Travel + Food

safari illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Angama Mara Appoints New General Manager

Azei Lago, Opening Team Member of the Award-Winning Safari Lodge, Promoted to Lead the Team

Angama Mara is delighted to announce the appointment of Azei Lago as General Manager.

Following an exhaustive search that included hundreds of applications from around the world, including Kenya’s finest hospitality professionals, hoteliers and safari operators alike, the renowned property overlooking the Maasai Mara has chosen to promote from within and confirm one of its own as its new General Manager.

“I know that Azei will be an accomplished steward, and a nurturing, fair, yet uncompromising leader, committed to pushing the team to even greater heights,” says Nicky Fitzgerald, CEO. “I am so proud we are rewarding talent from what we call ‘The University of Angama’ and will now have a fully Kenyan hospitality team caring for our guests.”

“Azei was the stand-out candidate with the appropriate mix of hospitality excellence, fanaticism about guest delight, and a true leader with a history of building and empowering his teams,” says Steve Mitchell, Angama Mara’s co-founder. “He is well-loved, well-respected and embodies everything about the ‘Angama way’ and our values of respect, honesty, courage, joy and humanity.”

With an extensive career in the hospitality industry spanning three decades – including running several restaurants and hotels and teaching hospitality management – Azei (pronounced ah-Zay) has been with Angama since its pre-opening, joining as a camp manager and most recently serving as Operations Manager. He succeeds Shannon and Tyler Davis, who are returning to the U.S. after six years at Angama Mara.

“My DNA is about delighting guests through passionate service. One cannot deliver this alone, and fortunately, this already exists at Angama,” said Azei. “As a family grows, it needs familiar stewardship and leadership with common values, ensuring continuity while promoting growth of both the business and the people who work within it. Being in a position where I can continue to make a meaningful change within Angama and in our surrounding communities, is a fulfillment of my dreams.”

Beloved by both guests and staff, Azei can trace his generous and welcoming nature back to his upbringing. Raised in a modest Nairobi household that was always full of visitors, both short- and long-term, Azei credits his early home life for his career in taking care of guests.

For more information about Angama Mara, please visit their website.

ABOUT ANGAMA MARA

High above the Maasai Mara where some of the most romantic scenes from “Out of Africa” were filmed, Angama Mara comprises two separate and intimate camps, each encompassing 15 tented guest suites. Built on the edge of the Great Rift Valley on one of the most sought-after sites on the continent, this lodge offers heart stopping views as far as the eye can see. The lodge, helmed by industry veteran Nicky Fitzgerald (formerly of &Beyond), boasts outstanding game viewing 12 months of the year, with private access to the reserve. Inspired by the Swahili word for ‘suspended in mid-air,’ Angama Mara floats 1,000 feet above the Maasai Mara, where, every morning, hot air balloons sail past the 30-foot-wide floor-to-ceiling glass fronts of each suite. In addition to consistently excellent game viewing, including Africa’s Big Five, guests enjoy walking safaris, garden-to-table lunches in the shamba, editing their images in the photographic studio, a fitness center, a 40-foot-long swimming pool, a curated gallery of African art, clothing and jewelry, and a sun-filled studio where local Maasai women work at beading bespoke items. Angama Mara was named #1 Safari Lodge in the World by Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2018 and was named in the top ten safari lodges in Africa in the Travel+Leisure World’s Best Awards 2020. Opening in 2020, Angama Safari Camp is a sole-use camp situated amidst the mega herds of the Great Migration and features the same fresh safari aesthetic as its sister camp Angama Mara. For assistance in planning a safari, the bespoke travel concierge service, Angama Safaris, is standing by to ensure smooth, seamless and safe travels around East Africa.

Azei Lago by Angama Mara for 360 Magazine

RV camper illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 MAGAZINE

DIY Caravan or Motorhome Habitation Check

Stay safe, save money! Do your own annual caravan and motorhome vehicle electrical, gas, water systems and damp testing with this complete D-I-Y guide by Keith Shephard.

Whether it’s a motorhome, a caravan or a self-built camper van, this essential book will enable leisure vehicle owners to carry out their own comprehensive habitation checks to ensure that the living area of their caravan or motorhome is safe for themselves and other occupants.

Seasoned leisure vehicle owners, complete novices who are new to the world of caravans and motorhomes, or self-build enthusiasts planning to start work on their first project will find this book to be an invaluable guide and constant companion. Following the detailed, well-illustrated instructions will ensure that problems and potential problems are identified early, not only saving money and unnecessary inconvenience, but also providing essential information on how the different systems of a leisure vehicle function. Bearing in mind the cost of a professional habitation check, this book could save owners a lot of money!

