On a recent Saturday, I joined Tour De Food's excursion through the small town of Davidson. The one and only drive-through within the city limits is a Wells Fargo ATM — a fact that makes most foodies rejoice. Over the four-hour-long adventure, my group was treated to hearty samplings at six local restaurants in the area. At Campania Cafe & Trattoria on South Main Street, our last stop, chef/owner Vinnie DiGiorgio joked that as an Italian man, he likes to add a little pasta to his cheese.
This kind of intimate interaction is what Lisa Schnurr, the owner of Tour De Food, strives for. She says she plans to expand her walking food tour business to neighboring cities, such as Asheville. Currently, the Charlotte-based Tour De Food (www.tourdefood.net) offers tours in NoDa, Uptown, Metropolitan and, outside of Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro. After taking a month off for the holidays, Schnurr is back to introducing people to the local food scene.
Creative Loafing: How did you get into the food tour industry?
Lisa Schnurr: I have been in the service industry my entire life and love it. I took my first food tour just four years ago and had so much fun. I always take them when I travel. I looked for one in Charlotte and saw they didn't have any walking food tours at that time and couldn't believe it because the city was so full of such culinary talent. So I decided to start my own. Hence, Tour de Food was born. My passion is to get the message out to the community about the community. Eat, shop, buy local. Keep it in the family.
How has your life changed since starting the food tours?
I used to enjoy going out to different restaurants and would always like to explore the newest ones that were opening. Now, I skip any of the chain places. I try and get friends to always pick local, whether it is for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I try and get all my veggies and produce from the local farmers markets. I find myself planning menus around what is in season. I shop more locally as well, not just food but gifts for friends. It has made me aware of the struggles that small local businesses have, and I don't mind paying the little extra to keep it in the community.
What sets Tour De Food apart?
There are food tours popping up in many cities now. Anyone can throw together a few restaurants and take guests to eat. [With Tour De Food,] guests love that they get to meet the owners and chefs to find out what inspires each one. The story and passion behind the restaurants is always fun to learn. Because they are walking tours, between each stop guests learn the rich history that each area offers. The combination of meeting chefs and artisans, tasting their specialty dishes and learning history offers something for everyone. Also, from each ticket sale, we pay all the stops plus donate a portion to the Second Harvest Food Bank, a program very near and dear to our hearts.