One of the best (and worst) things about the holidays is having ample time to senselessly eat ourselves into another dimension. Whether I am, or am not speaking for myself, food and good company are incomparable, and the makings of a pretty damn good business model. Or, at least that’s what I’ve learned from Oliver Mernick-Levene, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Secret Food Tours.
We met like any other people interested in food and drink might: at a soccer match in Marseille. In one hand I held am ice-cold Carlsberg beer, as Oli did. The most riveting thing that occurred included no professional jersey-wearers, but belligerently drunk men climbing fences and spitting expletives at the police.Naturally, it seemed like a good time to strike up a conversation.
I learned not only that he’s a cheeky Briton, but also that he started Secret Food Tours after the success of his pub tours –which I had the pleasure of experiencing in Paris. A couple weeks later, we talked more about how a joke with his friend resulted in him heading the biggest food tour in Europe:
3 nouns make up your company’s name. Give me 3 adjectives to describe it: “delicious. fun. filling…All of our food tours are different depending on which country you’re in. At the moment, we’re doing tours in 6 countries.”
So, how does one country vary from another? “France is more of a shopping trip to amazing places where they sell meats, chocolate, and cheese. England is more about going to markets (think Borough Market), sampling sausages, fish and chips. And of course Spain is all about finding the best paella. We build tours based on environment; we eat based on how that culture eats.”
Do you think that that is what has driven the success of these tours? “Absolutely. We combine amazing food with amazing guides who reveal local hotspots. But, ultimately, our guides are really friendly and cool and only take a maximum of 10 or 12 guests, which makes people feel like they’re exploring a city with a friend by the end of it.
All that said, this would be a sad interview without knowing where you were and what you were eating the last time you had a foodgasm: *obviously there were some giggles* “I was in Barcelona, eating paella right by the seafront in a restaurant famous for food from Salamanca.”
Learn how you can get in on Oliver’s delicious adventures, here. Happy eating!