Compiled by a holder of the National Caravan Council (NCC) Motorhome Service Award, the book is divided into comprehensive sections, and covers checks and servicing advice on electrical systems, gas systems, water systems, test for water ingress (damp), ventilation, and much more …

Be smart: stay safe and save money, by performing your own caravan or motorhome habitation check. This text covers:

  • DIY Habitation checking for leisure vehicles
  • Learn how the utilities in your motorhome, campervan or caravan work
  • Make sure your leisure vehicle is safe
  • Save money on a habitation service by doing it yourself
  • Essential knowledge for motorhome, campervan or caravan owners and self-builders
  • Leisure vehicle electrical, gas, water systems and damp testing
  • Interior appliance checks for leisure vehicles
  • Prevent costly repairs with regular DIY checks
  • How to perform a comprehensive habitation check on your leisure vehicle
  • Covers batteries, electrical systems, gas systems, plumbing, ventilation, safety equipment and more

To purchase Keith Shepard’s book, Do Your Own Caravan or Motorhome Habitation Check, visit this website.

Fast food article illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 MAGAZINE

KFC DIGITAL SALES INCREASE

KFC Owner Yum Brands Reports Digital Sales of $17 Billion in 2020, Up By 45% YoY

Despite the blow of pandemic restrictions in 2020, Yum Brands’ earnings for the year topped analysts’ estimates.

According to the research data analyzed and published by Stock Apps, the company’s Q4 2020 revenue grew by 3% year-over-year (YoY) to $1.74 billion, higher than the expected $1.72 billion. For the full year, digital sales rose by 45% to $17 billion.

Based on an NPD Group report, restaurant digital orders in the US shot up by 145% YoY in December 2020. By the end of the year, carry-out accounted for 46% of off-premises orders and drive-thrus got 44%.

US Digital Restaurant Market Sales Rose by 124% in 2020 to $45 Billion

Yum Brands launched a series of initiatives to speed up its digitalization process in 2020. For KFC, a new eCommerce ecosystem streamlined off-premises order handling. As a result, transaction times at the window reduced by 16 seconds in Q4 2020 compared to Q4 2019.

The Habit added curbside pickup, which accounted for 10% of all sales and 50% of mobile sales. Through its Go Mobile ecosystem, Taco Bell saw drive-thru transaction times drop below four minutes. Thanks to these investments, Pizza Hut saw an 18% growth in same-store sales from off-premise channels. Taco Bell reported a 12% digital sales mix while The Habit had a 40% sales mix from its digital platform.

McDonalds also benefitted from a shift to digital, generating $10 billion from online sales across its top six markets in 2020. They accounted for20% of the company’s total annual sales. Chipotle also posted a 177.2% YoY increase in digital sales during Q4 2020, reaching $781.4 million.

According to eMarketer, digital restaurant market sales in the US rose by 123.8% in 2020 to $44.94 billion. In 2021, it is projected to increase by 22.3% to $54.97 billion and in 2022, by16.3% to $63.93 billion.

By 2025, digital sales will account for 54% of limited and quick-service restaurant business according to a study by Incisiv.

The full story, statistics and information can be found here: https://stockapps.com/blog/2021/02/25/kfc-owner-yum-brands-reports-digital-sales-of-1-7-billion-in-2020-up-by-45-yoy/

Audrey Hepburn by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Peter Luger Steak House

Madame Tussauds Famous Wax Figures Fill Seats of Historic Family-Owned Restaurant Ahead of Increased Occupancy

Governor Andrew Cuomo has given the greenlight for New York City restaurants to increase occupancy to 35 percent beginning Friday and Peter Luger Steak House is bringing in a bit of star power to ensure guests continue to follow social distancing safety measures. The iconic steakhouse has teamed up with the world’s greatest wax museum to fill empty seats with A-Listers and offer patrons an unforgettable dining experience. Beginning today, diners are invited to toast with Jon Hamm at the bar, enjoy a moment of elegance with Audrey Hepburn, or share a laugh with Jimmy Fallon. Al Roker is also waiting to direct diners to the second floor.

