The effervescent Maeve O’Meara would dispute that she is the star of Food Safaris, an addictive series that takes viewers into Australian homes and kitchens they could never access otherwise.
Even though she has pioneered this particular television angle (and Gourmet Safaris, established nine years ago - real live tours that are a must to experience) she would argue that the foods – and the wonderful people from dozens of ethnic backgrounds whom she meets – are the real stars of the show.
Whatever the answer, Food Safari returns for a third series of a further nine episodes on SBS Television, beginning Wednesday December 3 at 7.30pm. I know I will be tuning in each week, along with many others.
Each half hour is a detailed journey into a single cuisine ranging from Egyptian to English, Syrian, Jewish, Maltese, Pakistani, Croatian and much more. Her access-all-areas camaraderie with everyone from three-hat chefs to passionate home-cooks results in a series that feeds food enthusiasts’ desire for insider knowledge.
You can explore recipes afterwards on the SBS website (www.sbs.com.au/food/show/food-safari).
Soon I’ll also tell you about a fabulous day-long Gourmet Safari of Maeve’s which I took part in recently.
28 Nov, 2008
MAEVE’S MILESTONE – GOURMET SAFARIS TURN TEN
Marking ten years, another milestone for mega-foodie Maeve O’Meara, a fun evening at one of her favourite restaurants recently brought together her friends and family as well as dozens of ‘safari-ers’.
The common bond on the evening (apart from relishing Summerland’s benchmark Lebanese cuisine, of course) was a love of food and an appreciation of the fun and enjoyment it can bring.
Anyone who has been on a Gourmet Safari (and Maeve has developed many variations on this theme around Sydney as well as Australia and overseas) knows her fascination with anything new and delicious. On one of these trips it is impossible not to talk to other food lovers and by the end of the day most people have collected a bunch of handwritten recipes, phone numbers and restaurant recommendations, as well as an esky full of unusual foods.
The Bankstown restaurant was packed with well-wishers and the evening turned into a sort of ‘stay-put’ safari, if you like. Lots of good food and wine, laughter and dancing with Maeve in the centre of it all as she well deserved to be. She was generous with thanks to all the guides, and especially to office manager Suzy Brien whom she credits with bringing order out of chaos.
Ten years is a real achievement in any field, particularly in breaking new ground in an industry not known for its longevity.
Congratulations Maeve and all connected with Gourmet Safaris. Can’t wait to see what the next ten years brings!
SAFARI – SO GOOD!
Maeve O'Meara’s face is instantly recognisable, due to her high-profile appearances on TV. Yet when she picks up a wedge of white cheese and holds it high above her head so we can all see, suddenly this is another side of Maeve.
"This," she says, with the excitement of someone sharing the best secret she's ever learned, "is Portuguese goat's cheese. And it goes fantastically with this!" She whips out another wedge – this time of deep ruby-red quince paste, and again, brandishes it.
I have been on several Gourmet Safaris, including two of the World in a Day ones, the day-long extravaganzas which take a bus-load of people on in-depth tasting tours. I have to tell you that these trips (which of course are not always led by the supremely busy Maeve) are some of the best things I have done in this city.
Firstly because it allows me to combine two of my favourite activities: shopping and eating. Secondly it is a painless way of reaching places I have never heard of – no traffic or parking hassles, and plenty of room for purchases as these safaris use big buses. Then there’s the fun of mixing with like-minded people who are just as thrilled by it all as I am; the behind-the-scenes tours and contact with shop-owners and restaurateurs; sometimes free samples. And yes, of course, I almost forgot – the food.
This multicultural city has so much to offer. Maeve and her Gourmet Safaris have tapped into this, made it accessible, and made it fun.
"I've been on one of Maeve's tours before," confides a woman standing next to me as we wait for the bus to pick us up after one of our stops. I know this anyway because, sensibly, she has brought a large shopping bag.
For details of dates, prices and availability: www.gourmetsafaris.com.au
If you do nothing else this summer, you must let the matchless Maeve O’Meara take you on a world tour of Sydney. If that doesn’t make sense, tune in to SBS at 7.30pm every Wednesday for the next few weeks and see what I mean. It is one of the best shows to air on TV for years.
The half hour program – a different country each time – is packed with interviews, recipes, food information and fun as Maeve enthuses about and tastes, pokes, sniffs and inspects amazing dishes and products which most people spend thousands to locate overseas.
Now, through the magic of television (and Maeve) we know where to find it right here in Sydney.
A MAEVE NEW WORLD
I have to admit I am a huge fan of Maeve O’Meara’s Gourmet Safaris and have participated in a couple of the Sydney ones over the past years.
In case you don’t know, these tours take groups on day-trips to explore various food-related parts of Sydney, taste lots of things, dine at a local restaurant and, quite simply, have the best time. People who love unearthing new food experiences have an instant bond with each other it seems and soon I find myself swapping favourite restaurant details and recipes with others who are equally passionate about food.
As Sydney is such a multicultural town, of course these tours are often based in some ethnic centre, so on one you might be sampling Portuguese tarts and flattened spicy barbecued chicken, while on another it’s decadent Lebanese pastries and felafel.
Obviously I am not alone in appreciating these tours as just recently Gourmet Safaris won a coveted (and I feel wholly justified) tourism award, taking out Best Tour Operator in The 2007 Australian Newspaper Travel and Tourism Awards.
Only rarely can I find the time to indulge a whole day on even such wonderful excursions, so I am particularly happy that Maeve has been busy again putting together a second series of Food Safari which goes to air from this coming Wednesday, December 5th, at 7.30pm on SBS.
This will be compulsive viewing for me (although I’m counting on being able to purchase the DVDs as well in case I miss any) and we’re told French, Japanese, Sri Lankan, Mauritian, Indonesian and Hungarian are some of the 13 cuisines about to be explored on the shows.
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