When I was a little kid, it did not take me too long to realize that I loved going to the local youth theater to learn acting and singing and dancing and of course, being on stage. This eventually led to a bachelor's degree in Musical Theater. I really loved theatre. I loved being backstage. I loved the smell of paint on new scenery. I loved the costumes and the excitement and the gels on the stage lights! I also loved all of the people that worked together to put on a show! My mom recalls a story of taking my brother and me to a restaurant and she was trying to get the bill. However, the waitress was not receptive to her efforts. I sensed this and dutifully stood up on the table and shouted… “WAITRESS!" As an adult, it kind of horrifies me, but also cracks me up to hear that story. Point is I’ve never exactly been shy, always have had a loud voice, and never minded being the center of attention. Well, actually, let me clarify: outside of a food tour or putting on a play, I absolutely do not like being the center of attention. I’m not sure if that makes sense but it’s true. Before most Food Tours , I get a swell of nerves in my stomach that vibrates through my spine up to my brain. This reminds me to breathe deeply and relax. What goes through my head? Every worst case scenario one could possibly dream of magnified times 100. You see, having grown up in the theatre community my imagination sometimes tends to go wild! Which make me a pretty damn good storyteller! The flipside, however, is that these somewhat lofty ideas can create ample anxiety and frustrations. On each tour, one by one, I try to meet each guest and make eye contact and say hello and learn their names and ask, "Where are you from?" Asking "Where are you from?" is interesting for me because everybody has a different answer and a different idea of what that means. Some folks even hesitate to answer. Eventually, though, by the start of the tour, I try to remember to make everybody aware where we are all from. Some tours it’s all the New York and New Jersey region. On other tours, especially with the boat cruises, folks come from as far as California and as close as Pennsylvania. When we establish our roots, we have a common ground. We are all from somewhere, and it is important to acknowledge that. Not to mention that thinking regionally about food tells us a lot about that person and can help open up conversations that can bring us together and help us learn from one another. Typically after an introduction, we get a sense of one another and I am quickly reminded that pretty much everybody gathers together to enjoy a few simple things: food, food, and food. Magically, by the second stop, we begin sharing ideas, thoughts and stories amongst the group. Now I am hooked. I feel relaxed and fully invested in the journey. I can also very easily get distracted, and spend 10 to 15 minutes delving into a juicy and delicious conversation about some sort of cuisine before remembering that we need to get to the next culinary landmark! Timing on the tours is important as well because I must remember that we all have schedules and expectations including the culinary landmarks and the guests. By the end of each tour, I’ve learned so much. When guests open up and share their ideas and stories, it is a remarkable point of education. I love learning about people. This is why I love reading biographies! People are fascinating. Also, going through this journey together helps me feel safe within a community of people I’ve just met! It’s not always easy to engage with a brand new group of people but if you trust just a little and lean into the discomfort, you may find that you end up in a better place! Being a tour guide just works for me naturally. I do truly love it. I think one of the most important things to remember is simply kindness. The more kindness we are shown, the easier life tends to be although I’m not sure if that works the other way around! Today in Nyack it is a perfect chilly day, and the sun is out and I think it would be a great day to put a roast in the oven and make some baked macaroni and cheese! So, off I go. Sending lots of warmth for a beautiful day ahead, and thank you so much for reading!
Best! Joey G & The JGNT Family