One of the most interesting sessions at the OCTA Summit was the media panel entitled “Tastes that Tempt the Media”. This session focused on how to pitch culinary tourism stories to the media. I found this session particularly interesting because of my experience in working with the media in technology. There’s nothing like immersing yourself in a totally new industry to see things from a fresh perspective.

There were three panel members from the culinary journalism field: Adam Sachs from New York City, Steve Dolinsky from Chicago, and Randall Shirley from Vancouver. I thought they were all great, but my favourite was Randall Shirley. His stories of growing up on an Idaho potato farm and not being allowed to eat rice because it was “the competition” were hilarious.

Here were some of their recommendations for how to pitch culinary tourism stories to the media:

  • They really like meeting the people behind the food – especially when there’s a good story behind it, such as an accountant leaving the corporate world to become a farmer.
  • They particularly like to see where the food came from. If the restaurant is on the farm, or the oysters are harvested across the street, that’s a great story.
  • Think visually when pitching a story. e.g. the crushing of grapes, the bounty of tomatoes.
  • One pitch from a group is better than individuals pitching a story. Be helpful to your neighbours – you’re selling the group story. Find ways to become part of a bigger story.
  • Don’t overlook niche media, such as gay and lesbian magazines. Gay and lesbian travellers are the highest spending travelling demographic in the world – especially gay men.
  • If the journalist agrees to do a story, do your homework. What have they written before? Ask them what their goals are, what they’re interested in, how they want to spend their time.
  • Don’t give the media an experience that the average consumer can’t experience.
  • Pick your signature products. You don’t have to show them everything. Don’t send out 13 desserts – it just makes the journalist feel like an “asshole” in front of the other diners!

To wrap up the session, the journalists were asked to name their favourite culinary journeys. Here were their answers:

  • Steve Dolinsky: Bangkok
  • Randall Shirley: The beef of Argentina
  • Adam Sachs: Tokyo

And with that, I think I will go have a look at some travel sites for the Asia and South America!