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Author Katarina Todorovic
Katarina Todorovic Writer
Updated on Apr 29th, 2024
Fact checked by Emma Vince

Real Food Traveler 2024: Real Travels – Real Culinary Experiences!

In a world where authenticity often feels elusive, there's something undeniably powerful about connecting with a place through its flavors. Whether it's the smoky aroma of a barbecue joint in Texas or the delicate spices of a bustling street market in Bangkok, food has a remarkable ability to transport us, allowing us to experience the essence of a destination in every bite. Enter RealFoodTraveler.com, a digital haven for those who live for the thrill of culinary exploration and the joy of immersive travel experiences. At its helm is Courtney Drake-McDonough, a seasoned explorer with a passion for uncovering the stories behind the dishes we savor and the destinations we visit. Real food travelers, as Courtney describes them, are a unique breed of adventurers who understand that there's no better way to truly know a place than through its local cuisine. Join Delivery Rank as we embark on a journey through taste and tradition, guided by the visionaries at RealFoodTraveler.com who believe that every meal has a story to tell and every destination has a flavor worth savoring.

What inspired you to start RealFoodTraveler.com, and how has your initial vision evolved over time?

I wasn’t the one to start RealFoodTraveler.com, actually. It was started in 2009 by a travel writer and her travel photographer wife when they were in Italy. They were on a train, eating food they’d purchased from a local market when three college students eating fast-food got on the train and started eyeing their meal. The girls asked where they’d gotten such delicious-looking food and were surprised to know they could have easily gotten it too. That sparked the founders to begin a website that would encourage travel but, specifically, encourage people to partake of the local cuisine when there. 

I purchased RealFoodTraveler.com from them in 2018 when they retired because I really believe in the concept that, to truly know a destination, you also need to know its culinary scene which includes where to eat like a local, what ingredients are used, which methods and recipes are authentic to that region, and who the people are behind it. 

If you travel somewhere and seek out the nearest chain restaurant you’re familiar with, then RealFoodTraveler.com isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to explore the food scene of the locals, we’re a great resource.

As the Publisher and Managing Editor, what challenges have you faced in curating content that truly embodies the essence of authentic regional foods and travel experiences?

Thankfully, I haven’t had trouble curating such content because A) there are plenty of differences and similarities in food around the world so there are endless opportunities to write about it, B) a lot of destinations take pride in their unique food and drink scenes and encourage people to get to know it if they are just willing. And C) I am fortunate to have a crew of writers working with me who travel the world and embrace our philosophy so they are very eager to bring back their stories of culinary travel from around the world. And when I’m the one doing the travel, I seek out those authentic opportunities, making sure I ask the locals where to go and what to order. 

RealFoodTraveler.com emphasizes connecting with the culture and people through food. Can you share a memorable experience where food became a gateway to understanding a particular place or community?

I won’t relay just one instance only because there are so many. It happens to me and my writers all the time, because we make an effort to seek out local cuisine, that we end up connecting with the people behind that food and drink. Often, the restaurant owners, or growers, or makers (like cheesemakers or distillers), are so proud of what they, literally, bring to the table, they are happy to talk about it. And they are very thankful that someone is taking an interest in what they do, how they do it, what the history is behind it, and why they do it. It’s like what they say about at least attempting to speak the language of the people in the destination you’re visiting – they’ll appreciate that you even tried and will be more accommodating because of that. When you go somewhere and actually want to know more about their foodie scene, instead of being annoyed that they don’t serve something you’d eat at home, the locals really appreciate the effort.

I’ve had writers go to places where there is a massive language barrier. But showing the locals that you’re interested in, and enjoy eating, their food, much of which involves family recipes and long-held traditions, the differences between us fall away because we are unified by the act of feeding someone and knowing they appreciate it. It’s really very moving.

How do you approach balancing the exploration of well-known culinary destinations with uncovering hidden gems and lesser-known regional cuisines?

First, I take the advice of a travel writer whose presentation I once attended and go at least two blocks off the main, touristy paths to find restaurants that are not too overt (“glass & brass” she called them because they are trying to draw you in) and that don’t have someone outside trying to lure you in. She said those subtler places are the true local spots. Second, once there, it’s important to be willing to try something new to you. Ask for recommendations. Tell them you’d like to try something that the locals love. You will, almost always, discover something wonderful. Third, go shopping like the locals do, in their farmer’s markets and shops and buy a variety of things to try. Basically, do what the locals do. Afterall, you’re in their city, not back home in yours.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of RealFoodTraveler.com, and how do you envision it continuing to evolve in the ever-changing landscape of digital media?

Those are such good questions. First, my aspirations are to continue to build on what we’re already doing. We have new content every week, have a growing podcast, a weekly #FoodTravelChat on social media and a strong presence across Facebook, X, Instagram, Threads and Pinterest. So, I want to keep growing in all of those places. 

As for the ever-changing landscape of digital media, on the positive side, it allows us to publish and get the word out whenever we want, without the restrictions of print media deadlines. Then, when it comes to AI, while it can provide some factual information, it cannot substitute for the words and images of someone who has actually been to a destination, having their very particular, personal experiences, tasting what they do, having the conversations with locals that they do, etc. and then bringing back that information and inspiration back, reporting to our readers and podcast listeners. You could read every guidebook, watch every show and take everyone’s advice but there’s no substitute for getting out there yourself, experiencing the world in your own way, finding out that, while there are differences between us, we are all united by a passion for great food. 

If you would like to find out more about Real Food Traveler, visit https://www.realfoodtraveler.com/


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We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links.Advertising DisclosureThis is a user-oriented comparison website, and we need to cover hosting and content costs, as well as make a profit. The costs are covered from referral fees from the vendors we feature. Affiliate link compensation does not affect reviews but might affect listicle pages. On these pages, vendors are ranked based on the reviewer’s examination of the service but also taking into account feedback from users and our commercial agreements with service providers. This website tries to cover important meal, coffee and pet food delivery services but we can’t cover all of the solutions that are out there. Information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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