Meet Layla Ali-Ahmed
FOUNDER OF BEACH CITY FOOD TOURS
LIVES IN: Rose Park / Bluff Heights
Where did your love of food begin?
I credit my grandmother (aka Tita) for developing my palette. I’m first generation, American, of Lebanese descent. Most afterschool days were spent watching Tita roll grape leaves, blend, toast pita chips, and sauté garlic. Every step of the way, she would ask me to taste her food for “salt and lemon.” Because of that, I’m very particular about seasoning. But I would have to say my love for traveling to find the best food came from my dad. Growing up, he’d get excited to show my sister and I the best place in the city to get a croissant, or the new hole-in-the-wall taqueria he’d just discovered.
What inspired you to start a food tour company?
I was in a weird place in my career. I had originally gotten my degree in civil engineering, and it just wasn’t a good fit for me. After working in engineering for 4 years, I got a real wakeup call when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, at the age of 26. My diagnosis made me realize I didn’t want to spend my life working in a field I wasn’t passionate about. I knew I wanted to move into an industry where I could interact more with people and talk about the things I love; I just didn’t know how.
My fiancé and I had postponed our wedding so I could undergo a year of treatment. It wasn’t until our honeymoon, where we went on the 3-week trip to Europe, that the idea for Beach City Food Tours came to me. We were in Edinburgh, and only had one full day in the city. We decided to take a food tour, figuring it would be the best way to get the full experience in such a short amount of time. In the span of 3 hours, we ate at 5 restaurants, learned about the history of the city, planned out where to eat for dinner, and figured out the best whiskey shop in town. After the tour, I spent the rest of the night researching how to start my own tour in Long Beach. I launched the business in September 2016.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of the business?
When I started Beach City Food Tours, I thought my favorite part of the business would be discovering new food around the city. As time went on, it became clear to me that the most rewarding part has been the people. I’ve met people from all over the world, all taking the tour for different reasons. I can tell you it never gets old when you hear a guest tell you the food is delicious, that you were the highlight of their trip, or even that they’ve lived in the city for years, and walked away learning so much more about it.
What’s your favorite part of the culinary scene in Long Beach?
I love all of the collaborations that go on behind the scenes. Although we may not have a particular cuisine that we call our own, Long Beach tends to be geared towards hyper-local and seasonal food. A lot of the restaurants source their produce from local urban farms, like Organic Harvest Gardens (Restauration, Under The Sun, Thai District, and Ellie’s…to name a few.). You also won’t find a strong sense of competition within our food community. Instead, you’ll find everyone working together to make sure the city succeeds as a whole. For example, The Pie Bar sells ice cream from the Long Beach Creamery…. the Long Beach Creamery has a flavor that incorporates an entire key-lime pie from the Pie Bar…. Romeo Chocolates helped source the chocolate used for Recreational Coffee’s chocolate ganache recipe…. Recreational Coffee buys grapefruit juice for their iced basil fruit from Rainbow Juices….and so on. So, while we don’t have a signature dish the city is known for, like Chicago deep-dish, or Philly cheesesteaks, we have our community.
How do you book a tour?
Visit beachcityfoodtours.com to book, or call (888) 279-1392.
Tours run Wed-Sun from 11AM-2PM, starting at $69.
For private events, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.