Dame du Jour: Barb Abbott

by Maria Isabella

Armed with a degree in biology from the University of Akron, Barb started her first career as a park naturalist. By definition, that’s someone who loves to share what they know about nature with others. Thirteen years later, Barb decided to switch gears and still share what she knows with others, but this time about food.

“I first learned about food tours when I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2010,” explains Barb. “I started researching culinary tourism and eventually opened Canton Food Tours two years later. I then opened Wooster Food Tour two years after that.” She’s been the driving force behind the huge success of both operations ever since, and is working to expand into other Northeast Ohio regions in the next few years.

“This was an opportunity for me to match my skills with my passion,” says Barb. “I love to share and educate. High-quality food is now an everyday part of my life.”

She’s done so well, in fact, that she won the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s first-ever “Entrepreneur of the Year” award after only one year in business.

When not working, Barb still finds personal pleasure in frequenting restaurants, including taking food tours in other cities when she travels. She has gone on 21 tours throughout the U.S., Bahamas, and even Canada. Her top five favorites are (in no particular order) West Palm Beach Food Tours in Florida; San Antonio Food Tours in Texas; River City Food Tours in Richmond, Virginia; Asheville Food Tours in North Carolina; and Local Montréal Food Tours in Canada.

Her local favorite spot? “Lucca in downtown Canton!” she says without missing a beat. “I always order their seasonal special.”

And when entertaining at home, Barb prefers it to be casual and leisurely, spilling outdoors, with multiple courses and small plates. Naturally, friends are always encouraged to bring dishes, too.

As an interesting side note, Barb is currently co-authoring a book entitled The Culinary History of Stark County with Kimberly Kenney, curator of the William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.

Barb first heard of Les Dames d’Escoffier from her sponsor, Maria Isabella. “I’m a new member,” she says, “but I already really value the networking.”

Learn more about Barb as she shares some fun and interesting insights about herself.

What food always reminds you of home? Crest Bakery’s maple cream sticks.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Sea urchin.

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Josh Schory, the chef from Lucca. I would serve my signature chicken and rice dish.

What is your favorite cookbook? Cookie Love by Mindy Segal.

What is your favorite food blog? Two Amused Bouches from Canton.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Mashed potatoes with a side of white bread slathered in butter.

Any favorite indulgences? Good chocolate.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Toffee bars.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without? Local honey.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Mezzaluna, garlic press, and skillet.