Behind The Scenes: A Chat with our Food Curator, K. Jacob
Meet the Food Curator: Jacob Holder
Good afternoon, Khun Jacob! It’s a nice sunny day and thanks a lot for your time. My first question is-
Tell us something about how the idea started. Why did you decide to operate a food tour instead of establishing a travel agency or something else?
Inspired by friends who operate similar businesses and seeing the growth of culinary tourism, I co-founded Taste of Thailand Food Tours in 2014, with a mission to provide small groups of guests an intimate window to Thai history, culture and people through some of the amazing eats we find throughout the country.
Why did you choose Thailand?
I didn’t choose Thailand, rather Thailand chose me, or us, I suppose. I’m a trailing spouse and relocated in 2013 to the land of smiles.
What are your favorite Thai foods?
I love traditional Thai foods. Traditional Thai food uses many cooking and preparatory techniques that from a Western perspective some might even consider ‘basic’ – yet these techniques, combined with unique uses of local ingredients yield extremely refined flavours that are exciting and surprise the palate. For example, curry paste ingredients are traditionally pounded by hand into a very smooth and suave texture that then fried with coconut milk has the perfect chemistry and produces an epic taste.
Specific dishes that I love are some of the Isaan staples–like a well-done green papaya salad or minced meat salad. I also love Chiang Mai’s Khao Soi.
What are the benefits and opportunities in a food tour business?
Culinary tourism is a niche market that is quickly growing. Gone are the days of cooking being relegated to grandma’s kitchen (though she still has some of the best recipes) – food is hip, cool and all walks of life are clamoring for a good food experience.
In general the public is savvier and wants to understand the origins of their food. All this combined, creates a great platform for a food tour business! This coupled with Thailand – renowned for amazing food and Bangkok, which is a sprawling food lover’s paradise – makes the perfect combination.
What are the risks?
I can’t say there are many given the boom of food and the love for Thai food, specifically. The risks associated with our business are the same with any other business in tourism and that is that the conditions for tourists to continue visiting Thailand remain optimal. We’ve been quite fortunate to operate in a time of increasing tourism in Thailand.
Tell us something about the tour guides of Taste of Thailand Food Tours. How did you recruit them? Have they heard of the food tour concept before, as this concept is quite less known?
We look for storytellers who can combine humour and charm in their narrative. It’s these stories behind Thai food that excite our customers and what sets us apart from others!
We also look for heart. It’s hard to describe what that means, but namely to say it is someone who is doing what they love. I have to say we have some of the best in the business and their dedication, service and vision is what inspires me to continue pushing to the next level. We’ve been quite fortunate in this regard.
What is the key to success to you?
We are not driven by profits. Success for us is to continue growing this self-sustaining initiative, to provide support to the local community and provide to those who contribute to the success of the project. We’ve had the honour of hosting more than 10,000 participants during our time in operation, which has not only allowed us to support local businesses, but equally permitted us to donate back to the community.
Tell us about your future plan for Taste of Thailand Food Tours.
We are hard at work on our expansion to include other experiences in Bangkok and beyond. We will continue to grow our Taste of Thailand family this year and further develop unique experiences for taste adventurers. We have launched in Chiang Mai and more cities are on the horizon. We find that each city offers an individually unique story to tell through its cuisine.