Bleu Plate Tours offer a unique perspective on Lexington’s culinary community
Laura Mize has always been drawn to walking tours while traveling – she considers it one of the best ways to get to know a city. “I don’t care what the subject is, it’s just a good way to get acclimated and be entertained, and learn something at the same time,” she said.
When Mize started noticing an increasing number of walking tours centered on food in recent years, her interest was particularly piqued, having long felt that food is the best way to experience the culture of a community.
“I’m a foodie – I’m not a very cultured foodie, but I like to eat,” she said with a laugh.
After taking a food tour in Pasadena, Calif., a city about half the size of Lexington, the gears started turning in Mize’s head.
“I remember looking around thinking, ‘They should do this in Lexington,’” she said. “Then, I chuckled and I’m like, ‘Who’s they? It’s me, it’s you, it’s whoever.’”
After returning from the Pasadena trip, Mize found that it was more than just a passing thought – the idea of starting her own walking food tour in Lexington continued to mull around in her head. Having lived in Lexington since 2006 (and working here since the early ‘90s), she felt confident with her knowledge about the Lexington culinary scene but had been disappointed by the lack of options to experience the local food culture beyond simply going to a restaurant to eat.
“From my perspective, I thought I knew Lexington really well, but living out near Hamburg, I never came downtown, I never felt connected to downtown,” she said. “I didn’t have a reason to go, except for the food.”
Mize, who has a full-time job working as a marketing associate for a local engineering firm, started spending more and more of her free time downtown walking between her favorite restaurants, sometimes up to six to eight hours a day. She was hoping to get a better sense of how a downtown food tour might feel and how much ground could reasonably be covered in a few hours on foot, and started striking up conversations with local restaurateurs to gauge their interest in participating.
“Initially, the route I put together was way too big, so I started whittling it around,” she said. “I started to see that it really could work.”
In the summer of 2010, Bleu Plate Food Tours – Lexington’s only walking culinary tour – was born. Having started as a once-a-week event featuring scheduled tastings at a curated list of downtown eateries, Mize was overwhelmed by the local interest right out of the gate – the first tour was packed, and she had to turn people away on the second and third tours to keep the number to 16 (the maximum guest number that she had agreed upon with the featured restaurants).