“The restaurant industry is vital to New York City’s economy, and it’s been particularly hard hit this past year”, said Vice President of Peter Luger, Daniel Turtel. “We’re excited to welcome diners back indoors at 35%, and thought this would be a fun, safe way to fill some of the seats that need to remain empty as we continue to fight the pandemic. It has been wonderful working with the fabulous team at Madame Tussauds New York.”

The New York City icons wax figures will remain at Peter Luger Steak House through Monday, March 1.

For reservations, please visit the Peter Luger Steak House website. Madame Tussauds New York is also ready to welcome guests back to the red carpet. Star-studded safety measures have been introduced including timed and dated tickets, social distancing guidelines, contactless payment, enhanced cleaning and employee health screenings. Madame Tussauds New York is offering a special-priced $29.99 ticket specifically for “locals” looking to explore. Guests are encouraged to visit this website to purchase tickets and review safety protocols ahead of their visit.  Local ticket eligibility is limited to residents of New Jersey, New York’s five boroughs, Connecticut’s Fairfield and New Haven counties.

About Madame Tussauds New York

Voted as one of New York’s most unique attractions, Madame Tussauds invites you to pose “In a moment in time” with our famous fun figures of internationally renowned musicians, A-list stars, sports legends, world leaders and more. With more than 85,000 square feet of interactive entertainment and several new spaces, including the new Madame Tussauds New York Presents Broadway, and NYE in NYC, the world-famous attraction is bigger and better than ever!

About Merlin Entertainments

Merlin Entertainments is a global leader in location-based, family entertainment. As Europe’s number one and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin operates 129 attractions, 21 hotels and 6 holiday villages in 24 countries and across 4 continents. Merlin’s purpose is to deliver memorable experiences to its millions of guests around the world, through its iconic brands and multiple attraction formats, and the commitment and passion of its employees.  See their website for more information and follow on Twitter.

About Peter Luger Steak House

Peter Luger Steak House has been a fixture in Brooklyn for more than 130 years. When restaurateur Peter Luger first opened the Williamsburg restaurant in 1887 it was called Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley and quickly became a neighborhood favorite. Following Luger’s death the restaurant struggled and was sold at auction to Sol Forman, owner of Forman Family, a local manufacturing company. The Forman family still owns and operates the restaurant today and has since added a second New York location in Great Neck, Long Island, and an international location in Tokyo will open later this year. In addition to the restaurants, Peter Luger products are sold in grocery stores and dry-aged cuts are available for home delivery through the online butcher shop.

Jon Hamm by Peter Luger Steakhouse & Madame Tussauds for 360 MagazineJimmy Fallon by Peter Luger Steakhouse & Madame Tussauds for 360 MagazineAudrey Hepburn by Peter Luger Steakhouse & Madame Tussauds for 360 MagazineAl Roker by Peter Luger Steakhouse & Madame Tussauds for 360 Magazine

Kaelen Felix illustration for 360 MAGAZINE pizza article

NO. 1 TAKEOUT DISH – PIZZA

According to New York Post, pizza is one of the most popular takeaway dishes searched in the world.

National Pizza Week: growth pizza restaurants comes to abrupt halt

BoldData crunches the numbers 

Next week is National Pizza Week. An entire week in honor of one of America’s all-time favorite foods. Time to crunch the numbers! The latest statistics from data specialist BoldData show that the amount of pizza restaurants in America has increased with a whopping 39.2% over the last five years. However, the growth abruptly stopped in 2020. 

Pizza party over?

Craving pizza? There are currently 90.817 pizza restaurants in The United States. An increase of 39.2% compared to 2016, in this year there were 65.213 pizza places. Especially 2017 was a good year for pizza: with an increase of 11.137 pizza joints (17.1 %). In the beginning of 2021 the USA should’ve reached the magical number of 100.000 pizza restaurants, but then COVID-19 happened… The growth of pizza restaurants came to an abrupt halt in 2020, with an increase of only 581 restaurants.  

California is the pizza place to be

When it comes to pizza, California is the place to be. The state has 8.271 pizza places, of which 2.044 are based in the Los Angeles area. New York comes in second with 7.190 restaurants, a growth of 48% compared to 2016. The biggest growth took place in Hawaii: a whopping 69%. Pizza lovers best stay away from Wyoming, the state has the lowest number of pizza joints (133). 


