Names: Claire Rouger and Rosemary Kimani
Occupation: Co-founders, Authentic Food Quest
Where do you live?:
We are digital nomads, with a base in Chicago, IL where our friends receive our mail. After leaving our corporate jobs in 2015, we sold everything and left our home in Los Angeles for South America. We are currently in Thailand, on our quest for authentic food across Southeast Asia.
Claire and Rosemary are co-founders of Authentic Food Quest. In 2015, they traded in their corporate jobs to eat their way around the world. They are on a mission to inspire people to travel through authentic food. They believe that by traveling through food, people have more meaningful connections with the local people, food, and culture.
Starting out in South America, they traveled to Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Peru and spent 6 months discovering the authentic foods in the region. Now authors, they recently published their first book Authentic Food Quest Argentina: A Guide To Eat Your Way Authentically Through Argentina. (Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)
Their authentic food quest continues in Southeast Asia, where you can join them as they discover and highlight the authentic dishes of the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
Claire and Rosemary have been featured in Business Insider, Honest Cooking, and Huffington Post.
How would you describe your travel style?
Our preference is to travel slowly. We tend to stay in a particular country anywhere from 1 – 3 months. We choose to stay with locals as a way to get immersed in the local food culture. We prefer to stay in local residential neighborhoods, away from the popular tourist spots. This gives us a chance to observe the daily life and discover the local markets, food stores, and local food experiences. Our platform of choice is Airbnb. Throughout our travels, we have met many wonderful locals who have not only opened their homes to us but their hearts as well.
When researching travel destinations, how important are food/drink choices and experiences to your overall decision-making process?
We base our travel plans entirely on the local food specialties. This is actually the basis for Authentic Food Quest. Our mission is to inspire people to travel through food. And the way we do that is by traveling to 3-5 countries per continent and highlighting the local food experiences. By bringing awareness to the local and traditional foods, we encourage people to venture off the “guidebook” path and discover new tastes and flavors while forging a deeper connection to the place and people.
We travel to well-known food destinations like Argentina, Peru, Thailand, and Vietnam. As well as lesser known but emerging food destinations like Chile or Cambodia.
Culinary traveler or food explorer? Which do you identify more closely with?
We think of ourselves as Culinary Explorers. We travel for food. When we are at the destination, we explore the local specialties at the markets, small eateries, street food, all the way to upscale restaurants where chefs are reinvigorating traditional recipes.
We are explorers in the sense of being on a quest to seek out the local dishes. And we are culinary travelers because we travel for the food.
What’s in your carry-on? Any essential food or kitchen tools you won’t leave home without?
There are three essentials that we never leave home without and that we recommend to any culinary traveler. The first is our “sporks” (spoon/fork combo). Not knowing what the sanitary conditions will be, it’s always best to be prepared with your own utensils.
Secondly, using Activated Charcoal tablets when needed to keep safe. These “magical” pills prevent chemicals and unwanted material from being absorbed by your system. They have come in handy in more ways than we can count.
Our final must travel item, is our Grayl water bottles. These are light-weight water bottles that also purify drinking water in less than 15 seconds. In Southeast Asia, where the water is not potable, we use our Grayl water bottles all the time.
What’s the most unusual food you’ve eaten?
While we love sampling the foods at the destinations we visit, our lens is always “ is this dish local and authentic to the region?”. As a result, we don’t sample unusual food, just to say we’ve had an unusual dish, we eat it only because it has some cultural significance to the region.
That said, we’ve had guinea pig or cuy in Cusco, Peru, where it is an important source of protein dating back to the Inca period. We’ve enjoyed llama meat in the north of Argentina, where llamas are used domestically for transportation and also appreciated for their lean meat. In the Philippines, we tried balut, a popular street food. Eating the developing duck embryo is one experience we are not eager to have again. We recently had ants and worms in Cambodia, which are a popular source of protein.
If we handed you a ticket anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Japanese cuisine fascinates us. As lovers of sushi, sashimi, and chirashi, we would jump at the opportunity to visit the country and explore the local food scene. High on the list is visiting Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, the world’s largest fish market.
What’s the best culinary travel experience you’ve ever had?
When we were in South America, we had the opportunity to explore Chilean cuisine with Chile’s top chef, Rodolfo Guzmán. In a country that is not well-known for its culinary tradition, Guzmán stands out for cooking with indigenous Chilean ingredients. His restaurant Boragó was named #2 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 by San Pellegrino.
We spent the day with Rodolfo at his organic farm and learned about the native ingredients he uses in his cuisine. Later that evening, we dined at Boragó and had one of the most creative meals ever. The food was served using primal elements, such as cow horns or earth elements such as rocks, trees, and shrubs. We had dishes with ingredients from the Atacama desert in the north of Chile, the Andes Mountains and the freshest fish and seafood from the Pacific ocean. An amazing and incredible experience.
Any great travel tips to share?
Be open, be curious! Enjoy the food on your travels. Leave your habits and expectations behind. Open yourself up to new tastes and flavors. Eat something different, and learn something new about yourself.
Favorite Culinary Destination: France
Favorite Cuisine: Vietnamese
Favorite Restaurant: Hostellerie Chapeau Rouge, Dijon, France.
Favorite Street Food: “Thit Nuong” in Hoi An, Central Vietnam (Grilled pork on lemongrass skewers eaten wrapped in rice paper with herbs and greens and dipped in a special fish sauce)
Favorite Food Market: La Vega Central Market, Santiago, Chile
Favorite Winery: Viña Aquitania in Chile (Maipo Valley)
Favorite Brewery: Antares, Argentina
Favorite Cooking Class: La Table Khmère Cooking Class in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Favorite Food/Tasting Tour: Paris Chocolate Tour
Favorite Travel App: Trail Wallet, to keep track of our food expenses across countries and currencies