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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Meet the Guide: Bert (Part 2)

Earlier this week, I shared a little bit of my interview with tour guide Bert. He gives the Greenwich Village Tour and the Chinatown Tour. Bert and I chatted for a while, and there's more I want to share with you. Read on for some of his favorite (weird but delicious-sounding) foods, how he got his start cooking, and a little something you may not have known about him.


Are you a savory person or a sweet person?

Both. At the same time. As much as possible. I am all about sweet, spicy, savory, everything together.

One of my favorite desserts is a scoop of vanilla ice cream with an aged Maltese syrupy balsamic vinegar and a handful of salted popcorn crunched up over the ice cream. So you have sweet, you have savory, you have salty, you have crunchy… just everything you need. That's one of my favorite things on the planet.

And in the summer, one of my favorite salads is fennel, strawberries, also with balsamic vinegar, and a little bit of prosciutto.

[Helena's note: Hungry yet?]

Bert, Todd, and Raheem checked out ABC Chinese Restaurant
from the Explore Chinatown Tour earlier this week.

You mentioned you cook all the time. Is that utilitarian thing, or are you a good cook?

I like to think I'm a good cook. I'm a terrible baker. The only two things I bake are biscuits and a pie crust, and those are my grandmother's recipes. And my grandmother and my mother are amazing cooks -- both of them. My earliest memories are in the kitchen with my grandmother cooking. But I learned really early that if I'm in the kitchen, then I don't have to be in the yard working, and I liked that. I'm from Alabama.

About a year ago, I had my grandmother write out a bunch of her recipes so I'll always have them in her handwriting. Simple little stuff like soups and church lady casserole and that kind of thing. So I do a lot of that and just kind of put my own stuff into it. All my friends know they can come over and be fed.


What's something that your tour takers might not know about you?

I want to host a cooking, travel TV show. This job is the best on-the-ground training for something like that.

I love the origin stories of anything, especially food. And it's why I love my job: because I love the city, I love the city's history, and to be able to tell the city's history through food is just the best thing ever.

I wanna have something that no one's ever done. I watch these people on TV, and it seems very much like they're reading a script, not being sincere about what they're talking about. I want it to be spontaneous, where real, true experiences can come across better.


What do you think differentiates Foods of New York Tours from other tours?

Todd and Amy are awesome. They really care about the company. Every single tour guide really wants to give a good tour, really knows their stuff, and really wants to show people a good time. That sincerity and that genuineness is so great.

The training is amazing, and every tour guide has their own thing. Some are more about the food, some are more about the history, some are quirky, some are funny -- everyone has their thing.

I think it's that desire to really show people a good time. You can be as organized as you want, you can have all the facts, but if you show up and you're on autopilot with your tour, you're not being in the moment, and I think that shows.


Bert went on to tell me about how every tour he's given during his two years as a guide has had at least one group who had taken the tour before. Every time! People take the tours over and over again. Amazing.

Which reminds me! Next week, a week from today, is the big day: Valentine's Day! If you're still scrambling for a gift, then scramble no more: get a Foods of New York Tours gift certificate.

It's a fun date for you and your Valentine. Or, you know, if you're in one of those non-committal, more-than-friends relationships, this works for you, too. What better way to say, "I think you're kinda great!" than to ask someone to spend an afternoon eating food with you? Perfect.

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