USA takes biggest slice worldwide

Americans love their pizza. It’s even considered America’s favorite food. Therefore it’s no surprise that the USA is home to the largest number of pizza restaurants worldwide. Italy –  where the modern pizza was originally invented – comes in second with 42.288 pizzeria’s. Brazil completes the top 3 with 32.283 pizza joints. But the USA has nothing to fear from the rest of the world. With 90.817 pizza restaurant the USA still has more pizzeria’s then the top 4 combined (88.100). Australia is number 8 on the list: with 5.598 pizza restaurants they have one of the highest number of pizza places per capita.   

About BoldData:

We are global data experts with a highly accurate database of 287+ million companies worldwide. With our data have helped 2.000+ companies with analytics, research and CRM. Our data is being used by renowned research companies such as Statista. As well by FMCG companies such as Heineken, P&G, Danone and UberEats. 

Vaughn Lowery makes pizza for 360 MAGAZINE article
plane illustration byNicole Salazar for 360 Magazine

Aviation Consumer Protection Policy Recommendations

Priority Early Actions for the Department of Transportation

COVID-19 Health Protections. In the wake of the recent mask mandate for commercial air travel, the administration should immediately issue clear, enforceable requirements for other COVID-19 protections on aircraft and in airports. Such requirements should be based on the best available science and should apply to all U.S. airlines, all foreign airlines operating to, within, and from the United States, and all U.S. airports. The protocols should include enforced social distancing in airports and onboard aircraft, including empty middle seats between strangers; requirements for consistent state-of-the-art aircraft cleaning procedures; as well as consistent, fair, and sensible policies on testing, screening, and quarantining passengers and workers.

Flight Refunds. The administration should strengthen and expand existing DOT rules on passenger flight refunds, particularly during “force majeure” situations such as a global pandemic. In addition, the DOT must vigorously enforce these refund regulations with U.S. airlines, foreign airlines, and other ticket sellers, including resolving outstanding claims that have not been settled, in some cases since March 2020.

Unfair and Deceptive Airline Practices. The Administration should promptly review the new DOT rule, rushed to approval in late November, that created procedural hurdles for unfair and deceptive practices regarding rulemaking and adjudication. Implementation should be suspended, and steps should be begun to rescind it. This ill-conceived rule is totally unnecessary; its only effect is to make it more difficult for DOT to exercise its own authority to protect the traveling public against abusive airline practices.

Further Recommendations

Revamp the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC) so that it better represents consumers.  As we and other consumer advocates wrote to Secretary Chao in October 2020, the ACPAC is fundamentally broken. It is supposed to be a forum for bringing consumer interests and concerns to DOT. But in its current formulation, it does not effectively represent consumers or adequately address issues of concern to the traveling public. This Committee should be reconstituted in a way that provides a true consumer protection voice to the Department, with members who advocate on behalf of consumers.

Family Seating. The administration should issue rules to ensure that families with young children always sit together inflight without incurring additional fees or being required to purchase upgraded tickets. Congress directed DOT to issue such a rule in 2016, but left in a loophole giving the Department the ability to decline to regulate if such regulation is not “appropriate.” Consumer complaints and concerns, as well as a 2018 FBI report on inflight sexual assaults, make clear the need for such a rule.

Airfare Transparency. Implement full airline fare and fee transparency rules so that consumers are always provided “bottom line pricing” for all flights prior to selection, inclusive of both mandatory and “optional” taxes and fees. These rules should apply to all booking channels, whether the tickets are sold through airlines or third-party ticket sellers, and whether they are sold online or offline.

Passenger Bill of Rights.  The administration should develop a Bill of Rights that will address the glaring inequities in U.S. airlines’ Contracts of Carriage, documents that are one-sided, binding, intentionally vague, and utterly confusing. Other nations—including Canada and the members of the European Union—have introduced simple, consistent, and easily understood passenger compensation policies for airline flight delays, flight cancellations, involuntary bumping, and mishandled baggage.

Seat Standards. Develop minimum seat size standards for all U.S. commercial aircraft, including regional aircraft operating on behalf of major U.S. carriers. Consumer Reports has documented that economy class seat pitch/legroom and seat width dimensions have diminished in recent decades. This reduces passenger comfort, but also increases dangers of blood clotting, and threatens safe emergency evacuations.

Emergency Evacuations. Conduct a fresh evaluation to revamp the FAA’s emergency evacuation standards and testing procedures for commercial aircraft. In recent years the FAA has relied on outdated computer modeling for such testing, and certain airlines and aircraft types have not been properly tested in more than two decades. These outdated testing procedures fail to account for the seismic changes that have overtaken airline travel in the last 20 years. In addition, there are valid concerns that computer modeling and even actual testing have selectively not accounted for real world demographics, including passengers with disabilities.

