How we're experimenting with virtual cooking classes and online foodie experiences -- and why!
At the end of January, I packed my suitcase with a mix of emotions. I was about to spend two nights away from my babies-- for the first time. It was the Devour Tours annual summit and it was also my first time back to work in nearly six months. I was definitely ready, but also anxious, nervous, and emotional.
Our annual summit is a way for our team to gather around our mission: to connect curious travelers to local food and people in a way that helps culture thrive.
We give presentations on lessons learned, share skills, and layout our plans for the future, and in between, we eat, drink, and take our own team building tours. It's great fun and this year we left on a huge high, in full momentum to achieve our big goals for the future.
Little did we know what was lurking around the corner.
When we realized the enormous impact of CoVid-19 and decided to keep fighting, the first thing we did was go back to our mission.
We asked ourselves - how can we keep delivering on our mission, even when our in-person food tours aren't an option?
Our Lockdown Cookbook
Our first solution was to bring our tours' tastes into kitchens around the world by creating a unique and interactive
. I talk about the book in this post -- and it's been a great success so far. People from all over the world have emailed us and tagged us with pictures of what they've been cooking! cookbook
I contributed my favorite chickpeas and spinach recipe!
Virtual Cooking Classes & Online Experiences
One of the next things we considered was "virtual tours". A virtual food tour? We were skeptical to start.
But when we started to treat it as a whole new experience -- and not as a replacement for the excellent tours we do in person -- we began to believe.
And the excitement grew.
We attended dozens of virtual tours and online experiences from other tour companies, observing what worked and what didn't.
We surveyed our former guests and fans about what types of experiences they'd be interested in booking, and why.
We opened a Devour Tours "Test Kitchen" and started running value-packed free live classes and seminars on Facebook and Instagram.
And our experiences began taking shape!
As we narrowed down what would make a distinguished Devour online experience we decided:
- The key to every experience has to be connection and interaction -- we must offer more than what you can get from a YouTube video or Netflix documentary.
- Virtual cooking classes will be led by local chefs and home cooks -- live from their own kitchens! You'll get a sense of place and a peek into their lives as well as a chance to cook along and ask questions.
- Our unique online food and drink experiences will mix history, storytelling, and practical tips for eating, drinking, pairing, serving, and tasting.
- As with our food tours, we'll run small groups (or private!) allowing for interaction with the guide/chef as well as the other guests. This means a higher price point but we think the difference in quality is well worth it and it's one of the main reasons it's so different than watching a great YouTube video.
We all realized that the thing we've missed the most these months is human connection. And when taking online experiences ourselves we were surprised at just how fun and fulfilling an hour with fellow open-minded people could be!
So what do you think? Here are some of the reasons you might join us:
- You're bored on lockdown and want a fun way to pass the time
- You'd like to learn something new or brush up on a skill
- You'd like to escape to the kitchens of Europe with a cooking class live from one of our cities
- You'd like to reconnect with your local guide from one of our tours
- You'd like to entertain the family with something new (hook up to your TV and everyone can watch/participate together-- prices are per screen)
- You want to plan a date night with your partner -- cooking Roman pasta perhaps?
- You want to meet up with friends (even if they're in other homes, cities, or countries!) over a fun activity
- You want to entertain your kids (and educate them) while they're away from the classroom
Here's what we're launching with:
- Learn to cook pasta like a Roman with an Italian pasta cooking class
- Taste wine and cheese the French way and practice your cheeseboard skills
- Discover British history through 10 iconic dishes (hopefully with a pint in hand)
- Go back in time and cook a medieval Catalan recipe
- Brush up on your Portuguese as you explore the past and present of its cuisine
And if you have any feedback for us at all -- we are all ears and would really appreciate it. Navigating the new normal is not easy and we're doing our best to survive and grow! Send me an email with any thoughts. Muchas gracias!