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New York City is a playground for guided tours that shine light on the city’s many secrets, but there’s one in particular that rises above the rest: In Food We Trust’s Yum Yum Met Tour.
Angelis Nannos, founder and tour guide of In Food We Trust, was living in Turkey before he started his own business in New York City, leading locals and tourists through some of his favorite spots.
“Once I landed in NYC for the very first time, I had a lox, sable, sturgeon, bagel, bialys and a schmear of scallion cream cheese for dinner,” Nannos said. “The next morning, I joined a guided culinary walk inside the Chelsea Market and the day after, an NYC pizza tour through NoLita and Greenwich Village. I was hooked on NYC’s culinary cornucopia right away.”
Originally from Drama, Greece, Nannos came back to visit the city again and again after that first trip, ultimately finding a new home for himself. But this wasn't his first foray into talking about food for a living.
“With five years of food guiding experience in Istanbul, at that point, it was about time to try my luck in the biggest market in the world," Nannos said. "After all, everyone who strolls through Manhattan feels like a bit of an entrepreneur.”
Backtrack to before the food tours started and you would have found Nannos working as a civil engineer. Despite two very different industries, Nannos says that there are similarities between the two.
“Some of the fundamental qualities of both, engineering and guiding, are securing a solid structure, problem-solving on the spot, competitive pricing, yet profitable,” he said. “And, of course, experience always makes you a better engineer and guide.”
I found myself on Nanno’s Yum Yum Met Tour a few weeks back and was immediately taken with his colossal enthusiasm and vast knowledge around seemingly obscure pieces of artwork. Within minutes of meeting him, it’s clear that you’ve met someone who truly loves what they do.
Nannos’ tour of the Met is unlike any other tour you’ll encounter throughout the museum. His list of sights is easily digestible at eight different works of art (it’s impossible to walk away without one of his many fun facts sticking with you). He asks lots of questions. He makes you think. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get a small reward for your thoughts.
Each stop along the tour highlights a piece of art that somehow incorporates food, whether that be a hand-painted oyster plate or a piece hiding a secret meaning behind a handful of broken eggs. With so many different things to see—“The Met’s permanent collection contains over two million works”—my prevailing question was, how do you possibly choose?
“The biggest challenge is, in fact, which to skip!" Nannos explained. "Pointing out a porcelain dish here and a crystal carafe there, only for being beautiful or ancient, wouldn’t build an interesting experience for either myself or my guests. An inviolable rule for a painting, sculpture or other objects to make it into my repertoire is to connect food with a unique aspect of life, varying from religion or politics to gender equality or sex.”
I won’t spoil the entire tour for you, but I will wax poetic about my favorite stop for a moment: an ancient Greek papyrus with a grocery list written out on it. You’ll find this artifact hidden in plain sight among other, much larger, stone treasures. Nannos not only pointed it out, but shared a translation and spoke to the different items on the list and how important they were to the time period. This is the kind of information you won’t find on any other tour.
Another thing you won’t find anywhere else: custom menus describing all of the sights you’ve seen (organized by “Drinks,” “Amuse Bouche,” “Appetizers,” “Entrées,” and “Dessert,” of course) complete with a group photo from your tour. It’s the little details that make Nannos such a spectacular guide.
The Yum Yum Tour is special in its own right, but if you’re looking to take it to the next level, Nannos also offers private tours, customized to whatever degree you please. What that means: You can even add a meal with your guide at an iconic spot in the Upper East Side (of your choosing, or with Nannos’ help).
“It’s a unique marriage of food and art,” Nannos said of his Yum Yum Met Tour—the longest-running offering in his array of food-centric experiences. “I feel like home at my Athens Next Door Greek Food Tour in Astoria. I cherish NYC’s food diversity in No Passport Required International Food Tour in Midtown Manhattan. And finally, the Iconic NYC Food Tour on the Upper East Side is a love letter to my beloved home.”
Nannos is working on a new tour focused on breakfast in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood, in collaboration with Emily Miller of Hey Breakfast Club. If Yum Yum Met is any indication, this will not be one to miss. From there, Nannos hopes to bring his special take on the culinary scenes to other cities in the United States, like Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“Meeting new people is my oxygen—it sounds a cliché, but it’s 100 percent true,” Nannos said. “Keeping my tours intimate helps to get to know my guests better and it’s not a rare phenomenon to keep in touch years after they’ve joined me for the first time.”
For more information on The Yum Yum Met Tour, and Nannos’ other offerings, check out the In Food We Trust website.