This summer, Walthamstow-born tour guide AbdulMaalik Tailor has been leading a one-off series of Culinary Walking Tours around our borough’s diverse communities for Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture’s programme of weird and wonderful tours, Waltham Forest Tours.
With the next edition taking place this weekend in Leyton, we spoke to AbdulMaalik about how he put together the tours, what he learnt along the way, and what to expect from them.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your connection to Waltham Forest?
I'm a professionally qualified tour guide who made history as Britain's first professionally qualified Muslim tour guide.
I was raised in Walthamstow and attended school and college in the borough. Now I run a Muslim history tour of Walthamstow which brings me back to the borough regularly. The tour welcomes tourists from around the world, so promotes Waltham Forest to new audiences, and brings in new income for local eateries and businesses.
There's a secret connection to the borough too in that I used to work with the local police!
You normally specialise in history tours. Where did you start when putting together a culinary tour of the borough? How much did you have to eat?
As it’s a new topic for me I did a lot of research into existing food tours in London and around the world to see what the main attractions could be. Hands-on experience is always popular – let's be honest who wouldn't like to have a hands on cooking experience!
The first culinary tour took place in Leytonstone. When planning it I did have to taste a lot of different food in different places, sometimes one after the other. At times this was a touch too much but meant lots of walking afterwards – something I'm used to!
Are there any interesting food facts you discovered whilst curating the Culinary Tours?
Waltham Forest's strength is its diversity, which means diverse cuisines around the borough. It is sad to see that there are some cuisines which are dying out, for example Pie and Mash shops.
Separately, I've seen the absence of social media in some eateries and it makes me wonder why this is, and how much the different eateries could benefit from this form of marketing.
Next up are tours of Leyton and Chingford. What can people expect from these tours?
I hope people will take away from the experience a sense of enjoyment, from seeing and tasting what is available in each area thanks to its diversity. Sometimes we might not know of some eateries on our doorstep, or haven't even tasted a particular cuisine.
I think the hands-on experiences in each tour are very special, from home cooking to foraging – where one has a taste from the wild!
And aside from the culinary walking tours do you lead any other tours in Waltham Forest? How can people find them?
I run a private Muslim history tour of Walthamstow, which is available seven days a week, and is suitable for everyone. You can find out more at halaltourismbritain.com/Walthamstow
The Culinary Walking Tours are part of Waltham Forest Tours, a travel agency with a difference.