Welcome to our company page–we’re pleased to make your acquaintance! Here, you can find out more about each Gourmet Walks team member, including their culinary backgrounds, favorite Bay Area restaurants, and what they do when they’re not dreaming of their next meal.
Meet Andrea (Founder and CEO)
Gourmet Walks founder Andrea Nadel has had a passion for food since childhood. A Maine native, she planned elaborate dinners while her mother did the dishes–not a bad arrangement! As a student at Williams College, she wrote restaurant reviews, taught a cooking class, and learned the art of wine tasting. While in Southern France, Andrea realized that her appreciation of fine food was much more than a hobby; she spent her time abroad relishing in carefully crafted meals, savoring gourmet chocolate, and defining her culinary ideology.
After college, Andrea worked in marketing but knew her true passion lay in working with food. She and her husband left New York for the Bay Area in 2000, and Andrea learned the ins and outs of San Francisco’s restaurant scene while pursuing her Master’s degree. In 2005, she realized her longtime dream: Andrea founded Gourmet Walks, a tour company highlighting the best food and wine in San Francisco and Wine Country. (Andrea is a licensed tour guide in San Francisco.)
Currently, Andrea and her family reside in Tiburon. When she’s not practicing yoga or taking a spin class, she loves seeing plays–she’s an avid supporter of local theater. A talented cook, Andrea often prepares dinner for her husband (a dairy-free pescetarian) and three children, only one of whom she currently considers a foodie–no easy task, but one she handles with aplomb! Of course, she makes time to try restaurants in the area and revisit her standbys; her favorite San Francisco eateries are Sons & Daughters and Outerlands. Andrea’s love of chocolate remains strong; she regularly serves as a panelist for Taste TV chocolate events, and highly recommends you try the Ginger Elizabeth Salty Cocoa Nib Brittle Dessert Bar-the name doesn’t do it justice!
Meet Nicole (Tour Guide)
Nicole’s culinary career began when she was eight–as a child, she loved baking for her family. She continued honing her baking skills and loves catering desserts for friends and family. In fact, her brownie and cookie recipes can be found at various cafes all over town!
Nicole has spent much of her professional life working with food. Prior to joining Gourmet Walks, she had a 15-year career with Haagen-Dazs and also worked as a food stylist for various Food Network programs and commercials.
A chocolate expert, Nicole will help you learn to maximize your chocolate-tasting experience and will shed light on the intricacies of the industry. She’s no stranger to San Francisco restaurants, either: Her current picks are the Slanted Door and Ragazza, though she can make recommendations for any palate.
Meet Beth (Tour Guide)
A former educator and noted author, Beth draws on her presentation and description skills to lead tours that are educational and highly engaging. She has lived all over the country, but San Francisco is hands down her favorite city. She admits that it’s difficult to choose just one favorite restaurant here, but Limon and Burma Superstar. top her list. Chocolate-wise, she recommends Poco Dolce’s peanut butter bar.
Beth loves to travel and feels the best way to get to know a place is by acquainting oneself with its desserts. She also loves to organize scavenger hunts, play mahjong, and unwind with yoga. She’s slowly working her way through 7x7’s 100 Things to Try Before You Die list and invites you to join her in sampling.
Meet Swan (Tour Guide)
CA wine-industry veteran, Swan lives in Napa and loves sharing the area’s culinary bounty with guests. One of her favorite pastimes is leading wine-tasting excursions with friends (and we have to say, we’re envious of her friends!). She also loves a relaxing meal out; you can often find her at Barbers Q or Bistro Jeanty, two of her favorite Napa Valley restaurants.
When she’s not espousing the region’s dining establishments and wineries, Swan plays flute in three different Napa-area ensembles, and she also plays a mean game of bridge. She plans to teach her twin granddaughters the art of cooking in the near future.
Meet Maria (Tour Guide)
Since moving to Napa, Maria has made it her goal to try every restaurant, bakery, and food truck in the area, and she’s making excellent progress. A naturopathic doctor by training, Maria well understands the interplay between food and well-being and values the importance of a perfectly cooked meal. She recommends the Norman Rose Tavern for family-friendly but upscale American cuisine, and Auberge du Soleil for an all-around memorable dining experience.
