Travel writing opens doors to sights and sounds not available to the average tourist. But some of my favorite experiences have involved another sense: taste. Being a travel writer has afforded me opportunities for culinary delights that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise… and certainly not if I’d stayed at home on the couch.
One of my most precious memories is of a visit I arranged to Le Logge del Vignola, a highly-rated restaurant in the lovely Tuscan village of Montepulciano. This wasn’t merely a meal out at a fancy restaurant—it was a cooking class, Italian style (and an opportunity for me to do some writing about food).
From the moment my wife, Julie, and I stepped into his restaurant, Massimo welcomed us as if we were family. He introduced us to Scott and Kerri Hicks, another couple joining us for the cooking class. Massimo explained that Scott and Kerri were from Australia and that they were film producers. I asked them if I would recognize any of their movies. Scott replied that we may have heard of Shine with Academy Award-winner Geoffrey Rush, or No Reservations with Catherine Zeta-Jones. We chatted about the movie business for a few minutes before moving into the small kitchen for some serious cooking.
We had fun prepping and cooking each course on our menu: ossobuco, homemade pasta and tomato sauce, cheese soufflés, and a tasty tiramisu for dessert. One thing I loved about the cooking class was that both Massimo and Federico, the head chef, were so patient explaining things and answering our many questions.
We watched Massimo throw some fresh garlic cloves into the hot olive oil and smelling the flavorful aroma of the garlic sizzling in the pan. I will always remember the smells, the joyous chatter, and the warm feeling of cooking with new friends. And, of course, the taste of this delicious meal.
After the story that I wrote about the cooking class was published, I sent a copy to Massimo. He responded with a heartfelt email, thanking me for the time we had spent together.
Although we met just once for half a day, I felt a genuine attachment and friendship with Massimo. The whole process of emailing back and forth to discuss my pitch for the article laid a foundation. And we built upon that foundation with the time we spent cooking together in Massimo’s kitchen—fostering a true connection and a common respect for each other.
These are the kinds of experiences you’ll have when you’re a travel writer. I wake up each morning, excited about the research, the connections, and the story ideas that will bring me my next great adventure.
To start, it helps to follow a plan. I used the one Jennifer Stevens outlines in The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program.
The important thing is simply that you start.