When someone first finds out what it is that I do for a living, I get a variety of responses, but there are a few that seem to repeat rather regularly. Most people first respond with many follow-up questions, and I can see their mouths begin to water as I describe to them further what it is that a food tour entails, and what exactly I'm responsible for in running such a business. Eventually, people tend to wind up in the same place though and say something like: "What an awesome job! Do you have a website or something? I'd love to do that with my friends/family/random travelers I like to pick up when they come into town!" Which is, of course, when I reach for my business card to hand over, and politely say something in return like: "Yeah, I love it! It's also fun for locals too! You get to discover neighborhoods you never knew before!" Then, of course, depending on how well I know them, the conversations will end, or continue, or morph or whatever. Lately, however, I've noticed a new response from those who are or just consider themselves to be New Yorkers. Both natives and transplants have had the same naivete--especially those potential interns I was interviewing back in June! I've gotten variations on the following a lot more than I'd like this past summer: "Oh, awesome! I pretty much do food tours on my own all the time!" Which I guess people think is a flattering cute thing to say to someone who's just mentioned they literally run a business doing that thing, but it's not. It's somewhat insulting, but I know that it comes from a good place, so more importantly, it's inaccurate.
So. I wanted to dispel this popular myth for the rest of you. First, no you don't. You DO NOT do food tours on your own. Now, obviously, you and I BOTH know that you don't mean to say you do what I do, because I'm pretty sure you don't do all the research required to give information about every restaurant you stop into, or facts about the neighborhood, it's history and possibly the relevancy to the dish that you're currently consuming. I know that you probably can't recite the history of pizza and bagels in NYC like I can, and even if you do know where the last standing knishery is, you probably don't know where the knish was invented, what it came from and who Yonah Schimmel's even was. And if you love a good lobster roll, like moi, then you've definitely been to one of Luke's outputs, but do you even know what brought Luke to NYC in the first place? I mean have you ever been to the scene of Al Capone's Wedding or any of Alec Baldwin's? I have! Many times! And I point them out to the lucky people who join in on my tours!
OK, I'm sorry I got off on a tangent there, and we already covered how that's probably NOT the part of the tour you were thinking of. You're clearly thinking about the food. You were thinking about that time that you and your friends went to two or three different places in one night and ate so much! Or, about that time that you challenged yourself to try a new taco every week for a month! Maybe even when you went to that event and there were like 100 different restaurants there and you tried like half of them in just 2 hours! OK...that last one is very admirable, which I say cuz I've done it before. But none of this is what I do.
In 2-3 hours, I take a group of people as small as two and as large as 16 to 6-8 different places, covering 1-2 miles of city streets and eating/drinking something at every one of those stops. As we walk I point of various historic sites, give background on the neighborhood itself, AND try to give you information on every stop we walk into. I carefully source every stop so that my guests are provided with the best food, ambiance and service. I also make sure that each bite we eat is in balance with the last. So, even if you request a taco tour, I'll make sure that each one we have is different from the last! And when I do my research, it usually takes me a full day or two to try a minimum of 10 different places so that I know that I'm bringing only the best to my guests--how often have you done that?!
I guess what I'm saying is that there are plenty of reasons to do a food tour. It's definitely a great activity to do when you have visitors in town, but I know for a fact that it's just as fun to do with a a friend who's from here--or even just on your own! I'm pretty good company I think--I mean, I've gotten another request from a repeat client, so I think that speaks for itself. You can even ask some of my friends who have been on a tour or two--if they're not sick of me and this city already, then I can assure you that you'll have an experience like none other! Get on out there NYC! Do something different! Why should you let the tourists have all the fun? Because you will learn something new and you haven't done this on your own!