Federal Preemption. Work with Congress to eliminate the preemption clause of the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act, so that airline passengers gain more rights on the state and local levels, via state legislatures, state attorneys general, and private right of action.

FAA oversight of aircraft manufacturers. The Boeing 737 MAX crisis highlighted weaknesses in the FAA’s oversight of aircraft manufacturers. In particular, the FAA Inspector Designee program should be reformed so that additional FAA oversight is provided over aircraft manufacturer employees who are tasked with serving the potentially conflicting role as FAA inspectors and certifiers.

Maintenance Outsourcing. The administration should require that airline maintenance work be conducted in the United States, and the FAA should provide adequate surveillance of such maintenance work.

hotel at night by Mina Tocalini for 360 Magazine

HECKFIELD PLACE: FIRST 100% BIODYNAMIC HOTEL IN UK

The Georgian Manor Estate Hotel and Home Farm Completes Three-Year Conversion to Holistic Approach to Agriculture. 

Heckfield Place, the award-winning Georgian manor estate turned luxury hotel in Hampshire, England (about an hour outside of London), has achieved 100% biodynamic certification; becoming the very first hotel and farm estate in the United Kingdom to receive this designation.

This pioneering accreditation culminates a three-year process of conversion to biodynamics, an alternative form of agriculture that adopts a “closed loop” and holistic approach to farming–eschewing the use of chemicals ­to regenerate soil health to preserve the land for future generations, and to produce healthy and nutrient-rich foods.  As biodynamic growers, Heckfield uses the cycle of the moon to determine when to carry out cultivations. For growing a root crop such as carrots, the team works when the moon is in an earth constellation (goat, bull or virgin). For leaf crops, such as lettuce and spinach, they cultivate when the moon is in a water constellation (crab, scorpion or fish). For flowers, the focus is when the moon is in an air constellation (twins, scales or water carrier) and to encourage fruiting, the moon will be in a fire constellation (ram, lion or archer).

Heckfield’s Farm now provides in myriad of ways for the hotel: from flowers, beautifully arranged by its floral consultant Kitten Grayson Flowers along with its in-house florist, to rotating arable crops and organic produce that inspire the seasonal menus at the hotel’s restaurants Hearth and Marle, led by Culinary Director Skye Gyngell, who champions a root-to-plate ethos.

In 2020, the Heckfield Home Farm opened its own micro-dairy to produce milk, cream and butter for the hotel and local community from the estate’s Guernsey herd, along with 90 sheep and 20 pigs. An average of 400 chickens and 20 beehives provides eggs and honey.

The farm serves as a shining example of the self-sustaining relationship between the land and the house and captures the essence of the hotel’s unique approach to luxury hospitality in its role as custodians for the 438-acre estate to ensure a sustainable future for the land on which it resides.

“Being certified as biodynamic allows us a clearer framework and positive intent; if we choose chemical-based agriculture as the program for our soils, we will destroy the very life we all depend on,” says David Rowley, Head Market Gardener, Heckfield Estates. “Alternatively, we can choose to feed our soils, encourage all the microbiology and the beings and cycles, seen and unseen, picture the farm 100 years in the future–what would we like our grandchildren to see?”

For more information about sustainability at Heckfield Place and its Home Farm, please visit their website.

ABOUT HECKFIELD PLACE:

A Georgian family home dating to the 1700s, Heckfield Place has been lovingly restored to its classic origins and rewoven into its surrounding 400 acres of farmland, ancient heather and woodlands. The estate’s farm, two walled gardens and orchards nourish renowned chef Skye Gyngell’s epicurean cuisine, bringing the outside gloriously into the property’s three restaurants–Marle, with its outdoor balcony overlooking the property, the Sun House, a unique space for up to 30 guests in the Upper Walled Garden, and the open-flamed Hearth. Aiming to be as sustainable as possible, the estate has a biomass energy center to power hotel water and central heating; an aerobic digester to process all recyclable waste and provide compost for the garden and pellets for the biomass energy center; harvest rainwater and capture spring water. As part of the Assembly, the hotel’s event rooms can host up to 120 guests and the new state-of-the-art, Dolby Atmos surround sound cinema can accommodate 67 viewers. There is also an extensive wine cellar and tasting room, as well as the full service Little Bothy Spa.

