June 18, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

Let’s face it – we are all yearning to get back to some international travel. While international travel may not be possible, there are great team building and incentive experiences that can bring the world to you.

That’s the message from Maeve O’Meara, founder of Gourmet Safaris, which is just about to celebrate its 23rdanniversary.

During the height of COVID-19, touring activities were halted but O’Meara and her guides, including daughter Kitti, have now resumed running bespoke and programmed experiences of neighbourhoods and food producers in Sydney and around the country.

O’Meara says the most recent safari was for financial planners Fox and Hare.

“My daughter Kitti and I hosted them on our new Newtown-Enmore Safari with a special dinner at Sydney Cebu Lechon – a traditional eat-with-your-hands feast, on banana leaves.”

“I genuinely love being a bridge between worlds and hosting safaris. We also have a number of treasured guides who are wonderful with groups, each from a different cultural background,” she said.

Gourmet Safaris has hosted over 60,000 guests to date.

“We’ve done safaris for Kelloggs, Woolworths, A1 Furniture, Sanitarium, AMP, Allen Allen and Hemsley, [and] Young Presidents Organisation.

“Our first safari was in July 1998 and so next month we will be celebrating 23 years of food tours in Sydney and Melbourne, food related trips around Australia and until recently, many overseas safaris to exotic and delicious places.”

O’Meara says that for corporate groups “day safaris” are the best option either in a neighbourhood or on a bus. “We can also organise banquets with cooking demonstrations that can be interactive and fun,” she said.

With staff coming back to workplaces, companies are focussed on rebuilding their teams and creating momentum to get their businesses back on track.

O’Meara says that what people love most about a food tour is tasting something made with love and care and hearing some of the story surrounding it.

“Whether it’s just-made ricotta, or just-churned gelato, sesame-sprinkled Afghan bread or Maltese pastizzi.

“Exploring your own city and its great food ‘finds’ has been something I’ve loved doing for so many years and I love the moment of watching our guests discover new cuisines and ingredients and meeting the chefs and producers.

She says that even if you never cook, there is something for everyone on the safaris.

“They’re such a feel-good thing to do. At the end of the day our guests have travelled the world with their tastebuds in their own city and go home with something yummy from the day.”

For incentive groups, it’s possible to design a bespoke event or tour.

“Sanitarium has used us a couple of times and they devised five clever simultaneous safaris all from the jumping off point at Homebush where they held their annual conference.

“Five groups caught trains to various safari destinations and there was one of our guides waiting to share the best of each place with lunch included.

“The guests were tasked with bringing something back to share with the other groups who had visited different locations. Fun, educative, delicious and everyone loved it.”

A1 Furniture retailers from around the NSW have also been taken on a progressive dinner with coach transfer between locations.

And more examples still: “We did a fabulous corporate safari for Le Creuset in Cabramatta to launch a new item in their range. Angie Hong did a cooking demonstration using their cocotte and we did a walking tour of Cabramatta.”

Gourmet Safaris continually reviews its experiences. The newest tour is the Marrickville Producers Safari, a walking safari which includes visits to a coffee roaster, a coconut yoghurt manufacturer, a small goods smokehouse, an Italian cheese maker to see ricotta and burrata being made, an ethical butcher and a hip gin producer. The tour also includes a long lunch and a visit to a unique mushroom grower, then finishing with tasting of ingredients from a chef’s supplier only open to Gourmet Safaris groups.

Melbourne multi-cuisine safaris can also be created for corporate visits – this may be just the thing as restrictions ease in the city.

Top image credit: Gourmet Safaris and Kitti Gould