By Brian Benefield
Food is a universal language that everyone understands. No matter where you were born in this world, getting together with friends and family around a table to share homemade dishes and feast on humorous anecdotes is as old as time. If you want to be immersed in the culture and vibe of a particular city, take a food tour the next time you visit a new city or even your hometown. You may be surprised to find a restaurant, wine shop or bakery that goes unnoticed on your daily walks.
What is a food tour, you might be wondering? In a nutshell, it’s a guided walking tour that accompanies guests to local eateries, sampling generous samples of authentically prepared food: think Fish n Chips and Homemade Tamales and hear the owner/chef’s story. The owner or chef will often visit tour customers and answer questions about the food and its preparation, their culinary education and why they love what they do. Plus, learn the history, architecture, and cultural details to dive deep into a community through its cuisine.
My wife and I owned Marietta Food Tours from 2014 to 2021 and many guests have told us, “I’ve lived here for forty years and I know everything about my city. After the tour was over, they had to recant and said, “Wow, I discovered some new restaurants and had no idea this place served such delicious food.”
Food evokes in us a powerful and nostalgic feeling. Many years ago we experienced our first food tour in San Francisco in a very artistic neighborhood, Mission District. I remember the brightly colored murals everywhere, street musicians playing for tips, the smell of fresh baked goods from a nearby family bakery. The memories of this tour are forever etched in my mind, and I’m sure we remember things based on the smells and sights we’ve experienced over time. As a young boy, I thought heaven woke up on Saturday mornings with the smell of frying bacon wafting through my childhood home, and it was 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 food tour the first few days of your trip so that when you discover a new café, cheese shop or brewery, you have time to come back and sample more of their offerings. You will feel like a local due to the experience of the tour and be more confident in choosing menu items due to your knowledge gained. Use trusted travel websites like TripAdvisor to find high-quality, reputable tours. advice of pro- Look for reviews that specifically mention the names of the guides, this is a clue that the guests were very engaged, and the tour guide stood out in such a way that he left a big impression.
One of my culinary idols is the late Anthony Bourdain, who once said, “I think food, culture, people and scenery are all absolutely inseparable.” You will encounter all of these things on a food tour. Look for one on future travels and you might find yourself wandering down a narrow cobbled street to find a place that serves up bites that will leave an indelible sweet, spicy and salty memory on your soul.
Brian Benefield is a Dekalb County-born Atlanta native who has lived in Cobb since 2003.
He has worked in hospitality, marketing, real estate and more recently food tourism.
Married to Cecilie Benefield for 12 happy years and has 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.