Meet the team
Maeve O’Meara OAM
Maeve O’Meara founded Gourmet Safaris after a lifetime of enjoying exploring food and cuisines.
Each safari is crafted to highlight the cuisine, the producers and the skill of people creating exceptional food.
Maeve often leads or joins scheduled safaris and hosts all the Australian and International Safaris.
She is a proud mother of three, grandmother of two and loves cooking.
Suzy Brien is the Manager of Gourmet Food Safaris® and has guided our many guests for over 20 years.
We like to think that she is the calmest person who walks the earth – nothing is a problem and everything has a logical solution. Suzy has traveled widely and adores to discover new and interesting places. She is loved by our guides and businesses alike and is very happy to help guide your choices amongst our many safaris.
Sam Cosentino – Guide
Sam Cosentino – Guide – Italian Gourmet Food Safari® in Haberfield and all things Italian
Gourmet Safaris® wouldn’t exist without the passion, energy and enthusiasm of Mr Italy, Sam Cosentino. He comes from three generations of gelato makers, spent many years working in hospitality and is a divine advertisement for all things Italian. Sam has been a coffee judge at the Royal Easter Show, a hospitality consultant and has worked in the media, on radio, TV and for various food publications. He is also the Artistic Director of Walk Now Productions. Sam worked on the original Food Safari Italian episode (Season 1, Episode 8) and was one of the hosts of the Lifestyle Channel’s Lifestyle Café along with Simon Marnie. He believes in the old style masters of Italian food and beverages, respects the wisdom and recipes of his grandmother and aunts, and adores sharing the culture of Italy with Safari guests.
Alejandro Schneider – Guide
Alejandro Schneider – Guide – French Food Safari
Alejandro is a professional guide who speaks 4 languages and was discovered by our favourite driver Peter Hill.
Born in Chile to Chilean and German parents, Alejandro came to Australia in 1973 and has been a treasured member of our safaris family for many years.
A food loving, salsa dancing Francophile, Alejandro now lives in the southern highlands. Alejandro was drawn to Gourmet Safaris because of the multicultural harmony that Maeve brings to our world with her wonderful programmes. How better to make friends and empathise with others than across a shared table. This ties in beautifully with his personal passion for good food and a good conversation, a sure path to a happier life!
Judy Saba – Guide
Judy Saba – Guide – Lebanese Gourmet Food Safari®
Judy is a cross cultural psychologist and trainer with an undying passion for food. Having grown up as the youngest of eight children, most of her childhood revolved around the kitchen and as in many Lebanese households in Sydney in the 60’s the kitchen was the epicenter of the home.
Judy works part time as a Psychologist working with ethnic communities in Sydney. In addition she also works as a cross-cultural trainer with NSW Police. With husband Charlie they fulfilled a life long dream and opened Mezze Café espresso bar which they established and ran for 3 years (1999 – 2002). It became a mix of great coffee, delicious food and the occasional table top counseling session!!!! One of her greatest delights was to be a contributor to the wonderful Lebanese cookbook by Abla Amad, “The Lebanese Kitchen. The stories that are generated about and around food are what I truly love. It is such a colorful window to the soul.”
Nino Lo Giudice – Guide
Nino Lo Giudice – Guide – Best of the Mediterranean Safari, Spice Safari and Italian Walking tour Gourmet Safari®
Nino inherited his love for food and passion for cooking from the best cook in the universe: his mum. He inherited his sweet tooth from his maternal nonno, one of the best pastry chefs in Catania, the Sicilian seaside city which also ensured seafood would become a staple and rich black cuttlefish ink sauce a favourite. His father’s side cultivated the rich volcanic soil of Mt. Etna and continues to keep the entire family in fresh produce. Nino also spent many years at his parents’ side supplying Sydney with the finest arancini this side of the Mediterranean. He is an actor, an ancient historian and a youth worker servicing Sydney’s Italian community. Nino loves sharing food and culture and considers it a privilege to be leading these tours.
Ulku Gani – Guide
Ulku Gani – Guide -Turkish Walking Safari and Turkish Breakfast Safaris in Auburn & Middle East Safari
Ulku arrived in Australian from Turkey with her parents in 1973 and worked hard with them establishing a part time food business.
She is an accomplished cook and is writing a book of her favourite Turkish recipes, specialising in easy and delicious food. She is a beautiful example of the hospitality and generosity of her homeland and introduces all our groups to the many spices and ingredients available in Auburn.
Peter Nguyen – Guide
Peter Nguyen – Guide – Cabramatta Gourmet Food Safari® and Vietnam Gourmet Food Safari®
Peter Nguyen arrived in Australia at the age of three and lived in the Cabramatta Hostel until his family settled in Cabramatta. He is passionate about food and worked as manager of his Auntie Angie Hong’s successful Thanh Binh restaurants in Cabramatta and Newtown for 8 years.
Peter is also a qualified engineer. He enjoys introducing people to the cuisine of his homeland and is very knowledgeable about ingredients and cooking. His grandfather’s dying wish that Peter return to Vietnam regularly was answered when Peter and Maeve designed specialist food trips which run in spring and autumn.
Peter Hill – our driver
Peter Hill – our driver
Peter Hill has been driving our wonderful guests around Sydney and exotic parts of Australia for a good 10 years, calmly putting up with Maeve’s terrible sense of direction and packing delicious purchases into our big esky on board. In his few hours away from work, Peter loves a round of golf and a cold beer.
