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Culinary Tours: First stop is Flavortown

Courtesy International Kitchen

Culinary tourism — the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences on the road — has exploded in recent years. But bank travel leaders have the dish on the themed travels: No matter the destination or the theme of the itinerary, bank travelers have pursued unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences for as long as bank groups have existed.

Long before food-themed television shows such as “Iron Chef,” “Chopped,” “Man v. Food,” “Top Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen,” bank travelers considered themselves foodies. Let’s face it: Even when group travelers have just finished catapulting on a zip line 100 feet above the jungle floor or gleefully solved their retirement worries with the discovery of a walnut-size nugget after panning for gold, their question is always the same: What’s for lunch?

So make it official, and celebrate your group’s favorite activity with an authentic food tour. This delicious and popular endeavor is now formally available with entertaining, knowledgeable and always-hungry experts who lead us through our favorite locations bite by bite.

The International Kitchen

The International Kitchen has taken groups on cooking school vacations to Italy, France and Spain since 1994, and owner Karen Herbst modestly admits she invented culinary travel and was the first to market it.

Herbst’s tours, which usually showcase Western Europe, are typically all-inclusive seven-day adventures.

“We work with top chefs and cooking instructors who ooze charisma and make sure that food always includes the freshest ingredients from the area, from mushrooms to chestnuts to bacon,” she said. “Instruction, transportation and the best of area wines are all included.”

A day on a tour is spent experiencing not only hands-on cooking instruction but also the culture. Following an afternoon with accomplished Chef Christophe on the Amalfi Coast, for example, travelers might spend time enjoying the seaside view at the four-star Relais Blu Hotel and experience the wonders of nearby Ravello, Pompeii and Capri in Italy. In Portugal, groups take in the sights of the Alentejo region while relishing their elegant accommodations at the Refúgio da Vila, also home to the Refúgio da Vila cooking school.

“One of the best things about our cooking instruction is that the chefs make sure these dishes can be re-created back home. It’s all user-friendly,” said Herbst.

Food Tours of Miami
Stephen Rosenthal, founder and CEO of Food Tours of Miami, was born and raised in the South Beach area and is extremely proud of his Art Deco beach community.

“On our three-hour walking tour on a tailored route, visitors learn about architectural, cultural and historic points of interest,” he said. “This is more than just a food tasting.”

However, food tasting is the highlight for this admitted foodie.

“We want to not only educate but make it easy for visitors and locals alike to know the best places for a variety of dishes — Asian, French, American, Mediterranean — and always gelato,” he said. “Each of the four or five different restaurants we visit offers an appetizer, and some do have alcoholic beverages.”

Rosenthal likes to keep the selected restaurants on his tour a surprise, but he did say that his guests will experience a variety of establishments, from famed venues to family-owned establishments.

“We want the public to know that we are also concerned about our community and environment. A small percentage of our fees is donated to charity, and even our tickets are made from brown paper bags.”

For those interested in a more spirited tour, Food Tours of Miami also offers a pub crawl in downtown Coral Gables.