Engaging with local communities is one of the best ways to learn about the world, and one of the most enjoyable ways to do this is by experiencing the local cuisine. EF Go Ahead Tours, the adult travel business within EF Education First, recognizes the role these gastronomic experiences can play in supporting local economies, fostering understanding and learning more about the world.
“Across cultures, people like to eat and drink, and there’s no better way to meet others than by sharing a glass of wine, taking a cooking class together or digging into a group meal,” said Lael Kassis, Vice President of Market Innovation and Development. “Shared experiences like these, where everyone is there to explore a destination through the lens of food culture, can create incredible and often unexpected memories.”
The many food and wine experiences EF Go Ahead Tours offers include preparing regional dishes alongside a local chef on the Greek island of Crete, visiting a cork factory and sampling olive oil in Portugal’s Alentejo region, and exploring truffle fairs in Tuscany through our partnership with America’s Test Kitchen.
EF Go Ahead Tours relies on the experience, passion – and appetite – of its team when developing new experiences. Tour Directors often uncover emerging trends through deep connections in their respective local communities, and they are passionate about the impact food and wine experiences can create.
“Travelers seek experiences that let them walk away with a feeling they’ll remember forever,” said Linda, a Tour Director for EF Go Ahead Tours. “A memory is built upon something you actually lived or touched, and a food and wine tour is a journey through which you can create memories by constantly meeting people and getting a sense of their lives.”
“I had the opportunity not so long ago to go truffle hunting in Piedmont, Italy, with a local truffle hunter,” said David Evans, Vice President of Operations. “We met with the host on his truffle farm, met his dogs, and then we headed into the woods. Once the dogs located truffles, we helped our host prepare dishes using what we’d unearthed, and then we sat around the table, drinking local wine as he told us stories about his great grandfather, who started the farm. It was the most unbelievable experience, and it’s one I’ll always remember.”
Kassis explains that the team looks for contrasting experiences that show the variety in each destination. “If we’re exploring a region’s wine, we’ll visit a traditional, authentic vineyard, but we’ll also visit a producer that’s more modern and innovative to show off the region’s variety. And it’s hard to experience food and wine culture if you’re rushed, so we emphasize a few places so groups have enough time to fully dive into the local cuisine.”
“Food and wine are powerful ways to come together, and they promote understanding and mutual acceptance,” said Linda. “Sharing intimate traditions makes people willing to overcome personal opinions and clichés because the natural hospitality of these experiences is spontaneous and extremely powerful. Food is a great expression of someone’s culture, and it is the inner soul of a territory. Travelers have the unique opportunity of absorbing the culture of a place visited, but they also get to enrich it by bringing their own experience. Food and wine travelers do not simply take something away with them – they also leave a lot behind.”
“The more we can work directly with local people and support regional jobs, the more impact we can drive in the economies where we send travelers,” said Evans. “By offering alternatives that are off the beaten track, we can lessen our impact on certain destinations, all while giving our travelers unique, hands-on opportunities that they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
Food and drink – and the producers who make them possible – have long told the stories of their respective regions and histories. These experiences help travelers build understanding, learn something new, venture beyond their comfort zones, and make new, unexpected friends. Wherever and however you decide to experience the world and all its flavors, we wish you bon appétit and bon voyage!