When dining in Charlotte, the options are endless: From fine dining to a laidback meal at a gastropub or lounge, it can be challenging to stay on top of the culinary scene in a growing city. This is where FEAST Food Tours comes into play, offering tailored, well-curated walking tours through Uptown, NODA, Historic South End, Dilworth, and Plaza Midwood. Owner Kristi Martin and Experience Specialist Carolina Brown elaborate on how FEAST came to be.
What led you to create this unique culinary experiences for curious Charlotteans?
Kristi: After spending fifteen years in the event planning industry and getting to know some of the many talented culinary professionals here, I saw the concept in another city and knew that Charlotte had its own stories that needed to be shared.
How do you go about gathering participants, restaurants, artisans, etc?
Kristi: Now that I’ve been in Charlotte for 30 years, I have to say relationships are huge! Some relationships started from my event planning days, friends-of-friends, and organizations. I’m passionate about good entrepreneurial stories; they are a great opportunity to create a relationship.
How has the tour evolved over the years?
Kristi: I started the company with three experiences, two of which still run in an updated format. With six unique tours running, the biggest evolution has been the growth in Charlotte’s culinary community. One of our first tours provided a behind-the-scenes look at the corporate and celebrity restaurants in Uptown in 2012. I have revamped the company to feature today’s local gems.
Have you always had a passion for food? Who or what are your most impactful influences?
Kristi: Not at all. As a child I didn’t grow up in a household with a lot of home-cooked meals, which started to change as I worked with different chefs as a catering sales manager. The chef that changed me was our opening Executive Chef at the Westin Charlotte, John Shelton. His creativity in the kitchen always blew me away and inspired me.
What are you most excited about in terms of Charlotte’s growing ‘foodie’ scene?
I’m excited about Charlotte getting more recognition for our talented culinary professionals as a culinary destination. For years, it seems that we’ve been skipped over for other cities, but that is changing.
Caroline, what led you to join the FEAST team?
The stories we tell about the food we eat fascinate me, as well as the traditions and culture that we share when we gather around the table together. I wanted to combine my event planning skills with my interest in food, so FEAST was a natural fit.
What would you say differentiates FEAST from other culinary experiences in the area?
Kristi: We have a deeper dive approach to our experiences because of the relationships we’ve built over the years. In other words, it’s not just a dine-around— I love supporting the culinary professionals in our community and sharing their stories and passion with our guests.
Caroline: When planning our experiences, I always say: The food and drink have to be great, but that’s just where we start. For us, the core of any FEAST experience is that connection with the chef, owner, mixologist, whoever it is who can share their story and invite our guests to become part of our culinary community.