Even though limited by working time and scope, I still sense food or culinary plays an important part in promoting local culture. From simply taking a foreign friend out and explain to him/her what the food is like to professionally be a “food ambassador” in a paid food tour with specific standards, food tourism knowledge benefit in various roles you play.
Obvious observations within our working context show us the rise of “cooking class”, “street food tour”. Travel documentaries and blogs put a strong emphasis on local cuisine. Some cooking shows use food as a medium to promote culture (such as Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam). What’s driving force behind this?
As professionals in travel industry, it pays off to dig deeper. In the short term, you get more hands-on knowledge to apply for work. In the long-term, those may inspire you to do something cool with food tourism. Who know?
II. FOOD TOURISM SCENE IN HANOI
A simple search with keyword “Food tour Vietnam” brings out more than 17,000 results. Clearly every company tries to add “Food tour” into their tour programs. If you are a tour guide only, you may miss this piece of the picture.
Food tour is simple to organize with a low cost and a high chance of customer satisfaction. Come on. Just eat, drink and talk. How can you ruin such a thing? Smart tour operators soon realize this and go further to make it more “authentic” by offering cooking class. Hoi An and Mekong Delta seem to be the winners in the list.
III. TOUR GUIDES AND FOOD KNOWLEDGE SCOPE.
Tour guides are not expected to be food experts. We are “jack of all trades, master of none” after all ha ha. However, at least be a good Jack. In my opinion, knowledge of tour guide can be illustrated as the diagram below:
“Food in the tour” should be minimum requirement. General cuisine knowledge is just the back-up. The more you know, the more vivid your presentation is, but not necessarily so.
From that perspective I think a guide must equip at least the things below:
- Food vocabulary
Names of dishes
Name of ingredients (seasonings/ sauces/ herbs/ side dishes)
Adjectives to describe about the food.
2. Basic food descriptions
How to eat it
How the food evolve over time
How it reflects the philosophy, climate, habits of local people.
How to give out knowledge just in time and not make it like a lecture. People are in their holiday for god’s sake.
4. Extra materials
Which articles, documentaries, cooking shows that you can use to get more important information for your tour?
IV. CASE STUDIES
I already wrote about a street food tour I did, but I believe there is much more to discuss. We can create handouts in pdf version and make some portable chunks of information. Let’s think about section III above and prepare something (vocabulary & extra materials) for our cafe hangouts. Make it practical, interactive and to-the-point 🙂