About Maeve

Maeve O’Meara’s whole life revolves around food and creating unique food experiences through Gourmet Safaris has been one of her proudest achievements. After showing her mother’s group one of her favourite Lebanese restaurants and realising that she could be a “bridge between worlds”,  in 1998 Maeve began to craft banquets at some of her restaurant “finds”, then designed walking tours of Sydney’s many food villages, followed by bus tours and later safaris to beautiful food loving parts of Australia and overseas.

As well as designing and attending many Gourmet Food Safaris, Maeve also spends time hosting and producing food television with her partner Toufic Charabati at Kismet Productions, makers of seven series of Food Safari including Italian Food Safari, French Food Safari and Food Safari Fire. Maeve was Food Presenter on top-rating lifestyle show Better Homes and Gardens, winning two major international awards for her work on the show. She also created and co-presented 5 series of the acclaimed Food Lover’s Guide to Australia, winner of the coveted Gold Ladle in the World Food Media Awards for Best Food Television Program. She is author of 8 editions of Food Safari cookbooks, her original Food Safari – Glorious Adventures Across a World of Cuisines sold over 80,000 copies. She has co-authored 12 books on food including a cookbook Lamingtons and Lemongrass.

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For many years Maeve has been a proud ambassador for food rescue charity OzHarvest.

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Our Team

Suzy Brien is the Manager of Gourmet Food Safaris® and has guided our many guests over 15 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.

Liz Kaydos – Guide – Greek Gourmet Food Safari® in Marrickville, Kangaroo Island Gourmet Food Safari®, Greek Islands Gourmet Food Safari® and Sardinia & Corsica Gourmet Food Safari®

Liz Kaydos is a good Greek girl who grew up in Marrickville in a very traditional household. She has the best radar for good food and great characters of anyone and these skills are put to ample use as researcher for the award winning Food Lovers Guide to Australia on SBS TV. She owned and ran the Gertrude and Alice bookstore in Elizabeth Street Sydney, a beautiful boudoir of a bookshop which had the most unusual books for discerning readers.

Sam Cosentino – Guide – Italian Gourmet Food Safari® in Haberfield and all things Italian

Gourmet Safaris® wouldn’t exist without the energy and enthusiasm of Mr Italy, Sam Cosentino. He’s a coffee expert, barista, cook, stand up comic and all round divine advertisement for all things Italian. Despite his youthful good looks, Sam has spent 27 years working in hospitality, including starting his own business Prima Via Consultants in which he is a hospitality consultant always promoting the role of the barista. He comes from three generations of gelato makers and is a qualified coffee judge and was one of the hosts of Lifestyle Channel’s Lifestyle Cafe.  Sam is also a hospitality consultant for the media, radio, TV and various food publications. He believes in the old style masters of food and wine, respects the wisdom of his father, grandmother and aunts and adores sharing the culture of Italy with Safari guests.  .

Adrian Cirillo – Guide – Italian Gourmet Food Safari® in Haberfield

Adrian is one of the reasons why our Haberfield Italian safari is such a success.  Adrian started in the restaurant industry when he was 16 years old and is the former owner of  “Castel Mola” restaurant in Leichhardt, which he bought when he was 21 years old. Adrian grew up in a bustling Italian family and says he learned everything he knows from his mum. In 2002 Adrian started with Gourmet Safaris and says he looks forward to the tours each month because of the great atmosphere that is involved, along with meeting the guests and sharing his passion for all things Italian.

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 and works at Ryde Council. 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.

Michelle Bollard – Guide – Vietnamese Gourmet Food Safari® in Cabramatta

Loves to cook and she wants to share the simplicity and flavours of Vietnamese cuisine so that everyone can create and enjoy it too. From a very young age Michelle has cooked authentic Vietnamese with her mother. She grew up shopping and eating in Cabramatta and has developed an appreciation of the cultural energy of Vietnam. Her passion is to produce fresh, organic home cooked meals and treats for her family and friends.

Nino Lo Giudice – Guide – Italian Classics and Italian Walking tour, Spice 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.

Judy Saba – Guide – Lebanese Gourmet Food Safari®

Judy 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.”

