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Vancouver Foodie Tours’ Gastown gastronomic experience

Vancouver Foodie Tours is a local company that is going above and beyond to give guests a memorable three-hour culinary experience in Vancouver’s historic Gastown. 

Offering four courses, 12 tastings and great conversation, Vancouver Foodie Tours’ new Gastronomic Gastown Tour offers locals, tourists and companies the opportunity to explore the city’s most historic neighbourhood and of course, connect together over delicious food. And whether it’s tasting “Vancouver’s Best Pizza”, enjoying mouth-watering desserts or getting an education on the stunning architecture that Gastown is known for, everyone on the tour will walk away with a new appreciation for what this area has to offer.

Started in 2010 by Michelle Ng, Vancouver Foodie Tour is the #1 rated tour company in Vancouver on Trip Advisor. With three successful tours already (Guilty Pleasures Gourmet Tour, Granville Island Market Tour, World’s Best Food Truck Tour), Ng discusses what people can expect on this latest culinary offering from her company.

How did you come up with the idea of starting a food tour in Gastown?
We have been offering food tours for seven years now, and we really felt that with Gastown becoming a primary foodie destination in Vancouver, there’s no reason why a food tour wouldn’t be a good fit there. It really is the culinary epicentre in Vancouver; it’s where some of the best and most promising chefs are pushing the boundaries and experimenting a lot.

Additionally, Gastown is also the birthplace of Vancouver. When somebody joins a Vancouver Foodie Tour, they really want to learn about the city as well, and really get a sense of what the city is all about. You can’t really understand a place without understanding it’s history, so that’s another big reason why we decided to launch our Gastronomic Gastown Tour.

From a business perspective, were you sure that this would be a prime location for your next tour?
Yes, we were very confident this would work. Our other tour is called the Guilty Pleasures Gourmet Tour, a downtown gourmet restaurant experience with alcohol pairings that is much like the Gastown tour. But Gastown is such a big destination for both locals and tourists, compared to other places. The Guilty Pleasures Gourmet Tour has far exceeded our expectations, and is one of our most popular tours today. So this is a similar type of experience but filled with a lot of rich history. It’s also right in the middle of a big culinary scene—Gastown has so much potential for those reasons.

Can you describe how the Gastronomic Gastown Tour works, and the different locations guests visit?
It’s an afternoon tour that runs 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. from Wednesdays to Sundays all year long, rain or shine. At each location, we tell the story behind the food establishment, why people should care, why it’s important, and what the story is behind the owner who started up the place. We start at the Gassy Jack Statue right outside our first location, which is 6 Acres. We then learn about the history of Gastown, and give a little background on the reasons behind the tour. After 6 Acres, we go to Gaoler’s Mews in Blood Alley where we tell the story behind the place and a bit more about the community of Gastown—the people that work and live there, the challenges in the neighbourhood, and about the Downtown Eastside as well.

Our second location is Nicli Pizzeria, Vancouver’s first Neapolitan Certified Pizzeria. Then we walk over to The Capilano Tea House, operated by two Aboriginal women. Here is where we tell the story of Aboriginal people in Vancouver; how they helped shape the city, their challenges and their place in society today. Our fourth and final destination is Mosquito, a dessert and champagne bar. It’s like a “blink and miss” spot, but a wonderful oasis once you step inside. It’s also a perfect place to linger after the tour.

How did you decide on which locations to visit along the tour?
There are several factors. The most important, since we are die-hard foodies, is the quality of the food and how much we love it. It has to be delicious, unique and extremely well executed—not something you can find in other places. We’re really looking for places that exemplify Vancouver’s culinary scene, and we also want a product that can showcase the best of Vancouver in a short amount of time. For someone coming to Vancouver, these should also be the top places not to be missed. Another factor people don’t usually think about is logistics. We arrive at the same time everyday, so the restaurants need to be able to deliver consistently day after day, and it has to be able to work with their operations as well.

How is this tour a perfect opportunity for large groups and corporate organizations to connect with each other?
It’s a wine and dine experience. At the same time, it’s learning abut the city and places that you may have passed by but never been inside, so it’s a fun way to explore something new together. We get a lot of local companies booking tours for team building activities and client appreciation events. For team building, we often find that companies who book with us want to kick it up a notch and be super interactive, so we also do a fun, optional competition. The group gets split up into several teams, and we sprinkle trivia questions throughout the tour. Whichever team has the highest number of points at the end gets individual prizes.

Why do you think food is a great way to connect people together?
There’s a certain power of breaking bread together, and eating together. Food definitely brings people together, and encourages them to connect on a personal level. On this tour, there are lots of opportunities for networking with clients or getting to know your co-workers in between tasting locations. There’s really nothing more special than experiencing memorable moments together.

How do you stay inspired to do this day after day?
The passion and motivation to be honest, is from within. When you’re doing something that you love, work doesn’t feel like work, it feels like play. And then it’s not a matter of when it’s the weekend or when will I be done for the day. It becomes a completely different mindset: like when do I get the opportunity to work on this project of mine. The motivation has never really been something I have to work on. It’s a lifestyle. Being a small business owner is like being on a roller coaster ride everyday. There are lots of challenges and tough times to overcome, especially in the beginning, and as the business grows, the issues become more complex. But I’ve always just had it within me, because this is what I love to do. I really I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.