Food Tourism Is the Perfect Entrée for Greener Travel

Food, a necessity in life and a universally agreed pathway to the soul, has long been a powerful stimulant for the world traveler. With reliance on massive sharing of experiences in the past, expectations for food tourism have grown steadily in recent years.

But as Friday’s Earth Day celebration reminds us, food tourism can be an effective way to make sustainable travel easier and even more desirable. Here are some ways:

Sustainable food routes

Group adventure travel agency Intrepid Travel has operated Real Food Adventures, a range of tours focusing on culinary experience-based travel itineraries, since 2013. When it first launched, only six trips were available. Post-pandemic, a total of fifteen tours are part of the schedule, with new locations including South Korea, the Balkans, Israel and Palestine. Trip plans are characterized by intimate experiences that immerse travelers in local culture, such as indulging in vegan samosas on the bustling streets of Delhi, sourcing local, seasonal ingredients under the Tuscan sun, or enjoying a meal made house in the blue city of Morocco, Chefchaouen.

Intrepid’s climate journey dates back to 2005. They went carbon neutral in 2010, until they realized carbon neutral was not enough, and they set a 2020 emissions reduction target.

“The tourism sector is at the forefront of the climate crisis as destinations are impacted by these extreme weather events,” said Susanne Etti, head of global environmental impact at Intrepid. “We have a clear warning from the scientific community. By setting this emissions reduction target, we now have a clear path to decarbonize our offices, but also our travels: transport, accommodation and experiences. »

Plant-based meals are generally said to have ten to fifteen times less impact than animal products, and the latest report on climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change describes plant-based diets as a major opportunity to mitigate and adapt to climate change, Etti said.

Intrepid also offers Vegan Real Adventures – travel plans that don’t just focus on vegan food, but strive to embrace a vegan lifestyle with the most minimal global footprint possible. Every leg of the journey, such as transportation and accommodation, is considered as Intrepid works with nearby suppliers, tailoring the complete travel experience to local conditions and the personal preferences of the traveler.

Recent feedback on these culinary adventures is very encouraging to say the least. Travelers said the experience was truly life-changing for their well-being.

“Some clients bring changes home and come back and say it even impacted their career choices,” Etti said. “It’s really about experiencing a good vegetarian meal and realizing, ‘Hey, I’m not really missing anything.'”

Cultural context still matters

However, Intrepid also recognizes the importance of cultural context and that sustainability is different for everyone.

“You can’t assume that every place, every country is the same,” Etti said. “We see different levels of climate action at government level, but also in progress in energy or food supply. You need to look at local plant-based options, but always celebrate the culture and make sure you reflect the culture in a way that the customer would like to experience the country.

While Etti strives to source sustainable suppliers from Intrepid’s Melbourne headquarters, Real Food Adventures prides itself on its ability to be flexible, thanks to its on-the-ground guides. True ambassadors, they are specially trained to understand the impact of climate change on their own country and what they can do locally, so that they can also make specific suggestions to travelers when asked questions around a vegetable meal.

The Michelin Revolution

When it comes to creating monumental flaws in institutions that are backed by centuries of tradition, leaders are expected to take matters into their own hands, to lead by example. The Michelin Guide Green Star for Food Tourism and Restaurant Industry does just that.

The Michelin Green Star was introduced in 2020 as an annual award, along with its famous cousin the Red Star, to recognize restaurants that lead the way in sustainable dining experiences. These restaurants must “hold themselves accountable to both their ethical and environmental standards,” according to the Michelin site, while also striving to avoid or reduce the waste of other non-recyclable materials from their supply chain.

“The Green Star was designed to highlight role models,” said Gwendal Poullenec, international director of the Michelin Guide. “To those who influence their peers, their customers and the entire ecosystem around the restaurant, from product suppliers to recycling.”

The idea for this award was born when Michelin inspectors began to see a real desire to cook climate-friendly, both among their chefs and among their gourmets. Yet the Michelin Guide was unprepared for the huge response and waves of influence their program would make.

“Even after just a few years, we’re all really impressed with the positive impact this has had within the industry,” Poullennc said. “It was a real click, triggering revelations between restaurants. Originally, the three Michelin stars, gold, were the benchmark. Today, the Green Star is the true industry benchmark.

Like Intrepid, the Michelin team understands that sustainability is different in different communities. To the questions he receives every day from chefs around the world asking how to get the Green Star, his answer is the same: “Share your ideas with the chefs around you who have the Green Star, because there are different ways to get it. be sustainable, depending on where you are, in the context in which you operate.

Ironically, while the origin of the program began long before the pandemic, the lockdown accelerated its growth and success.

“During the Covid pandemic, chefs and their teams have had time to reflect on their own practices,” Poullennec said. “Now many of them are paying a lot more attention to local sourcing and caring for the community. We’ve seen them challenge and change their approach to sustainability without compromising on the quality of the food.

When Michelin inspectors began returning to restaurants after the green star announcement, they found chefs more committed to the cause than ever – “green” had become appealing. Leaders were changing their mindset and the way they formed their teams. Many of them, even with three Michelin stars, would be looking for a fourth green. Others are much more willing to target the green star even before the original red star based on food quality.

The chefs weren’t the only ones thinking. Diners are also paying much more attention to how they eat, which has changed the way customers perceive the restaurant experience.

As the creative mind behind the only plant-based French dining experience in London, world-renowned Michelin-starred chef Alexis Gauthier is one of many serving a new realm of diners.

His first restaurant and his second restaurant, Michelin-starred Gauthier Soho, were both classic eateries embodying the quintessence of French gastronomy – scallops, foie gras, tenderloin of beef and “all the animal cuts to which you can think of” on the menu.

In 2016, Gauthier made the decision to go vegan, and so did his restaurants. Since switching to plants, Gauthier Soho has received a new wave of customers. The influx of new diners are younger, more willing to discuss cruelty-free dining and understand conversations about sustainable eating.

“It’s an easy concept for them,” Gauthier said. “And when they find it on the plate, they’re happy to pay for it, which is really wonderful.”

Gauthier has always been transparent about his optimism around plant-based gourmet cooking in French cuisine, known for its traditionalism. Now he wants others, especially the next generation of chefs, to recognize that there is an entirely new space for creation while continuing to practice sustainably.

“It’s like discovering a new planet,” said Gauthier. “Young chefs are going to be able to express their own creativity and have so much more identity in the food they are going to prepare. This is not only good for the one who creates, but also for the one who will pay for the creativity.

Gauthier is one of many to be at the forefront of breaking traditionalist ideals in the world of food and, for many tourists who travel just to taste good food, the whole Michelin experience.