Your Top 20 Guide to culinary travel

culinary travel South Africa

Fresh porcini mushrooms at Casa Toscana, Trafalgar, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Did you know that culinary travel is one of the fastest growing tourism niches worldwide?

From city tours with a focus on food to vacation cooking schools, culinary options are growing faster than well watered sprouts.

Having said this, you don’t need a tour or anyone to organize your itinerary. You can become a culinary traveler simply by putting it on your travel menu.

One of the joys of culinary travel is that no matter how voracious the appetite or where a journey takes one, there is this endless repository of flavors and smells to savor, textures to bite into, recipes to sample, traditions to discover. All in all, a never-ending buffet to taste, learn about, and share.

culinary travel New Zealand

Chef Beattie cooks Maori style in a natural cauldron at Te Po, Rotorua, New Zealand.

There is no cookie-cutter definition of what makes a culinary traveler. Are you one? Read through our list below and see how you score. Oh, and don’t be limited by the list. Have some suggestions? Add them in the comments section.

You know you’re a culinary traveler when:

Whether it’s a day trip, a weekend escape or a round-the-world vacation, what you eat and drink will be interesting, memorable and a highlight.

You see food as a delicious adventure.

culinary travel Madrid

Ham choices in Madrid, Spain, where tapas and deliciousness rule.

You return from your trips with more pictures taken in restaurants than in museums.

Returning from a vacation, it’s not tschotkes that weigh down your suitcase. It’s the edible delights. Maple syrup from Quebec,  a bottle of Clément V.S.O.P. (rum) from Martinique, Tabasco if you’ve been to Louisiana, or plunder from Harrods Food Hall if London was your destination.

Returning from a vacation, food memories make you want to repack you bags, kick up your heels and set off again.

The Golden Arches have no lure at the best of times — and least of all while you’re traveling.

If it was a business trip, you’ve made it your business to discover an exciting restaurant and spent some downtime indulging in the culinary pleasures of the place.

If you were in South Africa, you ate bunny chow and Portuguese peri-peri chicken in Durban, relished Cape Malay delights in Cape Town and savored Pinotage at wineries in Paarl and Stellenbosch.

culinary travel San Francisco

The Saturday morning Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco is a must for the culinary traveler.

Your travels excite your inner chef. You return from Spain itching to invite friends for a tapas party; you get back from Munich dying to serve them sausages and beer; you drive home from Princeton-by-the-Sea on the Northern California Coast during Dungeness season ready to host a crab feed.

When travelin’ you explore the markets, browse the delis and experiment with what the locals eat.

At home you explore the markets, browse the delis and learn about other cultures through your restaurant choices and trying your hand at what they cook.

culinary travel Geyserville

Family-style eating at Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria in Geyserville, California.

Whatever it is, if it’s core to the country’s cuisine and you’ve traveled there, you’re game to try it.

Unless it totally turns your stomach — in which case you shelve it for next time.

You want to know where the food you eat was grown and how it got to your plate. When you know, you can appreciate the flavors of the journey.

You consult the library, read books and use google to inform yourself on the trademark foods and traditions of a country before you visit.

You see the merits of introducing your kids to farmers, to nutritious foods, and to exotic treats that tickle their taste buds while teaching them about cultural diversity.

You love to eat fresh and local wherever you are.

You may not be a food expert or watch the food channel but you’re curious learn, you probably subscribe to Saveur and most likely have an enviable selection to cookbooks that all give an exotic sense of place.

You care about where your coffee was grown.

You could get very excited about a vacation built around a cooking class in Europe, South Africa or Northern California wine country.

Hungry? Let the culinary adventure begin with your next meal.

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