In St. Louis, food is a love affair.
Our gooey butter cake, pizza, barbecue and beer aren’t just commodities—they’re written on the DNA of our city.
It didn’t take long for Yvena Lesperance and Jordan Atkins to take notice of St. Louisans’ fervor for flavor when they moved here after several years of long-distance dating. Accordingly, they wanted to create a way to explore the Lou’s food scene while also getting acclimated to their new home. The result? Sweet St. Louis Food Tours.
We caught up with Yvena to get a glimpse into her personal story and what Sweet St. Louis Food Tours are all about.
Before we dive into the sweet stuff, can you tell us a bit about your personal background and how you ended up in St. Louis?
I’m of Haitian descent and was born in St. Maarten. I moved to the US when I was six years old and grew up in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I went to college in Florida (go Gators!) and then moved to Atlanta to start my career. I initially moved to St. Louis from Atlanta in 2012 to be closer to my now husband Jordan. We were in a long distance relationship for several years and wanted to test out life in the same city. It was a wonderful experiment, St. Louis is great for couples!
In 2014, I moved away to Chicago for business school and then eventually found my way back to St. Louis for the second time around in 2016. I guess you can say I’m a “boomerang transplant.” I now work full-time for Accenture as a strategy consultant.
How would you describe Sweet St. Louis Food Tours to someone who has never heard of it?
Sweet St. Louis provides curated walking tours of sweet and savory restaurants in Downtown St. Louis. Our customers enjoy tastings at each spot, collectively enough to replace a meal, while also receiving an insider’s view into the history that shapes our neighborhood.
There’s nothing else quite like Sweet St. Louis. How did you come up with this idea?
It was a hard sell in the beginning to get our friends to hang out with us Downtown. We found that people often came Downtown for work and quickly retreated home, but my husband and I really enjoy living downtown and we wanted to show off our awesome neighborhood. Just like that, the food tour idea was born.
There are so many food and beverage destinations around St. Louis. How do you decide which ones to include on your tours?
It’s not enough to just have good food. We love supporting local businesses with great stories to tell. We share stories of restaurant owners who’ve immigrated to the USA, picked up cooking when they couldn’t find a specific dish, became restaurateurs as their second act in life and the list goes on! Our restaurant partners are chosen based on their great food, ability to capture the hearts of our customers and how their stories contribute to showcasing downtown St. Louis as a great place.
What do you think distinguishes the St. Louis food scene from other cities?
Over the last 10 years, I’ve lived in a lot of different places: South Florida, Atlanta, Chicago, Paris. I think what distinguishes the St. Louis food scene from other cities is its “low-keyness” and the ease you experience while dining. While reservations are definitely good practice, I love that for the most parts you seldom need a reservation to dine. What’s more, parking is hassle-free. I also love that many of my favorite restaurants seem unassuming from the outside, but when you get inside you’re wowed by the architectural details, swanky décor, inclusive vibe and high quality food. It’s like being in on a secret!
I get the feeling that Sweet St. Louis is about more than just food. What’s your underlying mission for this organization?
You’re right! The underlying mission for our company is to show off how “sweet” life can be in the Lou. We know from first-hand experience that it can be hard to integrate into a city like St. Louis. Most people have lived here all their lives and have strong roots—evident by the classic conversation starter, “where’d you go to high school”? When we first moved to St. Louis, we were unsure how we’d enjoy our lives here, but we’re now so happy to call this place home. We want to showcase to all residents, visitors and transplants our Sweet St. Louis. We do this by bringing people together over great food to inspire pride in our city!
Now for the most important question of all: What is your personal favorite restaurant in St. Louis?
There are too many fantastic restaurants in St. Louis for me to have just one favorite, but Blood & Sand always delivers an exceptional experience. Customer experience is very important to me and we always feel like we’re home while dining at Blood & Sand. We love having them walking distance from our building Downtown!
To book a Food and Drink tour with Sweet St. Louis, head over to their website. For private tours and corporate outings, drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh, and don’t forget to connect with Sweet St. Louis on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.