Gwen is infectious. While good food and travel form an irresistible concoction by themselves, it’s another matter altogether to take it to the level of recall value that Gwen’s bunkycooks has given to the food loving world (and specially friendly Southern US). Gwen Pratesi is recently back from the amazing Virginia food and wine festival that we covered recently. I had another opportunity to catch up with her and talk more about growing up, the love for food, travel and more.
In conversation with travel addict, food connoisseur and inspired entrepreneur of On The Roads culinary travels:
On growing up, boats on the beach and the food connection
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and lived there until I attended college in Richmond, Virginia. Two of my early interests and passions were cooking and travel and they both continue to play a large part in my life.
While I did not venture too far from home at an early age, I did begin to travel primarily with my mother (my parents were divorced). We went to London one year, visited a number of cities and and vacation destinations (like Williamsburg, Virginia) along the East Coast, and we traveled to the Caribbean several times. These trips definitely sparked a greater interest in travel and the desire to see more of the country and the world.
While I took most of my trips with my mother, my dad had a boat at the beach in New Jersey and I would travel with him there and go fishing in the ocean. I always loved spending time at the beach and still find something very peaceful and calming about being on the water to this day. My least favorite part about those trips would be when we came in and my dad would clean the fish we caught. The good news is that it taught me early in life the connection to our food and where it comes from.
On traveling as a local
We recently traveled to Friuli, Italy where we stayed in an agriturismo and were taken through Friuli by someone who has lived there for many years. He showed us the region from a unique local perspective and we visited many of the small artisan food producers, winemakers, and restaurants. It was an unforgettable experience and our favorite part of the entire trip. Visiting with someone from the region is truly the best way to see and learn about the places you visit. Nothing can replace that insider’s experience.
It’s all about the authentic stories
Travel has become a way of life for us over the past few years. We are in constant search of a story about a unique person or place. I am inspired by the desire to learn more and to write about that knowledge and share it with others. I am also inspired by seeing beautiful and intriguing new places, learning about and meeting the people of the region, and experiencing their food, wine, and other local specialties.
I always loved to travel from the early days of going to the beach with my dad or traveling further away (like to London) with my mother. I wanted to go to Paris to attend culinary school after high school, but was strongly encouraged to attend a regular college instead. That would have been a life changing experience, I am sure, but once I went to college, I was able to do some local travel in the Southern U.S. and a take a few trips to the Caribbean that sparked more of an interest and a desire to venture further from home.
I have traveled to many places in the U.S. and have lived in a number of cities. Some of my favorite places in the U.S. are Portland, Napa Valley, San Diego, Boston, New Orleans, and New York. I also love the coastal region of South Carolina and the city of Charleston. Outside the U.S. I have traveled to most of the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, England, Germany, Italy, France, Monaco, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia, Greece, and Montenegro.
The top three experiences have to be Friuli, Italy, the South of France, and Barcelona, Spain. They are all amazing destinations with incredible scenery, history, architecture, and fabulous food and wine.
Where is Gwen now?
We live in Atlanta, Georgia, but travel frequently. This is our base for our food and travel business. Our next big travel adventure was to Jefferson’s Virginia April 21-23, 2013 with our culinary tour business, On The Road culinary adventures.
“Everyone should travel as much as they can. Leave the country and see another way of life, learn about another culture, meet different people, and try the food specialties of the region. Your life will never be the same.” — Gwen Pratesi
Read more about Gwen’s adventures in Virginia (A travel, food and wine revelation in Jefferson’s, Virginia) and more about her at bunkycooks.com.