Though she has traveled all over the world, her heart is always at home in her kitchen, where she prepares nourishing dishes for family and friends. (In fact, her retirement dream is to open a bakery-cafe specializing in breakfast treats.)
A woman of many talents, Maria is also a hula dancer and is skilled at playing ukelele and hand bells. Her friends consider her “a walking encyclopedia of interesting but mostly useless information,” much of which she acquired playing Trivial Pursuit or watching Jeopardy.
Meet Mary (Tour Guide)
Born and raised in New York City, Mary has spent the last 30 years living in the Bay Area. She became a UC Master Gardener in 2005 and is deeply involved in the promotion of local, sustainable agriculture. In addition, she has a vineyard in Napa, where she maintains a garden and hosts dinner parties for family members and friends.
Further drawing on her gardening expertise, Mary owns a garden-water conservation business, through which she helps Napa-area gardeners take advantage of the Mediterranean climate to sustainably increase their gardens’ yield.
In her free time, Mary loves to play games (Candy Crush included). She’s no golf pro, but she loves the sport and concedes that her game “could make Tiger Woods crack a smile!” A natural at bringing people together, Mary also leads history tours through downtown Napa–you’ll recognize her radiant smile and unmistakable 1920s getup. Her favorite area restaurants include Oenotri, ZuZu’s, and The Thomas.
Meet Ahmet (Tour Guide)
San Francisco is the perfect home base for Ahmet, whose culinary adventures have taken him around the world. He has lived in the U.K., Turkey, and China, among other places, but has called the Bay Area home for the past 13 years. Inspired by his grandmother and mother, Ahmet began cooking at the tender age of 11 and he hasn’t stopped since. He loves San Francisco’s farmers markets and will gladly recommend the best produce stand.
Ahmet’s deep love of food and lifelong interest in photography led him to Gourmet Walks, through which he shares his knowledge with others. When he’s not leading tours, Ahmet works as the senior manager of product quality at a local design firm. He’s also a full-time graduate student at the University of San Francisco, and he manages to take freelance photography jobs in his precious free time. We’re perpetually in awe of his energy.
Citing the difficulty in making such a choice, Ahmet lists his favorite area restaurants as Fleur de Lys, A La Turca, and The French Laundry. For dessert, Ahmet heads to Recchiuti for Spring Jasmine Tea Pralines, or to Schoggi, where he inevitably picks up the Chocolate Fondue Coins.
Meet Shane (Tour Guide)
One of several Bay Area natives on staff, Shane has visited 25 countries but admits there’s no place like home. (That said, she wouldn’t pass up the chance to return to Switzerland, where she sampled some of the best chocolates she’s ever tasted.) A graduate of UC San Diego’s biology program, Shane considers food from a molecular standpoint as well as from a culturally focused perspective.
Shane loves photography almost as much as she loves food, and she documents her culinary adventures on her blog SF Eats in SF. When she has a spare moment, she loves biking to local goat farms and sampling the delicious cheeses they have to offer. Perhaps Shane’s favorite avocation is spending time in her own garden, where she reads, relaxes, and mulls over what to prepare for dinner.
Meet Melissa (Tour Guide)
Melissa Grew up in the Bay Area and now calls the Dogpatch home–as she puts it, it’s the perfect vantage from which to observe the city’s ever-expanding food scene. A UC Berkeley graduate, Melissa works front of the house at Piccino in the Dogpatch in addition to leading tours for Gourmet Walks. She honed her culinary talents in Florence, where she studied cooking, pastry, and wine, and she puts this knowledge to good use at the Sprouts Cooking Club, where she exposes children to the joys of cooking.
Beyond cooking and dining out, Melissa plays a mean game of Cards Against Humanity. She’s a lover of languages and is currently studying Mandarin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Her favorite chocolate is Neo Cocoa’s salted caramel with black lava sea salt. Her favorite restaurants? Foreign Cinema for New American and Sunflower for Vietnamese.