Las Vegas-Based Tour Provider

When Bindlestiff Tours owner Rachel Urban opened the Las Vegas-based adventure tour company nearly 10 years ago, she sought to offer adventurers the most immersive experiences throughout the Southwestern United States, Alaska and Western Canada. In the days leading up to the pandemic, Bindlestiff Tours was doing just that. Business was booming and the company welcomed thousands of international visitors each year.

Then borders closed, shutdowns began and the international tourism industry dried up. As reservations were cancelled and trips delayed, many tour operators opted to close their doors entirely. Yet, Bindlestiff made the bold, yet tough, decision to remain open last year as one of the only fully operating national park tour companies in Las Vegas during the height of the pandemic. Today, Bindlestiff continues to fight challenges created by the pandemic while still welcoming drive-market travelers to keep the business afloat.  

“Like many small businesses in the tourism industry, we’re fighting every day to keep our operation running while safeguarding our staff and customers’ health and well-being,” said Urban. 

With group size limits, mask enforcement rules and social distancing guidelines differing state by state, Bindlestiff’s high operating and cleaning costs for their spectacular multi-state tours through Nevada, Arizona, Utah and California have risen while the number of guests they are able to accommodate continues to remain restricted. 

Navigating which national parks and campsites are open also presents another obstacle for Bindlestiff Tours. A spike in COVID-19 cases often leads to sudden park or campsite closures or limited access to certain destinations which creates challenges in how Bindlestiff times tours, according to Urban.

Last-minute tour reservations and cancellations also add to the company’s dilemma of planning how many guests they are able to welcome on a given day. 

“While it certainly has been difficult to accommodate travelers visiting Las Vegas on a whim, it brings us such gratitude knowing there are still domestic tourists searching to get away and immerse themselves in nature,” said Urban. 

The immersive tour operator celebrates the small victories such as welcoming travelers from neighboring states, even if group sizes remain small, and continues to offer flexible booking conditions, value tour pricing and additional traveler options. 

Among these additional options are Bindlestiff Tours’ new multi-day, self-driving camping tours and private, custom single- or multi-day tours from Las Vegas.


The self-drive camping tours, also available with hotel upgrades, offer travelers an opportunity to socially distance under the stars. According to Urban, these tours are designed for guests interested in driving to the national parks of the American Southwest on their own, while still receiving expert guidance and an immersive, personalized adventure. 

Guests are provided with all the necessary camping equipment and tour guides assist with camp set-up in scenic locations. Expert tour guides meet guests at key locations throughout the tour and escort groups on remote hiking trails to spectacular viewpoints while providing live interpretive wildlife and nature content throughout the adventure. 

According to Bindlestiff, guides also facilitate evening campfires and locally sourced, fully catered al fresco dining options at camp or for hotel guests. 

To enhance the self-drive experience, Urban says guests can download the recently reconfigured Bindlestiff Tours mobile app. Now featuring tour narrations in English for domestic travelers in addition to multiple languages for international visitors, the app allows travelers to access additional details, instruction and information.


For families or groups of friends of four or more interested in experiencing national parks in a more intimate setting, Bindlestiff also offers private, custom tour options. These tour packages are pre-made and offer exclusive one-on-one attention from a dedicated, expert local guide. Guests may select day tours or multi-day outdoor camping tours or the comfort of hotel accommodation. Guides escort groups on a completely private tour throughout the experience. Guests have the option to choose from classic itineraries or request a custom-tailored tour and add on other areas of interest, according to Urban. 

Despite the overall decrease in travelers resulting from the pandemic, Bindlestiff Tours understands the importance of continuing to provide vacationers with spectacular opportunities to visit some of the country’s most breathtaking national parks when they are ready to travel again.

“During the height of the shutdown last year, we were one of the only fully operating tour providers in Las Vegas,” said Urban. “We understand the importance of offering travelers expert guides for incredible experiences they’ll never forget, especially during such a difficult time. It truly brings our team joy.” 

As Bindlestiff continues to expand its tour offerings when more people begin to travel again, the challenges of remaining viable and laying the foundation for recovery in a post-COVID economy remains present. This year, Bindlestiff is excited to launch “glamping” tours that allow families and private groups the peace of the great outdoors paired with more elevated living accommodations.

According to Urban, the tour company remains hopeful about the future. She said guests booking trips with Bindlestiff this year have felt reassured about their health and safety – some even going as far as sharing their uplifting experiences on social media. 

“Our company is beyond grateful we have remained open throughout these challenging times to welcome those searching to get out of their houses and into the wilderness,” said Urban.

