The adage that one eats with the eyes first is perhaps what has driven millions to post pictures of their food on social media. Though many use the endless scroll on Instagram to scope out new dining experiences, most often social media users consume content even when they lack the appetite to follow through in real life.
Scrolling on Instagram is how I discovered Taste of Prague, a Prague-based food tour company. The social media account has over 67,000 followers to date and chronicles the dining experiences of Jan Valenta and Zuzana Daňková, the founders of the company, and their son. Those envious of the family’s seemingly glamorous lifestyle should not be fooled by their feed, as they insist they do their fair share of home-cooking.
“Instagram is like the ‘best of’ album. It’s not the whole picture”, said Valenta when I met him at La Forme café in the northwest Prague neighbourhood of Bubeneč. It was raining and windy, a day decidedly not conducive to a city tour of any kind. Valenta arrived wearing the fatigue of a sleep-deprived parent. Zuzana remained at home to look after their two-year-old son, who was in the later stages of teething.
While Instagram has been a powerful marketing tool in promoting their company to Prague residents and tourists alike, ‘Taste of Prague’ aims to offer a service grounded in human interaction. Valenta and Daňková got their inspiration on a trip in San Sebastián where they happened upon a local food tour. Though they did not end up on the tour, they decided to try the concept in Prague. Since launching in 2011, the company has grown to include five other guides that lead the tours. Neither Valenta, a former lawyer who became disenchanted with the field, nor Daňková were previously guides or involved in the culinary scene.
Valenta describes his tours as a “culture tour dressed as a food tour”. The work is seasonal: in the winter the company may give five tours a week, whereas in the high tourist season they may host three per day. Eighty percent of their tours are frequented by Americans, who “tend to have less vacation time than Europeans, so they want to maximize their time abroad”, explained Valenta. The company offers two tours: the Prague foodie tour and the traditional Czech food tour, as advertised on their website. Both tours include approximately one mile of walking, take four hours to complete and start at 2,500 Kc (100€) per participant.
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