"There is no sincerer love than the love of food." George Bernard Shaw
We're often asked why we travel, and the answer is simple ... to eat! So we're thrilled to be journeying south later this year with Carol Ketelson from Delectable Destinations, exploring the connection between flavour, culture and wanderlust. With this is mind, we sat down with Carol to discuss the joys of travel, business ownership and food.
What inspired you to set up Delectable Destinations?
18 years ago I worked for a company organising medical conferences. One of the first meetings I did took place in this beautiful little town called Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I fell in love with absolutely everything. I returned again and again with family and friends and decided I must share this region with everyone! I was fortunate to meet the daughter of a famous cook in the town and she definitely was the driving force behind this idea. She saw my passion and convinced me to give it go. I did and never looked back. 2018 will be DD’s 10th anniversary.
Do you have a culinary background?
No, I don't. I love to cook and my mother and grandmother were amazing cooks. My grandfather was a master pastry chef and my brother is a great cook as well. I guess it's the family genetics.
What do you love more about travel?
I absolutely love the people I meet. Year after year, I have development priceless friendships with my guests and the people I work with. From the local vintner to the villa owner, the local chefs to the warm and welcoming drivers. This is what traveling is all about for me. I never would of met all these wonderful people if not for travel.
How much can one learn about a country from its food?
I could not imagine traveling and not sampling the food. Exposing yourself to history, traditions and culture, it all revolves around food. Visiting with locals and sitting around the table, hearing their stories, it unifies us, as humans. There's so much to learn and at times it slows us down and reminds us to truly appreciate life.
What can people expect on a Delectable Destinations tour?
I always tell people, this is not a 'cookie-cutter/bus tour' but an experience where you explore a region through its culinary traditions, culture and history. I focus on a specific region with my local business partners and guests get a true taste of the area and an appreciation for slow travel. Each day is a discovery in local life, visiting with the local passionate producers, chefs, artisans, restauranteurs and knowledgeable guides and historians. One day might focus on a cooking class, the next on a wine tasting at a private vineyard, olive oil sampling or truffle hunt.
One of the main advantages of my company is the solid contact list. Because of it, incredible opportunities pop up for us – like making pizza with Franco Pepe (recognized in Italy as the world’s greatest pizzaiolo), or raking olives during the harvest before watching the first press. Of course, these spontaneous moments are usually the highlights of the trip.
The tour staples are lots of eating and unique, hands-on experiences. Aside from the food and drink, culture plays a significant role. We visit some of the more off-the-beaten-path locations, so my groups feel like they’ve had the opportunity to experience more than the average traveller.
Has the company changed much over the years?
Yes, and all in a positive direction. It began with only one destination - the Amalfi Coast - and following that, many doors opened. I now offer Tuscany, Puglia, Sicily, Andalucia, Spain, Ireland, Burgundy, France, India and new ones to come. While Italy has my heart I truly have fallen in love with Spain and plan to discover more of this wonderful country.
Has there been a particularly memorable experience on one of your trips?
There has been so many, I could probably write a book, but one of the most memorable ones was when I visited the Darjeeling region of India for the first time. We stayed on a tea plantation and when we arrived it was dark with a beautiful clear sky. I could make out flickering lights around me and realised they came from the small homes that the tea pickers lived in. Standing outside and looking around, you could not tell where the earth and sky met as the lights in the hills matched the stars above. It was like stepping into another universe. Flying out and seeing the top of Mount Everest was quite spectacular as well.
What advice do you have for someone looking to launch their own company?
Research and solid contacts. If you do both right, you will be on your way. I could not offer what I do if I did not develop the wonderful relationships with my local business partners over the years. It takes time but is well worth it.
To learn more about Delectable Destinations you can check out their website here.
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." J. R. R. Tolkien