. I mean, a farmer's market is food tourism, dining in a high end restaurant is food tourism, you know. So there is really something for everyone and those markets changed whether you have families or no kids or whatever. So understanding what you are and what price point is important but remembering that, you know, we all eat three times a day.

Gail Ciampa: I think you are all pioneers and we are all the beneficiaries and farmers, we can all learn from this and we all want to eat close to the stores and I guess we have to educate ourselves is kind of what I'm hearing here and we have to educate our government. So thank you all for sharing just such great experiences.

Seth Resler: That was the recording of the panel discussion hosted by Gail Ciampa, Food Editor of the Providence Journal at the Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference. It happened at Aqua at the Marriott in Providence and it happened on September 21st, 2013. I hope you enjoyed it. You can see photos of the event online at TasteTrekkers.com. Thanks so much for listening. We'll talk to you next time.

Published October 24th, 2013