Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing brief profiles about our wonderful and talented team at Turnstile Tours & Studio. Next up is our senior Food Tour Guide Brian Hoffman, who has been leading our Food Cart Tours since 2010. Brian also has an excellent food blog and ongoing video series, Eat This NY.
Brian, Where are you from originally?
South Florida, but I come from a long line of New Yorkers.
And what do you do at Turnstile?
How did you come to work at Turnstile?
I was in the midst of studying for my tour guide license and developing a video series about food when I sat down next to Cindy and Andrew at the premiere for a new beer series in Queens. They were starting a tour company, and I was in the process of becoming a tour guide. Once they launched the Food Cart Tour, it was a natural fit, and we’ve been working together ever since.
Tell us about your experience that informs the work your do at Turnstile.
My background in both performance and food allows me to be an empathetic storyteller. I love weaving the story of food vendors and their experiences in a cohesive and captivating way and marrying that with the food. I also really love sharing new food and experiences with guests. We have had many guests who’ve never tried a falafel or kati roll, and there is nothing more exciting to me than to see someone try those food revelations for the first time. It’s great bringing the guests closer to different cultures.
What is one memorable or meaningful experience you have had on a tour?
The most meaningful thing about our tours to me is the personal connections we have made with the vendors and their stories. I have created friendships with many of the food vendors, who I probably never would have connected with on such a deep level without leading tours. We used to work with one vendor, who has since retired, who would often act as my second mother. She would constantly give me lunch, worried I wasn’t eating enough (I was, believe me) and she would even give me unsolicited dating and marriage advice. We come from very different religious and cultural backgrounds, but I felt completely connected and grateful for her advice and care. I think all the tour attendees I introduced to her could see our strong connection and friendship.
What is something interesting you have learned from researching or studying for tours?
I have learned so much and continue to—it’s very hard to pick just one thing. But generally, the sheer amount of unfair regulations and hardships placed upon food vendors was enlightening. New Yorkers walk by food vendors (and usually eat from them as well) all the time, but rarely think about the human element and what it takes for those entrepreneurs to run their business in New York City.
Tell us one of your favorite spots in New York.
I love the Lower East Side neighborhood, which has so much history, of course, but also I find it fascinating how many of the modern businesses try to preserve and hold on to that history. It’s a very lively, artsy area that has been through quite a bit and is as New York as it gets. Unfortunately, it’s not the first neighborhood many visitors visit, but I think it’s one of the most important and interesting in the entire city.
Do you have a favorite book, movie, TV show, or artwork about New York?
There are so many wonderful movies about New York (Do the Right Thing, When Harry Met Sally, Birdman, Serpico, etc.) but there was a relatively recent movie called Brooklyn, that is a beautiful story about an Irish immigrant who falls in love with a young Italian man. It’s a fascinating authentic story that is so sweet and heartfelt and really brings parts of Brooklyn to life. I also love songs about New York City and listening to them as I wander the streets. Favorites include “Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon & Garfunkel and “New York, New York” by Ryan Adams.