AromaVentures and the Spirit of Travel Cooking

Backpackers.com — Adventure, plus travel cooking, plus a healthy dose of business innovation. This is the trifecta that Jonathan Merrill — known as Chef Vagabundus — set out to capture with a Kickstarter campaign called AromaVentures.

The campaign asked,

“Do you want to travel the world & cook foreign food? Learn with us from the comfort of your kitchen as we mail you unique ingredients.”

The community answered in the overwhelming affirmative, and AromaVentures was backed for more than $9,000.

aromaventures the vagabundus project travel cooking jonathon merrill

Travel Cooking with AromaVentures and The Vagabundus Project

In short, AromaVentures is a multimedia travel cooking experience that, at its most innovative, allows participating members to not only see the complex recipes of a traveling chef, but to receive the key ingredients for those recipes from the chef himself, while he travels.

The Vagabundus Project is the overarching business identity for Merrill, and AromaVentures is the chief project currently underway. The project consists of three main parts: videos about each unique destination they visit, journal entries about the process, and recipes and key ingredients for individual dishes. The last part of this is paid — interested parties can subscribe to a full “season” or individual “episodes” of AromaVentures, and receive the custom recipes and ingredients.

In time we will interview Merrill and company about the project in full, but for now we wanted to alert our readers to the project and the first episode, which is out!

AromaVentures: Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico

Merrill and his team start in Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico, and provide a recipe that utilizes local chilies. We love this project for many reasons, but a standout feature is the combination of cultural, historical, and culinary knowledge shown in the videos. In the first episode you’ll learn a good deal about Oaxaca in general, and slowly it will turn to food and the master-works of Merrill.

Due to popularity (and a rocking Kickstarter), AromaVentures has sold out of its season passes. But you can purchase individual episodes as they come out for $19.95. That includes a detailed recipe for everything covered in the video (it’s a huge number of dishes, which you should watch above), and the select ingredients that go into those dishes. Do note that you will not receive every ingredient in the recipe — just the key ingredient.

aromaventures the vagabundus project travel cooking oaxaca

In the case of Oaxaca, read what you receive below:

Featured Ingredient: Dried Chilies (Arbol & Pasilla Negro)

Recipes: Tacos al Pastor, Enchilada Sauce, Braised Chicken (for filling enchiladas or making chicken tortilla soup), Chocolate Mousse

…The ingredients being sent are non-perishable. They are dried Chilies, of two different varieties. Arbol is small and spicy. Pasilla is larger, robust and slightly smokey. These chilies will arrive in sealable bags for safe storing. The recipes that are included each use these featured dried chilies.

Each location will be different, and therefore the recipe and key ingredient won’t be known until Merrill and crew find it.

We’ll continue to post each AromaVentures video as it comes out. For now, enjoy the study of culture and cuisine as The Vagabundus Project walks us through new travel cooking adventures. And consider subscribing to an episode!

All screenshots courtesy The Vagabundus Project

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Daniel Zweier

Daniel Zweier is Editor-in-Chief of Backpackers.com. Beyond orchestrating the daily flow of Backpackers.com, Daniel writes surrealistic short fiction and novels, adventures into the backcountry and abroad, surfs, reads, drinks tea, and obsesses over gear. A lot of gear. Visit his website if you want to learn more about his authorial pursuits.