Julie Cavignac, who owns Destination Kitchen in New Orleans, has always had a love for people, cultures, and food. Julie’s fondest memories growing up were centered around food and family. Her family was a mix of cultures and she grew up hearing different languages and being exposed to different tastes and flavors. As she got older, she knew she wanted to share this sense of family, great food, and mix of cultures with everyone. This passion ultimately led her to start her own business: Destination Kitchen.
Research and development
When we asked Julie how she created her tour offering and how she perfected them, she had one simple answer: “R&D, baby!” She spent a lot of time talking to people and listening to their stories and through a good amount of eating, drinking, and trial and error, Jule curated amazing food experiences that not only told the history of New Oreleans, but also provided travelers with variety. She never wanted anything to be one-sided and acknowledged that she herself does not know everything. She continues to listen to people’s stories and learn about different cultures – even beyond a culture’s food.
“People don’t want to be taught, although they want to learn.”
Engendering warmth was important as she started her business. She wanted things to feel just as they did for her growing up. She wanted to focus on relaxation, having a good time, and spending time with people. In this type of atmosphere, she knows that people will enjoy their experience while also having learned something new. While eating a dish, you may learn about how it was prepared, but you may not learn about why it’s prepared that way or why these ingredients were used. There are so many stories and history that go untold and Destination Kitchen’s tours help bridge that gap by taking travelers through the local area to taste history and listen to people’s stories.
It’s a people business
If you look at the reviews of Destination Kitchen’s tours on Viator, you’ll see quickly that many tour guides are mentioned by name. Like Julie, her tour guides have to love what they do and they have to be passionate about people and food. Julie herself referred to the work she does as both a passion and an occupation, and her tour guides are the same way. Julie understands that we are memory makers.
“If somebody interviews us, they go on the tour for free. They’re not allowed to take notes. No pen, no paper, no recording, no nothing. I don’t allow it. When they’ve finished the tour, I want them to come back and tell me about their experience. What they thought, what they saw, what they liked, what they didn’t like. And there’s always a glow in somebody’s eyes when they love people.”
If someone truly loves people, she says it’s easy to train them on the finer points of being a tour guide, like how to welcome people from different cultures and how to be respectful of their customs. The feeling of acceptance and being at home while traveling is an important tenet of any Destination Kitchen experience.
Julie also asks that her tour guides educate themselves on the city from a traveler’s point of view, such as how to use the local transportation system. But she also asks that they stay up to date on happenings around New Orleans, such as restaurant specials and local events.
The key to a traveler’s heart is through their stomachs
Travelers love that it’s more than just a food tour and love the connection between the history and the food. As one traveler said in a review “Really enjoyed tour sampled gumbo, jambalaya, pralines, and a lot of history and local stories.” #CultureWithACulinaryTwist
But of course, travelers really love the food and you’ll see that reflected in reviews, such as “There were so many food choices we more than got our money’s worth” or “The food tastings were perfect, her descriptions mouthwatering, but informative.”
There’s an emphasis on both quality and quantity because she knows that’s what people want on a food tour. “I just don’t want anyone to go away hungry,” Julie says.