written by: Zanne Lamb-Hunt
Sarah’s love of historic small towns started in the one she grew up in — Sykesville, Maryland. She moved to Frederick with her family when she was about eleven and lived “about four miles outside of Downtown.
“I’ve lived here ever since, with the exception of college,” she shares. She graduated from The Smith School at the University of Maryland in College Park with a B.S. in Marketing.
“I moved back after college and started working at Footlights Dance & Theater Boutique on East Street. I grew up dancing so it was kind of a natural fit. It was a lot of fun.” Then came a job that wasn’t so much fun.
“I took a complete ‘180’ and got a job as a proposal coordinator for a government contractor. I’ll never do that again. It’s not fun. It’s not interesting.” However, she did have a fun trip to New York while employed there.
Along with her ‘then boyfriend-now husband’, they took his friends on a food tour in Greenwich Village. The neighborhood reminded her a lot of Frederick and the light went on!
“At the time, I was writing a food blog. I was really getting into cooking and writing about it.” Sarah thought, “Wow, this could be really cool. Frederick needs one of these!”
Sarah’s now the owner and CEO of Taste Frederick Food Tours. Sarah’s title as CEO has a dual meaning, however. She has declared herself to be the Chief Eating Officer. “I’m the CEO, but not the stuffy, executive kind.”
Success has led to the hiring of additional tour guides who are “super in love with Frederick because who isn’t? If you live here, you recognize how cool it is.”
Sarah and her husband reside in Downtown Frederick.
Food Tours Are A Great Introduction To New Places
Sarah points to the fact that food tours are now offered all over the world. She considers it a great opportunity to get to know about a location when traveling.
“Your tour guide is always going to be a local. So, not only is the tour going to introduce you to a lot of the city or a neighborhood but they’re going to tell you everything else you need to do while visiting.
“They live there. They enjoy it. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be giving food tours. People who give food tours are passionate people.
The Beginning of Taste Frederick Food Tours
When Sarah returned to Frederick from that serendipitous trip to New York, she Googled ‘how to start a food tour.’ She thought, “Maybe someone had written a blog post or, if I was really lucky, one of those weird ‘How to do this for Dummies’ books. I didn’t find either of those things.”
Instead, she discovered a company based out of Chicago called Food Tour Pros. Shane Kost, the entrepreneur at the helm, is the founder of highly-successful Food Planet. There was a Food Tour course available in Chicago.
“I took the course in April of 2012. By June 30th, we gave our first tours to some family and friends. Now we’re almost done with our fourth season.”
What To Expect On A Taste Frederick Food Tour
“We take people on a walking tour of Downtown Frederick. But, in between history and some of the cultural facts, we stop at different locally owned and/or operated restaurants or specialty food shops and we eat.
“We taste a specialty at each and every place and we get a little bit more of the business’s back story. We kind of introduce people to Frederick that way.”
The food tours typically last 2 1/2 – 3 hours and include two drink-tastings. “We taste some beer at Brewer’s Alley and we usually have some wine with our tasting at the Wine Kitchen.”
Other stops on the tasting tour include Pretzel & Pizza Creation, the North Market Pop Shop, Firestone’s Market and Zoe’s Chocolate Co. — “We like to give everyone a full range of the dining experiences available Downtown.”
Sarah’s Biggest Challenge While Growing Taste Frederick Food Tours
“Time. During this whole process of starting Taste Frederick Food Tours, or the majority of it, I’ve had a full-time job.
I’m very proud of how far I’ve been able to come with the limited amount of time that I’ve had.
“At the time I was starting this, I was growing a relationship with my husband. We got engaged, planned a wedding — it’s time consuming maintaining relationships.
“There are a lot of other demands on your time. Having to set those boundaries as someone who is trying to grow a business has probably been the biggest challenge for me.”
At the same time, Sarah’s passion for her business also adds to her relationships. She shares, “I can just bribe people to come out with me while I’m working.
“Sometimes, for me, working is going to the newest restaurant, tasting and sharing my opinion.” She’s quick to add, “I’m no food critic. I usually only talk about things if I like them. I’m not qualified to tell you why I don’t.
“The original blog was called Food In Frederick. That kind of got enveloped in to the Taste Frederick blog.” Sarah posts when she can with the limited time that she has.
“I do try to update it when I can. I definitely need to put a post up about my first experience at Firestone’s Raw Bar — which is excellent by the way.” It’s located between Firestone’s Culinary Tavern and Firestone’s Market.
Sarah also maintains a personal blog called ‘by sarah rae’. She notes, “It hasn’t been updated in a while but I have lots of plans for future posts. Travel, food, lifestyle sort of stuff.”
Advice Sarah Would Give Herself If She Could Go Back In Time
“It’s probably advice I still have to give myself. That is, you don’t have to do everything by yourself. People want to help. All you have to do is ask.”
She recalls when the time came when she needed some additional tour guides to free up her time to be able to grow the business and tend to other aspects of it. “Luckily, I found some really great ones. They’ve made it a little easier to give up some of that control.”
Making A Difference With Taste Frederick Food Tours
“What we do is fun and kind of frivolous. I think it comes down to how many people we’ve been able to take on this tour — people who don’t come Downtown that often or haven’t been to Frederick before — and introduce them to this little town in almost-Western Maryland.
“I don’t know that it’s necessarily making a difference but we’ve probably had close to five thousand (yes, that’s 5,000!) people take these tours in four years. Our job is kind of being an Ambassador for Frederick.” About 50% of those who have taken the food tour have come from outside of Frederick County and some from outside of the state.
Sarah’s Favorite Part Of The Tour Might Surprise You
“My favorite part of the tour doesn’t even have anything to do with food. When someone has never been to Frederick before, as part of the tour we take them down to Carroll Creek and show them the Community Bridge.
The reaction that they have to the painting — from far away, it looks like stone. They walk up and they realize it’s just this wonderful work of art. You can just kind of see their hearts warm towards the town. It’s really special!”
Sarah Shares Her Favorite App — Later
Later is an app that “helps pre-schedule instagram posts. It doesn’t actually post them for you but you put them in a schedule.
“Then you get a prompt and you just have to hit ‘yes’ and it will take you through and copy everything to Instagram for you.”
Ready to combine Downtown Frederick’s history, cultural aspects and culinary delights into one eclectic experience? Book your tickets today to secure a spot on a Taste Frederick Food Tour. It’s fun for locals and it’s a great way to introduce out-of-town guests to this great place!
Taste Frederick Food Tours
Saturdays & Sundays, 11 a.m – 2 p.m.
There is a limit of 12 people per tour. Additional tours can be added to accommodate larger groups with each starting thirty minutes apart. The tours then meet up at a pre-determined location at the end.
Private food tours for groups of six or more, Tues-Fri.
301 – 658 – 7520 (ez tix)
Contents Provided by Frederick Advice Givers Episode #078: Eric Verdi Interviews Sarah Kurtanich