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Travel operator Cox and Kings’ new culinary tourism offering, Tour To Feast, launched in December, promises to give travellers the option of immersing themselves in different cultures through signature food. Six months down the line, Debolin Sen, head, Tour To Feast, tells Lounge about the venture. Edited excerpts:

What is special about Tour To Feast?

Food is usually seen as a peripheral part of a trip, with sightseeing taking precedence in terms of experiences. However, culinary tourism aims to make food one of the main motivations for choosing a particular destination. Our tours tie in food with other areas of interest, such as history, art and culture, and offer them to a traveller in a neat little package.

How are they structured?

Our tours are divided broadly into four themes. If you enjoy cooking, and want to learn more about a regional cuisine, you can opt for tours under the “Cook Like A Local" theme. The second theme, “Forgotten Worlds", like its name suggests, shows you cuisines and traditions that are slowly disappearing. So, you will go on heritage walks, witness dying regional art forms, and experience forgotten recipes through cooking workshops and home-dining sessions with local families. “Eat Retreat" is for those who want to switch off for a bit and detox. So, think farm-to-table meals, cooking workshops featuring all-organic produce, even yoga and meditation sessions. The last theme, “Feast On", is for those who can’t decide between the previous four. It has a mix of experiences, letting you explore a destination to its fullest.

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What kind of research goes into creating a food trail?

When we travel, we tend to rely on friends in those destinations to help us out with tips and introduce us to locals who are doing interesting things in the food space. But we realized that not everyone has these resources, or the kind of time needed to plan such a trip. While building Tour To Feast, we started by tapping into our network (acquaintances, friends and friends of friends) to supply us with these nuggets. Once we had gathered a database of people in the culinary space, we went to the various destinations and tried out the experiences, to ensure that only the best ones made it into our final itineraries.

For instance, in Goa, we found varied activities that would take travellers beyond the usual beaches and shack dining. So, our itineraries include activities like going on a tavern trail through the Latin Quarter in Panaji, sharing a meal with a local tribal family, learning how to distil your own feni, learning how to cook Goan Saraswat fare, and even a lesson in baking traditional Goan breads.

What are some of the other areas you may add to your list?

France, Spain and Italy are some of our popular culinary tours and we are already in the process of adding more international names to the list. Some of these places are Bali, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Turkey in Asia, and Wales, Greece and Portugal in Europe. Through these cuisines, we can help travellers get a holistic understanding of these places and their cultures.

In Vietnam, for instance, you get the chance to understand the intricacies of the local cuisine through a hands-on cooking class with a family in Hanoi. The day begins with a half-day exploration of a market to learn about the way locals prepare food and explore the different ingredients that make this cuisine so unique. Then, you head to the family’s home, where you get to know your hosts over a cup of tea, following which they teach you how to make a traditional Vietnamese dish or two.

Vietnam also has a vibrant street- food culture, and we take you out on a walk in Hanoi one evening to get you to explore the street food of the buzzing Old Quarter. We encourage you to explore it the way a local would: Pull up a stool at the eatery and tuck into your bowl of pho!

Meanwhile, in Hoi An, guests will get to enjoy a day out in a neighbouring village, where the community has come together to create a large organic farm. Here, guests can get involved in the farming process and interact with the villagers, and, at the end of the day, sit down with them for a delicious, simple farm-to-table meal.

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