Culinary journey with cultural twist
Cheri Davenport doesn't do anything by halves. Her time here is testament to that.
The New Yorker has invested in property, built a community of friends and, with Bermudian Heather Lamb, started a Hamilton food tour that has opened restaurant doors to 600 diners.
“It's about the food, yes, but also about the experience,” Ms Davenport said.
“It's about the fun tidbits and stories. The history and architecture and culture that make Bermuda unique are certainly highlighted — the story behind Gosling's and how the family ended up here; Bermuda's rum cakes and Dark ‘n' Stormies; how [postmaster William] Perot actually loved gardening and planted more than 50 varieties of fruit trees. Sharing that history with people is important.”
Her love affair with the island began 25 years ago when she visited on a cruise with her family. Her husband, Mark, brought her back by air while they were dating, staying at the Fairmont Southampton.
“On a cruise ship, you have a short window to see things,” Ms Davenport said. “I thought the place was amazing and wanted to see more. I'd never seen anything like it. I feel in a former life I was Bermudian — I love the place, the people. It's such a wonderful experience.”
In 2008, the Davenports bought their first fractional at Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort and Spa. The property had everything they sought: golf, incredible views and an easy ferry ride into Hamilton.
“Every box was checked except the beach but they have an arrangement with Elbow and Coco Reef [hotels] and there's a shuttle,” Ms Davenport said.
“Our lives back home are so chaotic; we get off the plane in Bermuda and instantly exhale. We've made a lot of friends here and many times been invited into their homes for dinner. It's really become our second home.”
A second fractional gave the Davenports the opportunity to stay for 16 weeks of the year. And then a few years ago, they stumbled across a food tour in Carmel, California.
“I'm not typically into group tours, but it was limited to a small group — just 12 people,” Ms Davenport said. “You'd have food and drink over three hours and you'd walk and learn about things and be taken to places you would not have found on your own.
“We had the best time and I said, ‘This is a great idea for a business'. The first words out of my husband's mouth were, ‘You should do it in Bermuda'.”
It seemed a perfect opportunity for Ms Davenport, who had given up her career once she became stepmother to three children.
“We were now empty nesters. It was important to me to see where the old me went.”
The problem was that as an American she could not start a business on her own. She was thrilled when Ms Lamb agreed to come on board.
The pair met after Ms Davenport offered to help the Bermuda Tourism Authority promote golf in Rochester, her home town.
“Heather works at Clarien Bank, but before that she worked with Elbow Beach,” she said. “In a matter of months I brought a group to Bermuda and she was involved. We just clicked — similar personalities and enjoyment of these types of activities.”
They launched Bermuda Food Tours in March of last year. Locals lead guided walking tours of between three and three-and-a-half hours Monday through Saturday. Each is limited to 12 people; food allergies can be accommodated. Devil's Isle, Little Venice, Ruby Murrys and Beluga Bar are among the restaurants visited on the tours, which cover roughly 1.5 miles at a leisurely pace.
Because Ms Lamb has a full-time job and three children, Ms Davenport has a “more active operational role” in the company.
Prior to its launch, she knew next to nothing about running such a business.
“I called the woman in Carmel and said how much I'd enjoyed the tour and asked what she could tell me about her business.
“She told me how food tourism was exploding around the world and referred me to a gentleman in Chicago who has a consulting business for food tour operators — he made me think of things that I would not have thought of on my own.”
While waiting to get the go-ahead in Bermuda she started one at home, Flower City Food Tours.
“It's mainly just talking to people and giving them your perspective,” she said.
• Visit bermudafoodtour.com