27-year-old Andrea Wintergerst was born in Kansas City to Mexican parents. Growing up in the states, she often felt “too Mexican for the US,” and eventually, after moving to Querétaro, she became “too American for Mexico.” While navigating this multicultural identity was confusing at times, Andrea considers that it constitutes an integral part of who she is today and paved the way for her professional trajectory.
While Andrea notes that her grandmother was an excellent baker and that both her parents are great cooks, her move to Mexico was what caused her passion for gastronomy to blossom. “My dad made sure we watched TV in English so we could practice, and I was always watching Food Network,” she says. “Between Alton Brown and Rachel Ray – who I think is a pioneer in bringing the concept of food tourism to the masses, even if we didn’t call it that yet -, I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up.” It also helped that her parents were always extremely supportive of whatever creation she decided to cook up in the kitchen.
In college, Andrea decided to study Tourism Management, something that made her even more interested in the culinary world. A short stint in a restaurant helped her realize that fast-paced, high-pressure kitchens weren’t for her, so she continued to seek out a way to pursue these passions for food and travel. She eventually discovered a Master’s in Food Tourism program in San Sebastián, which allowed her to see the intersection of food and tourism play out in the real world.
Andrea found out about the WFTA through her program, which featured a Masterclass with Erik Wolf, Executive Director of the Association. She would go on to join the team as an intern, and eventually move on to Project Manager, the role she currently holds. Today, Andrea masterfully works across teams and departments to ensure that everyone has everything they need to achieve their goals. “I do a little bit of everything,” she says. “It’s interesting to see all the seemingly unrelated skills and knowledge I’ve gained from working in many different areas of the industry come together in a single place.” In particular, Andrea works closely with our interns and ambassadors, as well as with Erik on several other projects, always making sure that our day-to-day operations are running smoothly.
When asked about why food and food culture are important, Andrea notes, “Food is one of few truly universal experiences, and it is intrinsically linked to a culture’s resources, history, and identity. It is part of routines and of celebrations. It tells a story in a way that allows us to connect and understand.” She notes that food acts as a bridge on the path of getting closer to others, especially those different from us, adding that “the more we understand the food, the more we will understand the people.”
In terms of gastronomy tourism specifically, Andrea poignantly brings up the argument that traveling does not excuse you from the basic need to eat. She says, “I believe we all have an innate curiosity to try new things and food is an easy way to immerse oneself in a destination,” adding that today, “the advent of technology has greatly amplified the reach and importance of food tourism, and pictures have become social proof that you indeed experienced something.” She notes that “the ability to research beforehand makes it easier to ensure that one knows what to expect and does not miss anything from their culinary bucket list.”
A couple of fun facts about Andrea:
Andrea’s favorite food and travel experience was her first trip to Belgium, noting that this visit truly made her grow as a culinary traveler. “I wasn’t overly excited to be visiting, but the food – and everything else, really – quite literally changed my life. I’ve never snubbed a destination or its food ever since,” she reflects.
Thanks to Andrea’s roommate, her (current) favorite dish is Slovakian Zemiakové Placky, though she’s quick to add that Chilaquiles Verdes will forever have a special place in her heart. Her favorite drink is Txakoli, a sparkling white wine from Basque Country.
Osaka is next on Andrea’s bucket list in terms of culinary destinations, as she holds a passion for both Japanese cuisine and street food, making the city a “logical choice.”
When it comes to the future of food and beverage travel, Andrea hopes that the industry as a whole will adopt a return to what’s local. “We’ve been collectively saying this for years, but the events of the past few years have actually forced us into it.” And Andrea isn’t just referring to sourcing products and experiences from a local provider, but experiences that take place in the locality. “Technology keeps making it easier to access global products and experiences from the comfort of home, so where we used to have international snack boxes delivered to our doorstep, we’ll likely see experiences like virtually-led cheese and wine tastings become more and more common.”
Finally, when asked to share a food-related fun fact about her heritage, Andrea notes that the only right way to eat a taco is by tilting your head. And quesadillas always have cheese, no matter what the people from Mexico City say.
Thank you for all you do, Andrea! We’re lucky to have you.