When Food Is The Journey: “Summer By Rail” 2019

By Jim Mathews | President & CEO of Rail Passengers Association

May 28, 2019

For the past three years Rail Passengers has hired a paid intern to take a fantastic journey across the country by train. It’s the kind of internship we all wish we could have had when we were early in our careers…a lot better than getting coffee or sitting behind a desk somewhere, pushing papers. And this year we think we have the best trip yet, exploring America’s best food destinations by rail!

Our inaugural year was all about bikes and National Parks, and our second year we spent touring national monuments and great engineering achievements like the St. Louis Arch. Last year our intern spent a month using mostly Amtrak to attend 19 baseball games, major league and minor league.

And this year, I’m very pleased to announce that Chef Madison Butler — she goes by “Chef Madi” — will lead a coast-to-coast culinary exploration of American food, from Maine through the American South, up to Chicago, through the desert Southwest and finishing in San Francisco, Calif.

We all know that food makes friends. And dining together, sharing a meal with two or three new friends aboard an Amtrak train, is one of the unique aspects of rail travel that makes it special. It’s more than just entertaining — although some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been aboard a train — it’s a way of bridging gaps, bringing people together. For that brief, magical moment, savoring good food and stunning views, we forget about our differences and focus instead on that human connection.

And what a wonderful guide we’ve found in Chef Madi! You can read all about her on her bio page. But, suffice to say, we are eager to hear from a professionally trained chef with a fantastic personality and a keen sense of storytelling to highlight all the ways that food and trains both tie communities together.

During her journey, Chef Madi will share the ways that our different tastes can reflect our diverse regional cultures and history and express our varied American lifestyles. Indeed, trains don’t mean the same thing to everyone, everywhere. In the northeast corridor, there are thousands of business people who make quick trips from city to city every day. Around the Great Lakes, the Amish use trains to connect their tight-knit, but far-flung rural communities in ways they otherwise couldn’t. Out west, on Amtrak’s Empire Builder route, for instance, we often see the train used for recreation to visit our national parks and other wide-open spaces while also serving as the only public transportation option for energy and construction workers.

I’m also very excited to say that, for the first time ever, we have major sponsors for the Summer by Rail 2019 tour. Viking Range, the Memphis Tourism board, the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau are all helping to bring this year’s trip to life, and we’re hoping to be able to announce soon a few more joining the fun.

Chef Madi and our team have planned a voyage that is sure to be among the most memorable and successful of any we have yet done. Check out the route she is going to take, starting June 29 in Portland, ME, and ending in San Francisco on August 18.

Be sure to check back to the blog frequently and to follow along on Instagram and Twitter. It’s more fun to follow along!

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