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Ilbra Yacoob

Encino, California Travel Agent

A Life of Travel, Adventure, and Culinary Arts

As a travel agent who specializes in culinary and cultural travel and eco-tourism adventures, I am able to create immersive and luxurious experiences that take you to the heart and soul of a destination, from staying in a rainforest lodge on a coffee plantation in Costa Rica or Panama, to learning the traditional way to sample fresh ciders in a typical restaurant in Spain’s Basque Country.

The pure joy and excitement of eating good food is something I have embraced since my days as a plump little girl in Iran watching my mother and grandmother cook in the kitchen. Walking around the open-air bazaars with my grandparents, I was always fascinated by the different flavors, aromas, colors, and textures of food. We left Teheran when I was seven and my family lived in Germany for two years with my grandfather before coming to California. For those two years in Germany, my sister and I spent a lot of time around our friend’s barn, and when I go into the countryside, it brings back wonderful memories of that farm and the foods we ate there.

Whether by nurture or nature, a passion for culinary excellence runs in my family. My sister grew up to become an executive chef, and I had a career in gourmet food before becoming a culinary specialist travel agent. In my first job, at Whole Foods Market, I managed the wine, cheese, chocolates, and charcuterie. As I sampled foods coming in from around the world, I became increasingly curious about the places they came from.

My next job was with a specialty food/ingredients distributor, where I worked with some of the finest chefs and became one of the company’s top representatives. While working there, I came to understand the importance of sourcing the best ingredients created by the purest processes, and the close relationship between food and culture. Valrhona, the chocolate of choices for gourmet bakers, flew me to France to learn the ins and outs of chocolate. Similarly, I went to Greece to visit their olive oil producers and in Spain, and I learned about cheese-making from a shepherd/cheese-maker.

I had formed wonderful relationships with farmers and producers of foods and beverages around the world, so when my former company turned in a different direction, I decided to look for a new way to stay in that world. I loved the farmers and food producers I had been working with but was not sure how to move forward.

During that period, I took a trip through Bulgaria and Spain with my boyfriend, and it hit me that exploring regional food and drinks was how I liked to connect to people. I found my bliss being amongst locals, breaking bread, drinking local wine and eating the cheeses brought in by the neighborhood cheese maker or sipping Rakia at a country farm. I decided that I wanted to share that type of travel with others.

A friend introduced me to someone at Protravel, where I am able to utilize my relationships and passion for food, drinks, and travel as I plan trips for my clients.

I also have a great love for nature and have branched out into ecotourism adventures. As with culinary travel, ecotourism takes us to the root of who we are as people. Perhaps because of all the countries I lived in as a child, travel has always been in my heart. I love helping my clients discover and appreciate cultures around the world, and food and nature are the two most basic things that everyone around the world shares!

 

Read about my recent Africa adventure: http://e.vacation.com/rs/985-TMR-966/images/09.06.19-African%20Itinerary-Ilbra%20Yacoob.pdf?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWkdZNVpqazNORGRrT1dZdyIsInQiOiJGYk84Kzd3ZlBOUXkxdU5qbWk5am1aNUpLNG5pRlRydFNEVUNYXC9WVjE1UlhFWkFCTElOdDZ1cWdXM0Z3bzhSN2RBMFNHdlo1cGhXRmJYU0pVdXo4ME1FaEZhY25IK2doOVZmcTdBZWpBQ3RIRThnOThFaEQwZzJiQWdVNklwXC9vIn0%3D

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