Hi there, this is Curt Upton. I live in New York City and work as a food tour guide for Foods of NY Tours. It’s a great job that gives me the chance to combine my favorite things: storytelling, comedy, food, and New York City.
As a kid growing up in Canada, I had a large poster in my room of the Chrysler Building at dusk, with the orange blue sky reflecting off its chrome art deco peak, surrounded by all the other midtown towers. It looked like a magical city, and I dreamed of one day living there. At eighteen, I moved to London, England. My evenings were spent at the Comedy Theatre in the West End sporting a bow tie and working as an usher. Weekends, I went to museums and galleries, eager to soak up as much culture as I could. This was my education.
Eventually, I moved to northern Italy. A friend’s family owned a tennis club in the hills above Torino, and their kitchen help was going into military service; so, I took the opportunity to learn all about food. It was summertime, and northern Italians take much of it off so the town was a quiet postcard on the banks of the river, Po. The work at the restaurant was easy, but educational. There was a waitress named Lydia, Chef Paulo, and me – scrubbing pots and pans, and making simple salads. Chef Paulo taught me about the Italian cuisine and the importance of using the best quality ingredients combined into simple dishes. At the time, I had no idea that some people pay through the nose for a similar culinary education!
At the end of the summer I moved to Milano, where I taught English in the evening and went to modeling casting calls during the day. I got a lot of work wearing very large brightly colored sweaters and jumping in the air. It was a fun time, but by spring I was all jumped out, so I headed back to Vancouver, Canada to study.
I studied acting and also got into improv training at Vancouver Theatre Sports. Within a year, I was auditioning and getting paid to perform improv comedy. There was some film work (most notably, a brief but large close up in “Little Women” with Wynona Ryder) but, in general, the pickings were slim and I felt it was time to be a small fish in a big pond: New York beckoned. This decision was solidified after a six-month tour of western Canada performing a puppet show of “Gulliver’s Travels” in elementary schools. Five adults and two hundred puppets crushed into an Astro minivan with two accordions (that were played constantly) . . . let’s just say that it was a long nine months. At the end of the tour I moved to NYC. It was at this time, in deference to my father who had died far too young, that I changed my last name from my mother’s, Willington, to my father’s name, Upton.
In the Big Apple I got into stand-up comedy and have since performed at Gotham Comedy Club, The Comedy Cellar, and Caroline’s on Broadway. Before I was a food tour guide, I waited tables throughout New York. I was lucky to work in a few really good restaurants and learn a lot about food. At a classy establishment, a waiter has to know the menu in minutiae: how each item is prepared, where each ingredient comes from, and how the flavor palate comes together, and be able to create mouth-watering description with these facts. It was hard work, but very much worth it, as I learned a great deal.
Eventually, I saw food tour groups meandering through the city and figured that I was perfect for the job. Eight years later, I still love it! This website is a way to bring all of my interests together, a place where I can share recipes, stories, and laughs, while keeping in touch with all of you great folks! It’s a pleasure to share all of my passions with you from the city I still love, more than a decade later. Riding across the bridge in the morning, seeing the sun shimmering on the Chrysler Building’s pointy steel crown and the New York skyline, still gives me a thrill.