For more information about private custom tours and self-drive tours, visit www.bindlestifftours.com

Michelin chef article illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 MAGAZINE

“Top Chef” Season 18

Bravo’s “Top Chef”, produced by Magical Elves, calls Portland, Oregon home for season 18, kicking off with two weeks of supersized premieres starting on Thursday, April 1 from 8:00 – 9:15 pm ET/PT.  This season, a new batch of 15 extremely talented Executive Chefs and restaurant owners, representing a cross-section of kitchens and food around the country, vie for the coveted title bringing their unique skillsets, diversity of cuisines and gamut of flavors.  With Portland as a picturesque backdrop and culinary inspiration, the chefs compete in a variety of challenges including celebrating PDX’s Pan-African cuisine to feeding hundreds of frontline workers and crabbing on the Oregon Coast in a tribute to the culinary icon and Oregonian James Beard.  For a sneak peek, visit Bravo’s website.

The Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series returns with host Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons.  For the first time ever, a collection of “Top Chef” all-star winners, finalists and favorites are joining an elite rotating judging and dining panel including Richard Blais, Carrie Baird, Nina Compton, Tiffany Derry, Gregory Gourdet, Melissa King, Kristen Kish, Edward Lee, Kwame Onwuachi, Amar Santana, Dale Talde and Brooke Williamson.   This season also includes appearances by José Andrés, Massimo Bottura, Gabriel Rucker and Alice Waters, as well as “Portlandia” stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein who stop by “Top Chef” Kitchen for a Quickfire Challenge.

Beginning Thursday, April 8, Bravo’s Emmy-Winning digital companion series “Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen,” hosted by Tom Colicchio, returns for season ten as the eliminated chefs go head-to-head to try to cook their way back into the competition. Presented byBMW of North America,each week’s episode will be availableon Bravotv.com, On Demand or wherever you stream Bravo’s “Top Chef” at the conclusion of each week’s episode.

Meet the New Cheftestants:

*For more information on the cheftestants, please visit  Bravo’s website.

During a time of extreme hardship in the restaurant industry, these chefs have more on the line than ever before.  From working with foraged mushrooms and picking produce at the famous Hood River Fruit Loop to visiting the Tillamook Creamery, the chefs are tasked with cooking with Oregon’s natural bounty of ingredients.  With Padma, Tom and Gail and a table full of alums to impress, the expectations have never been higher, especially in this year’s unique Restaurant Wars where the teams must perfectly execute on a micro-restaurant concept with a cohesive seven-course tasting menu that rivals the best in the world. To stay in the game, the chefs must cook at their best while contending with a Quickfire using ingredients used on the Oregon Trail and a surf and turf elimination challenge honoring the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. While in the “City of Roses,” the judges definitely don’t hold back their thorns as they narrow it down to find this season’s “Top Chef.”

The winning chef will earn the coveted title of “Top Chef,” $250,000 furnished by S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, a feature in FOOD & WINE magazine and an appearance at the annual FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen.

Last season, “Top Chef” ranked as 2020’s #1 food show across all of cable, averaging nearly 1 million P18-49 and 1.1 million P25-54.  Additionally, the season was up 42% on Video On Demand/Streaming, all told, it was viewed over 10 million times.  (Food Show: Nielsen, L7, P18-49/P25-54, FY 2020, including food programs across cable, excluding repeats. VOD/Streaming: Rentrak and Adobe Analytics, S17 vs. S16, includes STB, TVE (on+off), dMVPD, and OVD.)

“Top Chef” is produced by the Emmy Award-winning production company Magical Elves with Casey Kriley, Jo Sharon, Doneen Arquines and Hillary Olsen serving as executive producers.

About Magical Elves 

Magical Elves is a leading producer of award-winning, non-fiction content for domestic and international television markets. Known for hits like “Top Chef” (Bravo), “Nailed It!” (Netflix), “Sugar Rush” (Netflix), “Cold Justice” (Oxygen) and “Brain Games” reboot (Nat Geo), Magical Elves is a veteran production company with a long track record of consistently delivering the highest quality programming. Magical Elves is a part of The Tinopolis Group’s portfolio of production companies. For more information, visit www.magicalelves.com.

