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Lori McCarthy, owner of the Cod Sounds culinary tour company in Newfoundland, spends her days in knee-high boots foraging for wild chanterelles in the damp forests and orange kelp in the low tides.
She represents the new face of food tourism promotion that emphasizes the people who make up the local food scene, and the spirit of culinary collaboration, innovation, and celebration that all visitors can experience, regardless of their budget.
The actual food itself takes a back seat to these passionate personalities talking about fertile lands springing forth natural ingredients processed with the rhythms of nature. The message is really the hyper-local destination experience, communicated by people who embrace the idea that you don’t have to be a food expert to eat well. You just have to be curious. You have to trust the land and be open to discovery.
“I think that the passion for food for me comes from being told how hard it was to put it on the table,” said McCarthy, in the video below produced by Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism. “I want to know that from hard work comes something beautiful.”
After trolling through more than 50 tourism bureau YouTube pages from Travel Oregon to Oman Tourism, we see a decided shift in food filmmaking style in 2016. Whereas culinary travel videos in the past have often included upbeat music and quick cuts through myriad culinary-themed scenes, or chatty influencers sharing endless backstory, there’s a trend among the following videos toward a slower pace and an overarching story arc.
There’s also a higher level of cinematic artistry emerging, illustrated by the efforts of Visit Scotland, Visit Great Britain, and Catalonia Tourist Board, among others.
To our surprise, destinations that we expected to provide better food tourism videos — San Francisco, Napa/Sonoma, Chicago, New York, Charleston, New Orleans, Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Lisbon, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the like — proved to be false hopes for this year.
These videos below, all posted in 2016, illustrate today’s more candid conversation around cuisine, and more importantly, how tourism bureaus are embracing local food experiences to create an emotional connection between people and place.
Canada’s Prime Minister is The Nation’s First Foodie
Imagine if America’s national destination marketing organization, Brand USA, reached out to the White House to request President Obama’s participation in a national food tourism promotion. That’s exactly what Destination Canada did when it tapped Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sit down with Korean-born celebrity chef Kristen Kish in Montreal’s Grade Manger restaurant.
There’s a bigger opportunity here for Canada, which has long suffered somewhat of an identity crisis in destination marketing due to such a wide range of travel experiences in such a large country.
Trudeau said, about visiting Canada, “Make sure that you combine a little bit of city and countryside. You can’t totally get Canada unless you play with both.” A national food campaign, much like Restaurant Australia, could provide a common conversation thread to help connect the country in a more holistic whole in the minds of international travelers.
Foraging For Newfoundland ‘Boil Ups’
By far, Canada’s maritime provinces make up the most under-leveraged culinary destination in North America. Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism let Lori McCarthy’s humility, appreciation for the environment, and her role as a mom represent the voice of the entire region.
She also makes foraging actually look fun. Her company organizes hikes into the country to collect organic ingredients in their natural state, followed by “boil ups” where the food is prepared by the sea, much like a traditional Lowcountry boil in the Carolinas.
Scotland’s Isle of Skye Scallop Scuba Divers
There is no better example of the trend toward showcasing the people who put food on the table, versus the food on the table, than this sumptuous video from Visit Scotland. Ben, the main character, and his father don scuba gear to search for young scallops in the waters off the Isle of Skye. They then transfer those scallops by hand to the shallows where there’s more nutrients and sunlight, so the scallops can grow larger and develop more layered flavors.
After a period of time, the men come back to harvest the mature oysters. Ben says he and his dad are the only people who produce seafood this way, which supports Visit Scotland’s tagline: “A Spirit of Its Own.”
World’s Best Restaurant Owners Discuss Sense Of Place in Catalonia
Joan, Josep, and Jordi Roca operate the 3-Michelin-star El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, which won San Pellegrino’s Best Restaurant in the World award in 2013 and 2015. Here, they talk surprisingly poetically in their native Catalan about their relationship with their home, and its influence on their craft.
“Like the writer Josep Pla used to say, ‘Cooking is putting landscape in a pot,'” says Joan Roca in the video. “We’ve always been seduced by this idea of eating the landscape. For the cook, the land is their identity, and it gives the possibility to tell stories through their cooking.”
Washington, D.C. Landmark Anchors Neighborhood Renewal
Ben Ali and his wife Virginia opened Ben’s Chili Bowl on Washington’s famous U Street in 1958. Destination DC produced this stark black and white video with Virginia sitting at one of her tables explaining how the neighborhood has evolved since Martin Luther King’s assassination. You will probably never see another tourism bureau food video like this, which defies any and all typical conventions in foodie storytelling.
The frankness of Virginia’s delivery, and the severity and efficiency of the video imagery, convey the gravitas of the shifts that have taken place on U Street at a micro level, and the nation as a whole from a macro perspective. The fact that the original chili recipe is world class is a given. Rather, this video makes you want to visit Ben’s Chili Bowl to experience almost six decades of history at the crossroads of civil rights in America.
Penn & Teller Reminisce About The Las Vegas Hotel Buffet
Visit Las Vegas contracted Penn & Teller for this video to promote the evolution of the Las Vegas strip into an American gastronomical capital. Julien Asseo, executive chef at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Caesars Palace, teaches the comic duo how to make an asparagus salad and roasted rack of lamb back in the kitchen, while Penn recounts the days when Las Vegas was a culinary backwater.
“When we first got here it was just shrimp buffets and a steakhouse,” says Penn. “But now it’s a center for food.” The message that Las Vegas has evolved into a food town is an old one, but this video gives it a fresh delivery with the interplay between Asseo and the celebrity performers. At the same time, Visit Las Vegas is reinforcing the idea that the strip is one of the country’s pre-eminent places for a fancy dinner and show.
Visit Britain Promotes 1900s Rail Travel in Wales
This is 100 percent travel eye candy. After watching this brief 15-second video, you will have a strong inclination to travel through Wales aboard a historic dining rail car while drinking wine and eating cheese. The production value is unparalleled to help drive home Visit Britain’s “Amazing Moments” campaign and #OMGB hashtag.
Visit Sweden Celebrates Herring & Potatoes
The sound of the earnest narrator’s voice in this Visit Sweden video speaks to the Swedish predilection for seriousness on the surface, with a touch of lightheartedness, mirth, and irreverence underneath. The Swedes relate to their national dish of herring and potatoes the same way, which is honored here with a clever marriage of vintage footage and modern imagery. Never has a video of potatoes and fish looked so delicious and lively, so seemingly basic yet complex, and so humble yet brazen. How very Swedish.
The narrator recites: “A simple dish, once classed as poor man’s food, that has been elevated to its now lofty position by famous Swedish chefs revisiting Sweden’s pantry for new taste sensations, herring is caught in the clean waters off the west coast, pickled in vinegar, flavored with spices and vegetables, and preserved.” Just add hard boiled egg, red onion, any number of cheeses, dill, salt, “and a schnapps or two.”
We debated including this Pure New Zealand video in this list because it wouldn’t be all that special without director James Cameron going on about the country’s under-appreciated wine country. Except, the scenery is spectacular, and the theme of the video is about the all-important approachability of the winemakers, like Napa Valley circa 1980, so here it is.