Why I Quit the Catwalk to Follow My Passion for Travel and Food

| Photo Courtesy of Aiste Miseviciute

Editorial Manager

Aiste Miseviciute was in the enviable position of travelling the world and experiencing new cultures as part of a successful career as a fashion model. She began blogging about her main passion in 2007, and soon the food writing Aiste began just for fun had turned into a new business.

Culture Trip caught up with Aiste at the start of what promises to be an exciting new year full of food and travel, as well as LuxEat‘s own bespoke culinary events.

Culture Trip [CT]: Tell us about your previous career and how that introduced you to the world of travel.

Aiste Miseviciute [AM]: I was born in Lithuania, which belonged to the Soviet Union at that time. At 18 I was invited by an agency to work as a fashion model in Paris. Soon after that, I was featured on Vogue and other magazine covers and shooting with photographers such as Paolo Roversi. Moving to Paris from Lithuania, where we didn’t really have a restaurant culture at that time, was life changing for me. I clearly remember my first meal at a tw0-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris called Apicius and its dessert called “Tout caramel!” I was also one of the first food bloggers, when Instagram didn’t even exist. When I later moved to NYC, I started a food blog called “ Who said that models don’t eat?” as the common perception is that models eat nothing.

AM: Even though I am very grateful for the opportunity to travel at such an early age, and to work with incredibly talented people as well as earn my own living, I’ve always found the fashion industry a bit superficial. It’s also very subjective. No matter how good you are at what you do, your success always depends on someone else’s judgement. I fell in love with the world of gastronomy, and it was natural for me to transform my hobby and passion into work. In 2014 I was featured in a Swedish national TV documentary Foodies: The Culinary Jet Set.

Soon after I started my events with chefs from Tokyo, whose restaurants are very difficult to book if you are not a regular. My first event took place in Ibiza with sushi master Keiji Nakazawa and Wagyu chef Kentaro Nakahara. These chefs don’t call themselves chefs, but shokunin, which in Japanese means “artisan” or “craftsman”. They dedicate their whole lives to honing their craft and what they do.

From Osaka to Tokyo, explore the Land of the Rising Sun on this in-depth Rail Trip.

CT: What is the link between food and travel?

AM: Food is one of the most intimate and personal forms of giving and sharing, and, for me, is one of the best ways to learn how locals live. I usually look for traditional places who still cook in the same way as their parents or grandparents. I think the way people eat reflects society. For example, in Italy you can still find plenty of old school trattorias, where you can taste la cucina della nonna, convivial cooking done by the matriarch or a grandmother. In Mexico City, I would dive into its endless street food and taco stands, which taste-wise for me was as life changing as any of the best Michelin-starred experiences.

CT: What’s special about authentic experiences like the foodie events you’ll be launching this year?

AM: This year I am organising curated tours for a very small group of people in Spain’s Basque region, where we will be pintxos crawling in San Sebastian as well as visiting the Basque grill temple Etxebarri, where it is very difficult to get a reservation. Then we’ll deep dive into Emilia-Romagna, which is considered the epicentre of hearty Italian cooking. We will be visiting its best family-owned trattorias as well as the best artisanal producers of Parmigiano Reggiano, aceto balsamico and one of the world’s best hams, Culatello di Zibello. We will also kick off summer in Provençe in France, where a local family will be making their version of bouillabaisse in their 19th-century villa, paired with wine chosen by one of the best sommeliers in France.

You can also take a culinary expedition to Spanish foodie capitals Bilbao and San Sebastian with Culture Trip this year.

CT: What makes a good food event for you? Is it location, chef, people or all of the above?

AM: I think initially the original idea was about access to places people don’t know or can’t book that easily. For example, one of the events I’ve organised in the past was a dinner cooked by grandmothers in Bologna, or a sushi omakase experience at a historic port wine cellar in Porto. At the end of the day though, all the greatest events are made from connecting people and creating lifelong friendships. No matter where you are from or which background you have, food and wine is a common language worldwide.

CT: Tell us about some of your favourite travel experiences and places to visit?

AM: I love going to wherever the food is great! I particularly love Spain for its seafood in Galicia and Andalucia. Also Scandinavian countries for their revolutionary food culture. Of course, Japan, which brings eating culture to the whole next level, and Mexico City for the most vibrant and rich street food scene in the world.

Andalucia is popular for its seafood and paella

CT: What is the opposition to someone from the modelling industry writing and talking about food?

AM: I actually find more similarities than differences between modelling and writing about food. Whether it’s chefs or fashion designers, the creative aspect is very important in both industries. When I was a model, I was telling stories through my reflection in the camera. Now I am telling stories of chefs, bakers, farmers and artisans.

CT: We know Japan and Tokyo are particular favourites of yours. Tell us more about the food scene in the city.

AM: They say that Tokyo has as many as 160,000 restaurants, significantly more restaurants than any other city in the world. Many of them are really tiny, “hole in the wall” operations, hidden on lower ground floors or within thousands of nameless office buildings. Often these restaurants are one- or two-person operations, cooking for just a few diners at a time. Naturally, some of the very best ones are fully booked a few months – or even years – in advance. Usually, regular clients book for their next visit, which makes it impossible for someone new to book. Thankfully, eateries in Tokyo are so abundant and the quality of food is so great, that there won’t be a problem to eat well, even if you are a novice. And you don’t have to spend a fortune on sushi or tempura omakase. One of my favourite snacks is onigiri (rice triangles with various fillings) or egg sandwiches from the 7-Eleven convenience stores. They are really cheap and taste better than any egg sandwich I’ve had in Europe.

CT: Are there any places you still want to visit to explore the cuisine in person?

AM: I’d love to revisit Peru, known for its very rich food culture, which over the last century has been influenced by Japanese, Chinese, Arab, African and indigenous cultures. I have never been to the Philippines, and I would love to go to the Koks restaurant in Greenland – which is a two-Michelin-star restaurant from the Faroe islands. The restaurant has recently moved there for a two-year residence.

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

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