Guests learn from legendary chef Nguyen Dzoan Cam Van in her outdoor kitchen. // © 2016 Access Trips
Feature image (above): Access Trips’ groups are capped at 12 clients. // © 2016 Access Trips
Fish-tagine-fan Tamar Lowell purchased Access Trips in 2010 after serving as its general manager. Under her leadership, the business has pivoted to become a boutique culinary tour operator specializing in small and private groups in exotic destinations. Lowell explains how Access Trips’ culinary experiences in Morocco, Peru, Cuba, Napa Valley, Calif., Thailand and Vietnam go far beyond the typical cooking class.
“Limiting the size of our groups to no more than 12 clients allows our guests access to both planned and serendipitous experiences that simply don’t work for larger groups, such as visiting local families, cooking in small restaurants and home-based cooking schools and exploring off-the-beaten-trail villages,” Lowell said.
Culinary Cuba – Not an Oxymoron
“Culinary tours are not just about the food and, in fact, can be run anywhere — not only in established culinary meccas. We feel strongly that Cuba is the ultimate destination to gain a thorough understanding of local life through a culinary lens. Cuba’s culinary reputation is outdated, created before the advent of the Cuban food revolution, and is largely a result of travelers eating at government-run hotels and restaurants.
Now that innovative and delicious paladares, or family-run restaurants, are booming in the private sector, there are many more dining options available. With the influx of American tourists over the past year, the Cuban food revolution is well underway, most markedly in the private sector, where an increasing number of paladares are wowing travelers with creative menus.”
BBQ in Peru and Vietnam’s Julia Child
“We take curating our itineraries a step further to include a balance of the must-sees and the special insider experiences. On our new Peru tour, the group spends the afternoon with villagers in the Sacred Valley and learns how to prepare a traditional Andean feast in an earth oven called a pachamanca — this is a Peruvian tradition similar to our barbecues in the U.S. and is different than the typical cooking experience.
On our Vietnam tour, we have a private dinner in the colonial mansion, which was the former residence of Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam in the mid-1960s. We also work with a highly beloved celebrity chef — think Vietnam’s Julia Child — who has published nearly 40 cookbooks and hosted her own television cooking show for years. We have the first cooking class on the Vietnam tour in her home, which is an intimate experience for our guests. Guests on our Morocco tour take a donkey to the market in the High Atlas Mountains, as the locals would, to buy provisions for their upcoming class.”
Experience-Oriented Agents Wanted
“Access Trips is a great fit for agents who are focusing their attention on experiential travel. Our tour products offer immersion and local interaction that are not possible on traditional bus tours, while being more accessible to a broader range of clients than physically demanding adventure tours. We are eager to work with agents across the country to develop long-lasting relationships to bring extraordinary insider travel experiences and local access to their clients.”
“Right now, we are cultivating exciting opportunities in Japan, Alaska and Iran, among others.”