Creating Your Perfect Culinary Travel Journey: 7 Essential Tips

Hanuman’s unique Approach to food and his Quest into Pre-World War Two Thai Cuisine.

Leaving Room for Adventure: Sure, improvisation’s awesome. But blindly trusting top restaurant lists or TikTok vids while you’re traveling, without digging deeper can sometimes lead to a bit of a letdown. Especially for those of us who take food disappointment kinda seriously. Feel free to try out these tips during or before your travels – we hope they come in handy!

Harvest Season and Food Festivals:Visiting a town or country during their pick of food festivals or harvest times is key to having an awesome time. Europe’s got some cool events, for example, in Turin, Italy, the Cheese Festival or the Terre Madre Slow Food Fest, and in France, the Lyon Street food festival happening between September and October. Google it and start researching and Checking out blogs or sites highlighting these food-filled happenings each month so that you can plan accordingly better. We found this helpful blog about Italy’s food festivals,which has improved our travel experience In Italy.

National Dishes: Do a little research before you go. Get the scoop on what local dishes are the most- try and from what regions or towns they are originally from. Create a list of towns with your favorite foods. You could totally mix it up – mountains one day, seafood the next. It’s rad to stumble upon hidden gems where locals are stoked to share their culinary traditions. If a road trip isn’t on the agenda, It’s okay. You’ll have the know-how: say you’re in Madrid craving ‘Pulpo a la Gallega,’ you’ll already know it’s a Galician specialty. Just flip through some local guides and uncover the finest Galician joints in Madrid, enjoy your Octopus, and maybe have a few beers with a stranger in the bar!

Anthony Bourdain Vibes: You’re headed somewhere cool, right? Check if Bourdain left his mark there—it’s a must-do. Do you know those blogs that break down his epic trips? Like “Bourdain in Istanbul” or “Bourdain in Thailand.” Trust me, there’s gold in those stories. Oh, and this site Eat like BourdainThey did the hard work, listing stuff by country and city after watching every single episode. But hey, heads up! Some places might not exist anymore, and thanks to Covid, things got worse. So, make sure to research if the places are still open.

Local Food Guides: Before you jump into the Michelin Guide, give the local guide a whirl. It’s like insider info straight from the source. Take Thailand, for example – Chevron’s got a guide for locals made by a local chef. They know their stuff; you’ll find real gems beyond the tourist spots. These local guides must be searched by the country’s language; if you type in Google in English, you will get all the American bloggers or publications from outsiders. Do yourself a favor, and Google translates a couple of prompts to search for food and local guides of the country or city you visit. This will result in dropping you the guides that the locals make for the locals.

Street Food Tours and Culinary Classes: Getting to know a city’s real vibe means diving into its street food, local cafes, and markets—where the locals hang out, skipping the Hipster cafes and high-priced restaurants that most people can’t afford. Those food tours are like your crash course in the local scene. We tried this firsthand with A Chef Tour in Thailand and in Istanbul with My local guide Istanbulit was a game changer. We not only learned about all sorts of street food and their stories but also made the rest of our trip super chill. And it’s not just during the tour; these experiences set you up to cruise through the food scene and pick up tips about using public transport and shopping where the locals do. It’s like insider info that travel agencies can’t match.

Go to A Chef Tour if you would like to start your learning journey.

Looking into culinary classes in a foreign country can be tricky, especially if you are already knowledgeable about the cuisine or if you are a chef or a cook. It’s not that you won’t learn something new in those Airbnb fun classes where everybody looks awkwardly happy. Ensure the person teaching is a proper chef or a grandmother who knows her craft. Ask them through direct messages if the classes are for chefs; some may give you a private class or recommend you to another friend.

When we were in Thailand, we asked around to some chefs and received an excellent recommendation. It was a class targeted explicitly for chefs, and the teachings were about pre-World War Two cuisine from Thailand called Siamese cuisine. Hanuman lives on a fantastic farm where most of the ingredients are harvested. We will have a whole article about this experience in the future because his knowledge and vision for culinary arts were quite unique. In the meantime, here is his website Tai Food Master if you plan a trip to Thailand soon.

Go to Thai Food Master if you would like to start your learning journey.

Awards Lists and MoreMichelin Guide50 Bests, and James Beard Awards definitely have their value, but it’s not all about those glitzy accolades. Please take a moment to look them up, see what the locals are saying about that specific restaurant, and trust your instincts. Sometimes, the little, unassuming spots beside those joints hold the most unforgettable flavors. We’re convinced that about 30% of those places endorsed by Michelin are more for tourists, not locals. When you chat with a local, they often see things differently. Sometimes, a place was good before it got that star or review, but afterward, it lost its way, focusing on the fame and forgetting what made it outstanding from the get-go. Other times, you’ll find hidden gems that are absolutely fantastic, but they just don’t hit the Michelin mark. Maybe the bathroom is squeezed, the seating is tight, or it’s sitting in a quirky location. So, don’t just go blindsided by the star or the recommendation; look into it and chat with a local about it.

Bars and Bartenders – Every bartender has a Chef friend! That’s the classic bond of the industry. One notable difference between a bartender and a chef is that chatting with a chef in a restaurant can be challenging, especially in a country where you don’t speak the language. However, bartenders, are in the front of the house ready to pour you a delicious drink and engage in a great conversation, which increases the probability that they speak another language fluently. In this particular situation, we are specifically looking for two types of bars: craft beer and top-rated cocktail bars, often featured on the 50 Best Bars list. If you engage with the bartenders in craft beer bars, you’ll find that they serve as the custodians of some of the best bar or street food you can discover in town. On the other hand, the bartenders at top cocktail bars generally possess extensive experience, having worked alongside chefs for quite some time. They are well-acquainted with the places where chefs dine, or they might even introduce you to an exceptional hyper-local pop-up that you wouldn’t have known about if you hadn’t met them.

We hope the information was helpful to you. In the upcoming months, we will start delving into more details and providing information about our travels, along with other cool recommendations, so that you can enjoy a more sustainable and local travel experience.

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