By Brian Benefield
Food is a universal language that everyone understands. Regardless of where you were hatched in this world, coming together with friends and family around a table to share homemade nourishment and regale humorous anecdotes is as old as time. If you want to be immersed in the culture and vibe of any given town, then take a food tour next time you visit a new city or even in your hometown. You may be surprised that you will find a restaurant, wine shop, or bakery that goes unnoticed on your everyday strolls.
What is a food tour, you may be asking? In a nutshell, it’s a guided walking tour that escorts guests to locally-owned restaurants, eating generous samplings of authentically prepared food: think Fish n Chips and homemade Tamales and hearing the owner’s/chef’s back-story. The owner or chef will often visit with tour patrons and answer questions about the food and its preparation, their culinary education, and why they love what they do. In addition, learning the history, architecture, and cultural details to take a deep dive into a community through their cuisine.
My wife and I owned Marietta Food Tours from 2014 until 2021 and had many guests tell us, “I’ve lived here for forty years and know everything about my city .” Once the tour was done, they had to recant their thoughts and told us, “Wow, I learned about some new restaurants and had no idea that spot served such delicious cuisine.”
Food evokes a powerful, nostalgic feeling in us. Many years ago, we experienced our first food tour in San Francisco in a very artsy neighborhood, Mission District. I recall the vividly colored murals everywhere, the street musicians playing for tips, the smell of fresh baked goods from a mom-and-pop bakery nearby. The memories of that tour are forever etched in my mind, and I’m a firm believer that we remember things based on smells and sights that we’ve experienced over time. As a young boy, I thought heaven was waking up on Saturday mornings to the scent of bacon frying wafting throughout my childhood home, and it felt as comforting as a warm blanket on a chilly day. I can close my eyes and still remember that feeling, that moment, that sensation.
I would suggest taking a culinary tour the first few days of your travels so that when you learn of a new cafe, cheese shop, or brewery, you will have time to return and sample more of their offerings. You will feel like a local because of the tour experience and be more confident choosing menu items because of your attained knowledge. Utilize trusted travel websites such as TripAdvisor to find high-quality, reputable tours. Pro tip- Look for reviews that mention the guides’ names specifically, this is a clue that the guests were very engaged, and the tour guide stood out in such a way that it left a big impression.
One of my culinary idols is the late Anthony Bourdain, who once said, “I think food, culture, people, and landscape are all absolutely inseparable.” You will get to encounter all those things on a food tour. Seek out one in your future travels, and you may find yourself strolling down a narrow cobblestone street only to find a place that serves up bites that will leave an indelible, sweet, spicy, and savory memory on your soul.
Brian Benefield is an Atlanta native born in Dekalb County, who has lived in Cobb since 2003.
He has worked in Hospitality, Marketing, Real Estate, and most recently Food Tourism.
Married to Cecilie Benefield for 12 blissful years.
They have a dog, Miss Pickles.
Hobbies are mountain biking, running, gardening, and trying new recipes in the kitchen
Member of Les Marmitions cooking club since 2016, where we cook 5-course meals with local Atlanta chefs.