Feeding the senses

Tahnya Butterfield, co-founder & chief experience designer of NOSHtrekker, talks to Karen Yue about the fine art of delivering unique destination experiences through food and storytelling

Tahnya Butterfield speaking at a media event. Photo credit: Jensen Chua
Tahnya Butterfield speaking at a media event. Photo credit: Jensen Chua

What inspired the birth of NOSHtrekker?
The idea for NOSHtrekker was conceived from my own experience as a traveller. I was asking questions like “What if the souvenirs you take home from your travels are memories of time spent with local people and delicious food — instead of gifts like magnets and keychains?”

I had a strong desire to change the way travellers connect with cultures and experience a place. I talked to many people who then started referring me to others who eventually became our first Hosts.

How does NOSHtrekker select and qualify the experiences it offers?
There are many people who enjoy cooking for others but finding someone who is an excellent cook and be a docent of culture, heritage, wellness, sport or industry, while having what we call sharp “service eyes” is an absolute art.

Our Hosts are unique in that respect, and we find each other through word of mouth. Our closely-knit community and network of advocates have a really good idea of what kind of people and what types of food we are looking for, and they are always on a lookout on our behalf.

Once a Host is identified, we evaluate them on three criteria: demand, in-person evaluations and standard criteria. We consult with our travel partners to get feedback on marketability, undertake interviews and personality assessments, and run the Host experience through a proprietary process that validates and articulates if that person and experience is right for our customers. This qualifying process is something we continually refine as we learn more about our clients and our business.

NOSHtrekker is offering its experiences for corporate groups through Pacific World. Why not go at it independently? Moreover, why Pacific World?
Our business strategy is greatly influenced by the professional experience of our founding team. In our previous careers, Sarah (the co-founder) and I have worked with both startups and global corporations, developing strategies and brands. Early in the business, we decided to identify and play to our strengths and complement our offering with likeminded partners like Pacific World who have great logistical capability.

The principles on which we select partners is the same as how we select our Hosts. It starts with great people who share similar values and have a common vision. We work incredibly well with Pacific World because they understand what we are trying to achieve with our experiences – to give people an authentic, transformational experience through food and storytelling. They also know why we do what we do, and positively impacting lives rings true for them too.

At the end of the day, guests need to know they have learnt something, shifted their perspective, and (know that) their curiosity to try something different has paid off.

I love the first line in NOSHtrekker’s introduction: “NOSHtrekker is changing the way travellers collect souvenirs and memories by connecting cultures through delicious, home-cooked food, the incredible people who eat and make it, and the local stories they tell.”

Do you think what NOSHtrekker does can also change the way business event attendees connect with one another and with the destination they meet in?
Storytelling is the most impactful way to share ideas, while food is a conduit to creating conversation. Together, they have the potential to create shared memories and context for engagement that might not exist readily, particularly in a corporate setting.

It’s our goal for every guest to leave our experiences transformed in some way. This can be through the food, the Host story, or even by simply receiving warm hospitality from people of different cultures.

Your experiences are now available in Singapore and the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Where else next, and what can event planners look forward to?
We’ll be introducing new in-home dining experiences in Cairns and Darwin and venturing into Genoa, Italy, Thailand and Malaysia. We hope to deliver to event planners better experiences in the form of higher standards of service quality, stronger stories and more fabulous food.

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