Jasper and food tourism the perfect pairing

Estelle Blanchette wants the world to eat in Jasper.

For the last few years, as part of her overseas marketing work with Tourism Jasper, Estelle Blanchette would often hear about up-and-coming trends in tourism. Like wine, some of these were half corked (segway tours, anyone?), while others seemed to have a satisfying, lingering finish.

By all accounts, guided culinary tours is one such concept that has been heating up in the travel world. So when Blanchette was finally introduced to culinary tourism by way of a funky food adventure in Gastown, in downtown Vancouver, she said a light bulb went on in her brain.

“It hit me. I thought ‘Jasper needs this,’” she said.

A few dozen conversations with local chefs and restauranteurs later, and Blanchette has the components of what she hopes will be a winning recipe for a new business. Jasper Food Tours will pair great dishes with local mountain culture. As an aperitif, Blanchette will fill guests in on Jasper’s delicious historical gossip, of which there is plenty to dish, she assures you.

“It’ll be as much of a story telling tour as a food tour,” Blanchette said.

By guiding up to 12 guests on a walking tour around Jasper’s downtown, Blanchette plans to make four foodie stops where guests will experience classic cocktails, eclectic appetizers, palate-pleasing proteins and sumptuous sweets. If her experience tapping into global tourism markets has taught her anything, it’s that visitors are hungry for this type of offer.

“The UK is obsessed with food,” she said. “So is Australia. Culinary tourism in Jasper is completely untapped.”

Notwithstanding dietary issues, Jasper Food Tours’ clients will be encouraged to “trust the chef,” meaning they won’t know the menu beforehand. That’s all part of the adventure, Blanchette says.

“What’s fun about this is that you have no idea what we’re going to eat,” she said.

And even if diners do know the basic menu, they still might not have any idea what’s in store. Jasper Food Tours’ Le Poutine Tour will give Blanchette an opportunity to introduce this Quebecois speciality to folks who may have never experienced how fries, cheese curds and gravy can be a peak dining experience. Jasper’s creative Francophone community means there’s more than one way to serve a poutine, as Blanchette, a Quebec ex-pat, knows intimately.

“I’m a bit of an expert,” she laughed.

Jasper Food Tours will lean heavily on Jasper’s diversity. With more than 60 kitchens in town employing chefs, cooks and serving staff from all over the world, Blanchette is excited to expand people’s view on what Rockies dining can be.

“We’ve got eclectic, unique and globally-inspired food because we have people who have come here to work from all over the world,” she said. “We just have to market it.”

Bon appetite.


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