Marie Helene Clauson – Guide – French on Wheels Safari Gourmet Food Safari®

Born and raised in Aix in Provence, Marie Helene is one of Australia’s top food stylists, making food look wickedly delicious on the covers and pages of many of our food magazines and books. She is also an accomplished photographer and adores making huge rustic feasts – French of course! – for her friends.

Nancy Halloun – Guide – Lebanese Gourmet Food Safari® of Punchbowl

Nancy was raised in a Lebanese household where she learnt to cook and appreciate Lebanese food from a young age. “My parents always taught me that food is what brings families together and often a small family BBQ has 20 or 30 people.”

“Every month I look forward to the Lebanese tour as I am able to show people around my local area – the great shops, restaurants and sweets places. I look forward to sharing all my tips and knowledge and experience with you.”

Franca Norris – guide to the beautiful Victorian High Country Gourmet Food Safari®

Franca is the daughter of passionate mushroom collector Angelo Bonacci, who is also one of the stars of this safari, along with his wife Mary. Franca lives in Myrtleford and is proud to open up her Italian heritage and its culinary delights, cooking up freshly picked mushrooms for our group. She is keen to continue the old Italian traditions and her magnificent cellar hung with prosciutto and salami and full of bottles fresh tomato sauce and preserved fruits and vegetables is testament to her dedication and that of her family, she contributed to the chapter on preserving in the bestselling Italian Food Safari and hopes to write her own book of the great food traditions of her region.

Sharon Salloum – guide – Exotic Flavours of Middle East Gourmet Food Safari®

Sharon was brought up in a Middle Eastern household and learned to grow vegetables and herbs and cook at an early age, skills that have stood her in good stead in her role as chef at the beautiful Almond Bar in Sydney’s Darlinghurst, a jewel of a restaurant filled with great cooking smells and exotic delights. Sharon appeared on the Syrian episode of Food Safari with her great recipe for fattoush, a salad with vegetables herbs and shards of Arabic bread.

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 and Greek Odyssey safaris and loves passing on the culture and food of Greece to our guests.

Nazli Munir – Guide – Turkish Gourmet Food Safari® of Auburn

Nazli Munir was born in Australia of Turkish Cypriot parents and only came to appreciate the wealth of her culinary background as an adult, finding that food was the key to establishing relationships with the women in her extended family, most importantly her grandmother and aunts. “Cooking for me was the way they repaid me for interpreting for them, or for helping them in some way. Showing an interest in their recipes, opened a whole new world for me.”

Nazli is now an accomplished cook with a wealth of recipes to share and a great working knowledge of Turkish ingredients and where to find the best in Auburn. Other than eating at home, her children prefer to dine out in Auburn than anywhere else in Sydney.  Up until recently, Nazli worked in various management roles in the NSW public service.

Arzu Agacayak – Guide – Turkish Gourmet Food Safari® of Auburn

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. She and her family have lived in Auburn, also known as’ little Turkey’, all their lives and have strong connections with the suburb. She is a partner of a weekly Turkish newspaper, Turkish News Weekly and also owns Impress café and Impress Wood Fired Cuisine, all of which are located in Auburn.

Sue Pearson – Kangaroo Island Gourmet Food Safari® Guide

Our indefatigible guide and chef on Kangaroo Island. Sue’s epiphany whilst working at the very upmarket Ivy Restaurant in London (where she was in a team of 45) was life-changing. A week later she was in a team of one and watching the whales and dolphins featured in many write-ups on this wonderful island. Sue runs the best fish and chips shop in the world and also caters for weddings and stocks some of the beach houses with hampers of great produce…What makes our time on KI special is staying in beautiful beach houses and the series of lunches and dinners catered by Sue in some of the most scenic places – including a converted shearing shed perched high on a cliff-top.

Ulku Gani

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.

Heather Jeong

Heather Jeong is our guide to the beautiful Korean area of Eastwood and shares the food and culture of her homeland with our guests. A trained chef, Heather demonstrates recipes with many of the ingredients so everyone can learn to make delicious Korean food at home. Many labels are only in Korean so having a guide is essential. Heather is the perfect bridge between worlds and creates a fun and informative day.