Abdullah Hashimi – Guide
Abdullah Hashimi – Guide – Afghan Safari
Abdullah Hashimi grew up in north western Sydney in a food loving Afghan family. A keen student and basketballer, he graduated from Macquarie University and now works for SAP, a software company. In 2004 his parents decided they wanted to follow their passion and create a business catering their traditional food to the community. After appearing in the Afghan episode of Food Safari, the Hashimi family have been generous enough to host Gourmet Safaris visits. Abdullah is our guide in the suburb of Merrylands, introducing guests to the spices, bread, meats and ingredients of his family’s homeland.
Fotini Manikakis – Guide
Fotini Manikakis – Guide – Greek Gourmet Food Safari® in Marrickville
Fotini is a film-maker who grew up in a close knit Greek family totally focussed on food. Her mother Helen is an exceptional cook and father George a keen fisherman. Fotini is a great cook herself and still uses many family recipes – though with a little less oil than her grandmother would have used. Fotini is our guide in Marrickville safari and loves passing on the culture and food of Greece to our guests.
Bhavna Kalra – Guide
Our guide to the Indian world is Mumbai-born Bhavna, who moved to Australia 12 years ago and started on a mission to close the massive gap between what was sold in the restaurants as Indian cuisine and what she ate back home. Through her business ‘The Modern Desi Co’ she teaches people that there is more to Indian food than Butter chicken and Rogan Josh. The word ‘Desi’ defines a person who traces their heritage to the Indian subcontinent, someone from the land. And while Bhavna is very modern and has been living out of India for over a decade, she is still connected to her roots and considers herself an Indian by soul.
Her grandfather, who had moved from Pakistan after the partition, had a massive influence on her food choices. After moving away from home, she learned to cook by trial and error and by making several frantic phone calls to her mother. Bhavna runs Indian cooking classes every weekend from her home in Sydney.
Hosting our North and South Indian breakfasts, she says, is a dream come true, and introducing our guests to the delightful Indian dishes and ingredients makes her happy.
Kitty Stack – Guide
Kitty Stack – Guide Newtown/Enmore Safari, Cooks Shed Safari
Kitty Stack grew up in a family that has always loved exploring multicultural food at its finest.
From an early age she and her siblings have been part of the Gourmet Safaris family through her mum Maeve, sampling food from across the cuisines and connecting with many families and businesses. Now studying psychology, Kitty leads the new Newtown Enmore safari (with Maeve), a vibrant inner city area she has made her home for some years and one she loves introducing to visitors. Kitty also assists on the Cooks Shed banquets in the Hawkesbury with chef Martin Boetz and team.
Victoria Kyriakopoulos – Guide
Victoria Kyriakopoulos – Guide – Greek Gourmet Safari in Oakleigh
Victoria Kyriakopoulos is the perfect guide to the vibrant suburb of Oakleigh. As well as being a fluent Greek speaker, a great cook and strong voice in the Melbourne Greek community, Victoria is a local so showing off her neighbourhood comes from the heart. An accomplished journalist, Victoria spent many years living in Greece and writing about food, culture and travel. The author of several Lonely Planet Guides to Greece, she delighted in discovering Greece’s culinary gems, travelling to remote villages in search of the best Greek restaurants and sharing her finds with travellers. A quirk of fate led to her living in the closest thing Australia has to a Greek village, where shares her insider tips and Greek food stories on our Oakleigh Greek walking tours.
Franca Norris – Guide
Franca Norris – Guide to the Gourmet Safaris Italian High Country
Franca grew up surrounded by the mountains of the stunning High Country, learning many great food traditions from her parents Angelo and Mary, in particular a love of mushroom foraging amongst the tall pine forests…and later drying and preserving the bounty.
Every year Franca and her husband Donald celebrate Italian seasonal traditions by preparing passata in summer, salami in winter, living from their extensive garden.
For many years our safari visits have included a walk through the pine forests and a visit to Franca’s home – a delicious money can’t buy experience including a visit the the Italian strong hold – the cellar!
Franca is also a coordinator for the local Myrtleford Farmers Market, a beacon for local growers and food lovers.
Lebanese Breakfast at Al Aseel in Greenacre
Faysal El Abd is a trained chef who arrived in Australia from Lebanon in 1996 and opened Al Aseel Restaurant in Greenacre. Soon after Maeve met him and featured the abundance of Lebanese food on Food Safari’s Lebanese episode and more recently on Food Safari Earth making his glorious falafel. Faysal has always spoken of the influence of his mother and the many recipes and techniques he learnt from her.
Even though the Al Aseel group has grown exponentially and includes 6 restaurants, a catering arm, its own retail brand (Mazati) and more, Faysal was keen to create a unique breakfast offering for Gourmet Safaris, featuring a live cooking station and dishes that are rarely seen in restaurants including the beloved ful medames (slow cooked broad beans), fatteh, and eggs cooked in awarma (preserved lamb fat – delicious!)
Turkish Breakfast at Cook & Co in Auburn
Arzu and Sedat are the owners of the beloved Cook and Co in Auburn and the idea of hosting Turkish breakfast came from a meeting with guide Ulku Gani who suggested that many Australians are unfamiliar with the abundance and deliciousness of Turkish breakfast.
Arzu was once a Gourmet Safaris guide, a trained journalist and now entrepreneur with her chef husband Sedat who grew up in beautiful Black Sea area in the east of Turkey. Sedat came to Australia in 2009 and worked at Efendy Restaurant before creating new menus and deliciousness at Cook and Co. Arzu migrated from Turkey to Australia at the age of 3 with her parents and 3 brothers. She was raised with the love of Turkish food and culture in a large close knit family and has lived and worked in Auburn for many years.
Arzu and Sedat have just opened Lokmades in Sefton, specialising in desserts.