In the summer of 1990, Steve Jermanok left his job as a broker in Manhattan, and booked a yearlong ticket to the South Pacific.
Upon his return, he wrote his first article, “Dining with Descendants of Cannibals in Levuka, Fiji,” for The Miami Herald.
Today, Steve says he's considered one of the most prolific travel writers in America, having explored more than 90 countries and written over 1500 articles on a broad range of subjects, from food to art to adventure.
"I’ve worked as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor for Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, guest editor for The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine," Steve says. "I continue to write regularly for Global Traveler and Yankee Magazine."
Steve's latest book, "New England in a Nutshell," was published in July 2020. "I did a deep dive into the more than 700 articles I penned for The Boston Globe, Outside, Men’s Journal, and numerous other publications during the last quarter century, and distilled it down to my highlights, including six favorite lobster/clam shacks. With so much travel writing, how much of your travel centers around food?
Local food is an important component of most stories I write on a destination, whether it’s the grilled beaver I had near the Arctic Circle in Finland, ostrich steaks at a restaurant in Cape Town, or my beloved lobster rolls I recently had at Arnold’s on Cape Cod.
Before going on any trip, I do a ton of research to find the best local dining joints and food experiences. But nothing’s better than being on the ground and talking to the locals.
In Bangkok last January, I heard about a great food tour from a friend. We went to the local market with a Bangkok chef as he picked his favorite vegetables and seafood. Then we went back to his open-air kitchen to put together a memorable lunch on my wife’s birthday. Do you grow any of your own food?
My wife has a garden in the backyard and I reap the benefits, including tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, and shishito peppers. Do you ever write specifically about food?
As often as possible, especially to promote a local chef or supplier that could use the publicity. I’ve done a number of seafood stories, including deep-sea fishing for tuna off Costa Rica, fly-fishing for salmon in New Brunswick, and clamming on the coast of Nova Scotia.
Are you an advocate for local food?
It’s essential now, during this pandemic, to really support our local purveyors, whether it’s a small goat cheese maker from Vermont, or a farm on the outskirts of Boston. With so many restaurants being closed, it disrupts the food chain. We belong to Cheesemongers, where once a month, a box of North American cheeses arrive from bespoke cheesemakers. Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?
Writers are trained to use all their senses as a way to observe and heighten their story. So yes, taste and smell, if used wisely in a story, will hopefully have the reader salivating by the end of the piece.
Do you have any favorite cooking gadgets you love?
Love my Weber Grill. I can cook anything on that. Do you have any favorite food writers, chefs, or TV shows?
We tend to use Christopher Kimball’s recipes more than most. He has a real grasp of world cooking and has the unique ability to keep it simple, so even an amateur like me can impress. We’re also big fans of the TV show, Chopped, and loved Anthony Bourdain’s travels, when he was with us. Where do you turn for great food or food inspiration?
It can be as simple as the local farmer’s market, when purveyors arrive with their fresh produce. Really, what more do you need? What have you missed most during the Coronavirus pandemic?
It’s not just the dining, but the social connection I yearn for when meeting a friend or stranger at a restaurant. I realize how much I miss those connections now that COVID-19 has reared it’s ugly head.
When I think back over a lifetime of travel, I now realize those dining experiences are often the memories I cherish the most. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be at a restaurant. After buying Reblochon cheese, a baguette, and saucisson in the 6th arrondissement, my family had one of the best picnics of my life on the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Any other thoughts about being a writer who loves food?
There’s no greater thrill than walking into a local dim sum joint in Hong Kong and realizing you’re the only tourist. Get out of your comfort zone and live like a local. The rewards are lifelong memories and the best har gow you’ve ever bit into!
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