Itching to travel to France, Italy, or Spain? But instead of the usual tourist traps, are you more interested in authentically experiencing the people, the culture, and above all else, the food? My god, the wonderful, glorious food? If so, you’re in luck.
Three enthusiastic, adventure-loving, Cleveland-area chefs regularly lead food tours in Europe—and they welcome you to join them.
“I love introducing people to a different culture and mindset,” says Bob Sferra, chef and owner of Culinary Occasions in Mayfield Heights. “The entire experience is so dynamic. It’s actually an off shoot of the whole idea of teaching people to cook.”
Carmella Fragassi, chef and owner of La Campagna in Westlake, agrees. “My customers are interested in where my family originated. I am always excited to share Orsara di Puglia, the little village where both sets of my grandparents were born. Not too many tourists make it here, but those who do, fall in love with it.”
David Gauchat, private chef and former owner of Truffles Pastry Shop in Edgewater, is just as interested in making sure his tours are highly interactive. “I want to offer my customers a fun experience. We’ll go to open-air markets together and shop for the ingredients we’ll need for that evening’s meal. They even like to help me prep.”
All three chefs consider their tours to be customized culinary adventures. Activities range from hands-on cooking classes, bread/pizza/pasta making, wine and cheese tastings, olive oil and truffle hunts, grape picking, tomato canning, and marine life demonstrations.
Side trips are just as integral to the whole experience. Visits to local restaurants, wineries, a pasta manufacturer, a ceramic shop, even an island in the middle of the Loire River in France round out the gastronomic forays.
Another facet that sets all three of these food tours apart from many others is their laid-back, off-the-beaten-path mindset. “I like to call my tour the ‘un-tour,’” explains Gauchat. “I try to keep it very ambulatory and flexible in order to accommodate everyone’s interests.”
“Sometimes I feel like a camp counselor,” admits Sferra. “I sit on the edge of my seat and wonder, ‘Are they happy? Are they comfortable?’ I just want to make sure everyone is having a good time and enjoying themselves.”
Of course, newly formed friendships are inevitable and yet another sign of a successful tour. “When they come back, my travelers are really excited to keep in touch with each other and to share stories of their trip,” says Fragassi with a smile.
So if you’re in the mood for a trip to Europe with enough culinary adventure to satisfy the foodie in you, book a tour with one of the chefs below. Heck, book a tour with all three! Your taste buds will thank you.
For more information on each food tour, contact the chefs below: