With the trend of snapping food pics growing faster than eateries can serve click-ready dishes, entrepreneur Tara Jones decided to blend the two into a food and photography tour through the Funk Zone and launched Eat This, Shoot That! in June 2012. In the two years since, she’s grown what started as a one-woman side gig into a full-blown business, with two tour guides and a public relations specialist on staff. “It’s crazy,” said Jones of starting this new business model, which got a big boost in the early days from Visit Santa Barbara, “but exciting because we’re onto something.”
A Lake County native, Jones hasn’t left Santa Barbara since she first came to town to study photography at Brooks Institute in 2001. The production company she started after school took a hit during the recession, which forced her to think outside the box. “Everyone is trying to be a photographer these days,” thought Jones, who figured why not try to teach them a skill and capitalize on our booming foodie culture.
With boosts of confidence from friends, Jones launched the food, drink, and photo tour, which takes a group of people — many tourists, but not entirely; most with iPhones, but not entirely — to eight stops for sips and bites five days a week (Wednesdays-Sundays) all year round. Along the way, Jones offers professional tips and tricks about how to make food look good on a plate and on a screen. For instance — spoiler alert! — if the food comes out, and it’s not shiny enough, sprinkle a little water on it.
The two-and-a-half-hour tour starts at Deep Sea Winery (for tastes of red and white) and stops at The Lucky Penny (for a slice of pizza), Figueroa Mountain Brewery (sampler of choice), and Cutler’s Artisan Spirits (sips of liquor), among others. The portions are small enough to whet the palate without the need to loosen your belt. As a tour guide, Jones is bubbly and fun, able to effortlessly relate to any member of a group, from one-year-olds to senior couples, and she offers tidbits of Santa Barbara history along the way, including factoids about the Chumash, the Spanish flags, Presidio, and Pearl Chase. Altogether, the tour feels leisurely without seeming slow.
It’s no wonder that more growth is on the horizon. “We may expand by spring, if not sooner,” said Jones. Eat This, Shoot That! also inspired three other companies to start Santa Barbara food tours, as well, but Jones is unfazed by the competition, promising, “We offer the most bang for your buck.”
Eat This, Shoot That! costs $79 for adults and $69 for nondrinkers, but Groupon is currently offering two tickets for $89. See eatthisshootthat.com or call (800) 656-0713.