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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Palm Beach County’s hidden culinary history is full of 'aha' moments

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She embarked on Taste History Culinary Tours to showcase a different side of the county.

Listen to the episode

Palm Beach County has a reputation for being swank: high-end boutiques in Delray Beach, fancy restaurants along Worth Avenue in West Palm.

But Lori J. Durante wanted to showcase a different side of Palm Beach County — one that featured history with an emphasis on the contributions of underrepresented groups.

So in 2004, Lori began conducting bus tours of Delray Beach, highlighting the area’s multicultural influences.

“At the conclusion of the tour, the guests would often ask, “Where can we go to eat?” Lori recalls.

So in 2011, she launched the Taste History Culinary Tours to showcase the lesser-known culinary histories of Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth, West Palm Beach and Lantana. To date, more than 10,000 people have embarked on her tours. In this episode of The Zest, Lori offers an abbreviated version of the Taste History bus tour.

“On the Taste History Tour, we feed your mind as much as we feed your stomach,” Lori says.

Guests can choose from a handful of itineraries. Among the options is Delray Beach’s Historic Fifth Avenue.

“It was the bustling Black business district during the era of legal segregation,” explains Lori, who is a Delray Beach native.

One of those businesses was Ms. Mag’s Soul Food, where Black waiters—including Lori’s father—often ate before heading to their jobs at white restaurants. Today, the building that housed Ms. Mag’s is the site of Sweet’s Sensational Cuisine & Catering, a Jamaican eatery.

Along the way, Lori explains the history of barbecue and how it’s a throughline between Sweet’s and other tour stops, such as Troy’s Barbeque in Boynton Beach and Don Ramon Cuban Restaurant in West Palm Beach.

“I wanted to create an experience that had texture,” says Lori, who has a degree in fashion marketing. Years ago, she founded the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History in Boynton Beach, “so I was already very much schooled in historical research,” she says. She used this experience to research the area’s culinary history in preparation for the Taste History Culinary Tours. Her goal is to help preserve the region’s oral history.

“I like for the tour guests to have that ‘aha’ moment,” she says. “They are definitely enlightened.”

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