Meet Donna (Tour Guide)
Do you truly understand the pleasure of dining alone? If not, check out Solo Epicurean, Donna’s blog detailing the loveliness of sharing a meal with yourself and only yourself. A graduate of the International Tour Management Institute, Donna makes all her guests feel at home while sharing the wonder’s of San Francisco’s restaurants and chocolate shops.
A landscape architect by trade, Donna spent 20 years planning parks and other public spaces where people can convene and feel more connected to nature. Understandably, she’s a huge proponent of sustainable agriculture and farm-to-table cooking. She loves cycling for fun and transportation, and she spends many evenings in her kitchen developing new recipes. Read more about Donna on her blog, Solo Epicurean.
Meet Rita (Tour Guide)
For the past 12 years, Rita has lived in Santa Rosa, promoting the area’s fabulous chocolate shops. Her chocolate evangelism took hold long before that, most likely in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where she grew up and developed her incurable sweet tooth.
Previously a teacher and graphic designer, Rita now produces chocolate shows and attends tasting events across the country. Never without a piece of chocolate in hand, Rita loves to hike, play tennis, paint, and practice xylophone. She raised three children and enjoys spending time with them, her two grandkids, and her Abyssinian cat.
Meet Debra (Tour Guide)
Debra, our newest Healdsburg guide, has a hilltop home on 4 acres overlooking the hills of Dry Creek Valley. She considers herself a “gentlewoman farmer,” and grows as much of her own food as possible. It brings her great joy to cook healthy and delicious meals for her friends and family. Debra is also an outdoors enthusiast, whose passions include kayaking, hiking and cycling. On the off-season, she enjoys exploring the United States, Canada and Mexico with her husband and 2 dogs in their comfortable travel trailer. Debra’s two favorite spots in Healdsburg are Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar and Thai Orchid Cuisine.
Meet Lora (Tour Guide)
Lora's first love was food and she's spent her life falling in love with it over and over. She's spent most of her career consulting on the "business of food" here in the Bay Area, with particular specialties in sustainability, wellness and innovation. She's also managed restaurants, worked for local food systems, and lived in Latin America studying sustainable cacoa (and, yes, it was absolutely amazing). Lora's a self-taught novice chocolatier and makes custom chocolates for friends and family. When she's not working or licking chocolate off a spatula, she can be found gardening, hiking, or going somewhere to sample the wonderful and ever-evolving world of food here in the Bay Area.
Her favorite eats in the Bay Area include Starbelly and, if she's very lucky, Saison. When not sampling her own chocolate creations, she can be spotted at Dandelion Chocolate savoring their European-Style Drinking Chocolate.
Meet John (Tour Guide)
Like many of our guides, John developed his palate early–a trait stemming from his childhood proximity to the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. John is just as passionate about cooking as he is about chocolate, though be careful not to come between him and his Recchiuti peppermint thins! (Don’t worry: After tasting them, you’ll definitely want to buy your own.)
When not leading tours, John spends time producing short films and collecting restaurant china. On weekends, you can find him wandering through San Francisco’s Chinatown, enjoying the sights and wandering through the well-stocked markets. At the end of a long day, he enjoys a meal at Le Colonial near Union Square.
Meet Jesica (Vendor Liaison and Designer)
Jesica spent three years as a Gourmet Walks tour guide before relocating to Portland, Maine with her husband and beautiful daughter. Though she misses San Francisco, she loves eating out at The Salt Exchange and cooking her own lobster- a luxury we Bay Area residents envy.
Though she no longer leads guests through Hayes Valley, she does lead tours for Maine Foodie Tours. In addition, she has her own e-learning business and also teaches swimming classes at her local YMCA. She loves that she still works with Gourmet Walks, albeit virtually.
See Yourself Leading Tours?
Interested in becoming a Gourmet Walks guide? Send a letter of interest and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org- we’re always looking for rockstar tour guides to lead tours in San Francisco and wine country! (Note: Weekend availability is a must.)