Victoria Kyriakopoulos

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.

Daniela DiBella

Daniela DiBella is our guide to all things Italian in Melbourne. A first generation Italian, her mum Carmela was born in Calabria and father Mario in from Sicily and like many families, food was the centre of everything. “In my family food was an expression of my mother’s love for her family…now as a mother I too express myself through home cooking and can thank my Italian heritage and up bringing for my food passion .”Food is our common ground, a universal experience” is one of my favourite quotes as it expresses what I believe,” she says. A trained language teacher (Italian of course!) Daniela works during the week and at weekends loves passing on her knowledge and love of Italian cuisine.

Damien Bonal

A clever marketing executive during weekdays, Damien Bonal from France, loves taking our Gourmet Safari groups on a delicious voyage of discovery into the best French food businesses in Melbourne. His natural charm and knowledge about many great ingredients and recipes makes him a big favourite with our guests. His own favourite finds: marrons glacés, saucisson, beautiful buttery pastries, cheese and wine of course!

Olivier Charkos

Olivier was born into an exceptional food family – his father Pierre came to Australia to start an adored patisserie in Roseville with his Australian wife Sally and later La Renaissance in Sydney’s Rocks area. Olivier studied at a culinary school in Paris and went on to work in the kitchens of a number of Michelin starred restaurants. With his family, he opened Baroque Bistro which hosted many Gourmet and Gorgeous Safari banquets. Olivier has been a guide on our French Gourmet Safaris in Sydney since 2012.

Somer Sivrioglu

Somer grew up in Istanbul and learnt much about food from his mother Ulku who is a renowned chef and restaurateur. He came to Australia to study and worked in senior positions in hospitality before opening Efendy Restaurant in Balmain which has won critical acclaim as well as numbers of awards. He is also owner and chef at his newest restaurant in Barangaroo Anason. Safaris director Maeve and Somer met and talked Turkish travel and food at an OzHarvest function where they are both ambassadors and many banquets and a trip to Turkey have been the result. Somer’s cookbook Anatolia – Adventures in Turkish Cuisine continues to win admirers and awards.

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Pietro Porcu

Pietro grew up in a food loving family in Dolianova, outside Sardinia’s capital Cagliari. His mother Maria is a gifted cook, making many traditional Sardinian recipes whilst his late father taught the kids how to hunt and forage in the nearby mountains. . He worked as a chef in Europe before fate brought him to Australia and he opened the adored jewel of a restaurant Da Noi in 1994. Cooking from the heart with the produce he raises on his farm outside Yarck in the Yarra Valley is what defines the food in Da Noi and also underlines the spirit of the annual safari to Sardinia that Pietro and Safaris Director Maeve make every June.

Nicola McConnell

Nicola McConnell is the classic ‘can do Kiwi Girl’ who is the perfect person to have on board a Gorgeous Safari. Based in Dunedin, Nic grew up in Central Otago, has a family house in Wanaka and is a frequent visitor for work and pleasure. She runs her own PR agency Brand Amp focussing on food and wine and works with a number of Central Otago wineries and is organiser of Feast Wanaka, a pop up restaurant and Cellar Door. So the upshot is she knows everyone and is resourceful, clever, quick, lateral and positive and gorgeous to her last atom.

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.

Mandy Amos – Gorgeous Girls Safaris Guide

What more could you want in a Gorgeous Safari guide – clever, fun and warm. Mandy Amos is a hairdresser with her own salon in the Lake Macquarie region, she’s an expert on colour matching, knows loads of everything you’d ever need to know about our destinations and is the sort of woman whose sparkle gets you at “hello”. Mandy has been leading our Vietnam Gorgeous Safaris for 5 years now.

Suzie Warhurst – Gorgeous Girls Safari makeup artist

A makeup artist who has that magical knack of making you look like a great version of yourself and is happy to pass on all the tips of the trade. Suzie has worked on major Australian films and miniseries for many years, some celebrities fly her in especially for the Logies and special events. Suzie joins Gorgeous Safaris to add her special touch to the Vietnam Gorgeous.

MAEVES GOURMET INSTAFEED @maeveomeara

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