When Tiffany Sommer began organizing a group trip to India this past October, she knew that the focus had to be on food.
“Food in India is such an enormous part of daily life,” says the Utah-based corporate-event planner. “Families spend hours a day preparing dishes and eating together…the colors and the smells of cooking are just everywhere.” Consequently, she made sure that the bespoke itinerary organized for her by Micato Safaris included such memorable food experiences as cooking demonstrations, trips to local spice markets and meals that showcased chefs’ distinct regional specialties.
“It was a full sensory experience,” Sommer says of the culinary forays. “I know we all came away with a deeper appreciation of where we’d been.”
Many travelers already understand that cuisine provides a particularly vivid peek into the inner workings of a culture. More and more, however, tour operators are offering trips that specifically cater to their guests’ desire to taste—and cook—their way through a destination. These newer excursions go far beyond familiar gastronomic pilgrimages to Tuscany. Hungry globetrotters are keen to visit goat-cheese producers in Iceland, with the likes of food writer and chef Jody Eddy; sample street food in Vietnam on a trip with Artisans of Leisure; or press their own olive oil in Egypt during a journey with Backpacker Concierge.
“Even people who eat adventurously at home find that their experience is completely different” when traveling to a cuisine’s native country, says Marion Miller, Micato’s director of operations. “Ordering a dish in an Indian restaurant is one thing…but going into an actual kitchen in India, seeing all the steps that go into creating that dish, smelling the aromas and then sitting down to enjoy it with, say, a view over the Taj Mahal—that elevates eating to a new level.”