There is something about food that is tied deeply to who we are. The smells, the tastes, the memories they hold, the bonds that have been made over a good meal and a cold beverage. The late writer and chef Anthony Bourdain may have put it best: "Food is everything we are. It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It's inseparable from those from the get-go."
This idea isn't lost on Analise Andrews.
"Food played a huge role in my childhood," she told us. "Growing up, that was how I bonded with my mother and my grandmother—being in their kitchens. So many impactful memories from my childhood revolve around these delicious recipes. I can almost smell it now."
Born and raised in Key West, Analise has taken her love of food and turned it into a career—she is the founder and president of Key West Food Tours. "After college, I did some time backpacking in Europe, and in all of the little towns you go to, they have these great walking tours," she told us. "When I got back to Key West, I started thinking about how I could do something similar over here. Initially, I wanted to do something where people could come to my Cuban grandmother's house and watch my abuela make traditional Cuban food. But after I researched it, the red tape was too much. So, Key West Food Tours was born."
Now, "world-class food scene" might not be one of the first things that leaps to mind when you think of Key West. But think again. "The food scene in Key West is massive," Analise told us, as we toured around town, sampling the many delicious delicacies this island has to offer.
"Although we're only a 7-square-mile island, we have over 300 restaurants. So competition is really fierce. And because of that, we have top-notch food. Most of it is Caribbean influenced, but there's also a lot of Cuban food (it's only 90 miles away), of course there's the fresh seafood and tropical fruits you're going to find here on the island. So it's just all around amazing."
Food is so much more than just something to eat—it's a window into the culture of a place. "My favorite part about taking people on Key West Food Tours is being able to show my island in a different light," Analise told us. "A lot of people come down here to go to the beach, hit a few places on Duval street, party hard and go home. And that's all fun—it's easy to have a good time here—but there's so much more to Key West than that. We've got a lot of deep culture. From the pirates of the 1600s and 1700s, to the artists and writers that showed up during the tourism boom of the 1920s and ‘30s, to the tourists and locals that come here today, this tiny little island sees folks from all walks of life. And in my opinion, the best way to learn about a culture is to try their food. So with Key West Food Tours, we're really trying to give people a chance to make a food memory and leave Key West with a deeper understanding of the place."
Analise enjoys more than just food, of course. And like most people in Key West, her spare time tends to revolve around the water. "When I'm not working, I love going out in the boats, whether it's to the sandbar or even just out to the reef. It's idyllic out on the water. Once I get on the water, I completely change. I find peace. And luckily, that's not hard in Key West."
Hungry? Book your own tour with Analise and sample all that Key West has to offer at keywestfoodtours.com.