About Bravo Media

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Travel illustration by Maria Soloman for 360 Magazine

TREEHOUSES, SAMURAI HOMES & KIMONO RETREATS

With Japan on the top of many travelers’ bucket lists once travel restrictions are lifted, the country is expecting a tourism boom like no other. This has lead to the creation of many new hotels and resorts, particularly located outside of Tokyo and Kyoto. Along with new properties to open in 2021, many hotels that have opened in 2020 with unique experiences and offerings, and are eager to welcome international guests. Below is a sampling of some of the most unique hotels in Japan:

wanoi KAKUNODATE – Akita Prefecture-Opened March 13, 2020
Renovated from a historical storehouse, wanoi KAKUNODATE offers travelers a step back in time. The town of Kakunodate was known as “Little Kyoto” for samurai residences. Each of the three rooms at wanoi KAKUNODATE highlights this incredible history. The Nishinomiyake Bushigura room, inspired by the ancestor of the Nishinomiya family who was a highly regarded samurai at the time, echoes his story through its design, including tactile tools once used by samurai. The Nishinomiyake Gakkogura room was originally a storehouse for pickles. Guests can experience that history by taking a bath in a repurposed pickle barrel bathtub. The Tanmonogura room is located right next to the samurai residence street. It stands as the oldest of the three storehouses, originally built in the late Edo period.

The pickle bathtub in the Nichinomiyake Gakkogura room at wanoi KAKUNODATE (© East Japan Railway Company), Geoffrey Weill Associates, the Japan National Tourism Organization for 360 Magazine

Nordisk Hygge Circles – Mie Prefecture-Opening Spring 2021
Located in Japan’s Mie Prefecture amidst towering trees and roaring waterfalls, the Nordisk Hygge Circles is a new luxury campground. The campground is intended to be a healing space for guests, while providing a sustainable camping experience. The Nordisk Hygge Circles was designed by Japanese-Danish architecture team Third Nature, who won a regenerative tourism competition launched by Danish outdoor gear company Nordisk. The campsite will consist of three main areas: a rest area with reservable circular cabins and glamping tents, a “learning field” for nature-inspired excursions and workshops, and an area where guests can pitch their own tents.

Nordisk Hygge Circles in Mie Prefecture (© Third Nature, Structured Environment, Henrik Innovation), The Japan National Tourism Organization, Geoffrey Weill Associates, for 360 Magazine

Nipponia Shirataka Former House of Okuyama – Yamagata Prefecture-Opening April 2021
Renovated from a house that was previously owned by a distinguished Japanese family in the silk production business, this “kimono retreat hotel” offers guests an escape in the rural town of Shirataka while experiencing Japan’s kimono culture. The hotel will span 8,000 square meters with five different buildings and eight guest rooms. Owned by Tomihiro, a 400-year-old kimono fabrics store, the retreat allows guests to partake in traditional craft and local lifestyle activities.

NIPPONIA Shirataka Former House of Okuyama  (© 2021 NIPPONIA Shirataka), Geoffrey Weill Associates, and Japan National Tourism Organization for 360 Magazine

Treeful Treehouse EcoResort-Okinawa Prefecture-Opening Spring 2021
Located in Nago city, in the north of Okinawa island, the Treeful Treehouse EcoResort lives by the ethos of ‘sustainable luxury.’ Using minimal electricity produced solely by solar power, the resort features a number of sleek and design-forward treehouses that are seamlessly integrated with nature. One is completely suspended with 360-degrees views and contemporary interior design, built on the side of Genka River–considered one of the clearest waters in Japan. A passionate environmental project, the resort has engaged with Okinawa locals on various initiatives, including removing man-made concrete to restore the natural landscape, and re-building a watermill in an effort to “improve their area environmentally, culturally, and economically.”

Treeful Treehouse EcoResort in Okinawa (© Treeful Treehouse EcoResort), Geoffrey Weill Associates, and Japan National Tourism Organization for 360 Magazine

Fauchon Hotel Kyoto-Opening March 16, 2021
A meeting of two worlds, the Fauchon Hotel Kyoto, from the famous French gourmet food company Fauchon, will stand as the company’s first hotel outside of Paris. The hotel will open in the center of Kyoto with 59 guest rooms and suites. Along with its iconic Pâtisserie & Boutique Fauchon, Fauchon Hotel Kyoto will be home to a variety of restaurants and bars, including Salon de Thé Fauchon and Le Grand Café Fauchon. The hotel will also be home to Le Spa Fauchon, which will offer a wide range of body and face treatments.

Rendering of the Grand Café at the Fauchon Hotel Kyoto, Geoffrey Weill Associates, and Japan National Tourism Organization for 360 Magazine

For updates on travel restrictions to Japan, please visit this website