Travel: How to eat on the road

Never sour a deal, break bread the wrong way or reserve a bad table: our primer on business-travel eating

Never sour a deal, break bread the wrong way or reserve a bad table: our primer on business-travel eating

Breakfast meetings, working lunches and business dinners are more important to work travel than you think. Just ask Oxford psychology professor Charles Spence, author of Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating (like Freakonomics for the foodie set), which examines how we eat with our brains as much as our senses. He describes “gastrodiplomacy” to BCBusiness as “the use of food to convey a specific message to others,” a handy road-warrior skill.

For example, Spence says, research proves that sharing a meal creates less-hierarchical and more positive interactions among diners. Even better, order the same food as someone you’re trying to impress: a study shows that they’ll be more likely to trust you, solve problems and make deals.

What to order? Spence cites evidence that eating bitter foods increases hostility (no chard or Brussels sprouts) and tryptophanrich foods can increase agreeableness (yes to shrimp, tofu, salmon and turkey). Tasting something sweet can sweeten moods and negotiations, sharing a hot meal is emotionally warmer than cold food, and don’t forget the old politico trick of ordering a pint of beer to appear relatable.


Burnaby-raised Rob Feenie, Iron Chef, Cactus Club Cafe executive chef 
and cookbook author–became a foodie at 16 while first visiting Paris. He recommends its produce markets, sprawling brasseries, sidewalk cafés and most famous tourist track for eating.

“Champs-Élysées is…one of the most famous restaurant rows in the world,” Feenie says. “I’ve been to Paris 40-plus times since that first trip, and it took until 2004, when I attended a function at Fouquet’s, for me to learn this lesson.” Les Deux Magots in St-Germain, Michelin-starred Arpège and “any of chef Joël Robuchon’s places” are Paris gems that inspired him most.

But Feenie left his heart in Alsace, where he did his early training. “This is one of the most magical places,” he says. “It has both German and French influence in its food and wine. It may sound odd, but to this day, I can go to a vineyard in Alsace, smell the air and know what the wine tastes like.” His must-dine reco there: “I dream of taking my kids” to three-Michelin-star L’Auberge de l’Ill one day.

Closer to home, Feenie loves San Francisco for the influence of star chefs like Alice Waters and Thomas Keller, plus “the integration that restaurants in the city have with the amazing vineyards of Napa.” He name-checks venerable La Folie, the eponymous resto of chef Gary Danko and Quince as tables to book. In New York, where he worked earlier in his career, Feenie digs Dirty French and the modern classic Gramercy Tavern.

On his culinary bucket list? Brazil, Argentina and Tickets in Barcelona.

Drinks That Suck

“Straw,” already a five-letter word in B.C., is on global warning. Hotel groups like Fairmont, Marriott and Hilton are changing to sustainable straw alternatives, and in the U.K., slim cans of Gordon’s gin and tonic or Pimm’s and lemonade come with edible lime or strawberry straws.