Thirsty For Rewards: Kevin Brauch’s Secret To Travel Freedom
Travel Mediaplanet caught up with Kevin Brauch, host of The Thirsty Traveler.
Mediaplanet: What got you started in the entertainment industry? Did you ever imagine that you would be the host of your own show on the Food Network?
Kevin Brauch: Being the high school newspaper editor, a member of student council and a having a serious love of SCTV and SNL are what I believe shaped me at a young age for success in my career. I received formal training earning my BA in Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson.
My first TV job with TVO was a stroke of luck — at first I didn’t get it, but later they decided Patty needed a co-host, so I was in. I definitely always saw myself having a role in television, but not necessarily The Food Network. Selling hot dogs and popcorn at Exhibition Stadium was my first job. I was also a “pasta chef” at The Old Spaghetti Factory. I obviously love the cocktail and spirits industry, so it turned out to be a pretty great match.
MP: You essentially get to eat and drink your way around the world! What are some of your most memorable moments while filming The Thirsty Traveler?
KB: Every day I remember some special moment or experience I haven’t thought about in years. Eating an entire King Cobra in Taipei night market (blood and everything). We ate pigeon claw in France, huhu grubs in New Zealand, cui (guinea pig) in Peru. I was almost burned alive in a sugar cane brush fire in Jamaica, and almost drowned in rough water diving for Abalone in Northern California. Leading 12,000 beer-drinking revellers in Ein Prosit, a German toasting song at Oktoberfest, was a big honour. Drinking with our Russian mafia handlers until I got sick (they were real gangsters, but nice ones). Embarrassingly flying next to Sophia Lauren while wearing track pants… what was I thinking!?
MP: What are your favourite three destinations that your have visited and why?
KB: Everyone wants to know what were “the best”, but they’re all the best. Here are some great memories that made the trip special. It’s about finding your own special moment on your trip, wherever you go.
Jamaica: Cliff jumping, cold beers and wicked sunsets near Rick’s Café in Negril. Enough said.
Taiwan: I went there having no expectations, and it turned out to be one of my best experiences. Taipei in particular was great. It was ultra modern, with poor areas of course, but it all seemed harmonious because the people were happy. It was dynamic, exciting, it had a unique energy. It really caught me by surprise.
New Zealand: It was like finding a home away from home. If I were to live anywhere other than Canada, it would be here. Typically when I’m travelling, no matter how much I love it, I’m always excited to come home. But New Zealand tempted me.
MP: You consistently travel all over the world — what role do loyalty and rewards programs play in your life?
KB: You wouldn’t think they make a huge difference but when you’ve truly benefitted from what loyalty and reward programs can do for you, you realize how integral they can be to making a holiday or business trip a success. When you’re top tier status, they can make moving in and out of airports so easy. Having a loyalty progam on your side can really ease or totally erase any difficulties you’ll typically bump into when travelling. It feels luxurious — they treat me better than I would treat myself. I only use my points for more travel, because I find the give back to me in the most significant way.
“I only use my points for more travel, because I find that gives back to me in the most significant way.”
MP: When did you start participating in loyalty programs?
KB: My first one in spring of 2000, I believe. It was a very different era of travelling way back then. I remember joining at the check-in counter in Edmonton: she told me I could earn credit for all the flights I was making, which was exciting, and I was so proud when I received my first Aeroplan Card in the mail. I still have it to this day with other souvenirs from my travels.
MP: About how many miles would you say you accumulate annually?
KB: In the 15 years I’ve been travelling I’ve taken over 1,000 flights, which blows my mind. My first ever flight was a charter to the Dominican Republic when I was 18. During my ‘best’ years my accumulating miles would be between 120,000 and 150,000. In slower years it was only 35,000-40,000. It’s funny how you start craving flights when you’re not making them as often as you once did.
MP: Have your expectations of loyalty programs shifted over the years? Describe your ideal loyalty program.
KB: Ideally, my loyalty program is easy to use and solves more of the challenges associated with frequent travel than it creates. It’s accessible, broad, personal and within all of that, gives me a sense of pride (and priviledge) when travelling with that card in my pocket! If your loyalty program cannot represent you then why is it your loyalty program?
MP: As a consumer — do you feel that loyalty programs influence your decisions and spending habits?
KB: Loyalty programs definitely influence my decisions in regards to work and travel — which flights, hotel, and car I book — really anything involved in the process of moving around the planet as a global citizen will ultimately be affected by my loyalty programs.
MP: You have already accomplished so much in your career — what’s next for you?
KB: What’s next for Kevin Brauch? Expect the unexpected, but travelling, food and drink will always continue to drive me. I still haven’t been to Thailand or Zagreb, Croatia, so those are on my to do list. Some personal reinvention is in my future, and travel is always a wonderful agent for personal growth. I have a lot of ideas for television development, so hopefully you’ll see me behind the camera as much I am in front of it. I want to continue my passion for life, work and friendship... and I want to cut an album and perform on stage before my 50th birthday! CHEERS!