Interview: Leif Pettersen and the First Food Travel Show

Leif Pettersen First Travel Food Show
Leif Pettersen in Morocco's Saharan Desert, 1993.

There are good travel stories, and then there are good travel stories well told. Leif Pettersen, the author of the new e-book, The First (Failed) Travel Food Show, is an exceptionally good storyteller and his latest book a fun and fascinating read.

Listen to our interview with Leif. You'll find the audio player at the end of this post.

About the Travel Food Show eBook

The First (Failed) Travel Food Show could be classified under travel, culture, memoir, humor and probably under history as well. The show in question was a pilot episode for a proposed TV travel show based on cuisine – and this, in 1993, predates Anthony Bourdain’s earliest endeavors by about ten years. Pettersen was in his early 20s at the time, met the would-be producer at a karaoke bar in London, and signed on to the project as videographer. Hilarity ensues as the optimistic but inexperienced team takes off for Morocco to shoot the pilot program.

First Food Travel ShowEven in this quick read, readers are treated to the sensations of Morocco. But beyond those details, TFFTFS also conveys the spontaneous splendors and unnerving vicissitudes of travel. Travelers will identify with Pettersen’s enthusiasm and his ability to say yes to the opportunity – those desirable qualities in good curious travelers. Likewise, we feel the annoying aspects of intense travel and work with others. The yin and yang of travel, you might say.

More by Leif Pettersen

It took Leif all these years, several career changes, a life-threatening illness and a pandemic to revisit and write about this episode in his life. In the meantime, he’s worked as a travel writer (Lonely Planet and many other outlets), tourism marketer, and in other assorted professions.

In addition to The First (Failed) Travel Food Show, Pettersen is the author of Backpacking with Dracula: On the Trail of Vlad the Impaler and the Vampire He Inspired and Throwing Up: Notes from 30 Years of Juggling. He’s lived in Spain, Italy and Romania, and has visited some 60 countries.

Leif Pettersen Travel writer
Leif with his infamous Dacia, in Iasi, Romania.

In this interview, Pettersen shares his insights about effective travel writing, about the impact of climate change on travel, and the inevitable changes in travel writing careers since the economic crisis of 2008, the rise of blogging and social media posts, and the gutting of print media.

TFFTFS and the other titles are available from Amazon or Leif Pettersen’s own website. For fun, see his raw travelogue from years 2003-2005 on his site, with rough notes and photos from each destination. It’s a rich look at the sorts of experiences and observations that inform top quality travel writing and is, of course, full of useful facts.

The Interview

Leif spoke to us from his home in Minneapolis (MN). Here's the audio clip. It runs 24 minutes.

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