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. One of her current favorites is LetterPress Amaranth Crunch Bars she finds at Bi-Rite Market. She’s no stranger to San Francisco restaurants, either: Her current picks are Maybeck’s, Slanted Door, and Ragazza, though she can make recommendations for any palate.
Meet Maria Antonia
Maria Antonia has lived in San Francisco for nearly 9 years. Of Peruvian descent, she enjoys cooking her native Peruvian food and anything from the Mediterranean diet. After spending her childhood in Washington DC, Maria Antonia traveled extensively and has lived in Spain, Turkey, South Africa and Peru! Like many San Francisco residents, Maria Antonia cycles just about everywhere and enjoys spending time in her Pacific Heights garden. When not leading tours, she loves practicing acro yoga, dancing salsa and playing the cajon, a Peruvian percussion instrument. Maria Antonia’s favorite restaurants at the moment are Cotogna for Italian food and Ichi Sushi for omakase.
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 Atlas Social.
A San Francisco native, Shane has visited 32 countries, but admits there’s no place like home. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Masters in Public Health Nutrition 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 rock climbing and yoga. Perhaps Shane’s favorite avocation is spending time in her own garden, where she reads, relaxes, and mulls over what to prepare for dinner.
In the mood for a meal out? Shane recommends The Blue Plate and La Ciccia, both in San Francisco. To sate her cravings for sweets, Shane enjoys b. patisserie’s Valrhona Fudge Cookies.
Casey has lived in the NoPa (North of Panhandle) neighborhood of San Francisco since 2008. When not leading food tours, she teaches both Astronomy and Art History. She even has keys to a storage unit full of dinosaur bones that she takes around to elementary schools to teach kids about Paleontology! Casey is a seasoned road-tripper and so far she has managed to spend the night in 45 of our 50 states. A longtime foodie, Casey brews her own beer at home and frequents the Tartine Bakery so often that she’s a known entity there! (The walnut bread is worth returning for at 4:30pm, when it’s fresh out of the oven.) Casey is also a fan of the SF classic brunch triumvirate: Mama’s , Brenda’s French Soul Food and Dottie’s True Blue Cafe. Guittard’s Quetzalcoatl is her chocolate bar of choice.
Elaine fell in love with Napa during her first visit over 10 years ago, so it was no surprise when she and her husband made Napa their permanent residence when they retired from the pharmaceutical industry. They were lucky enough to find a home with a small Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard just north of the city, and enthusiastically embraced viticulture and the wine industry. They even acquired a vineyard dog, a 94-lb chocolate lab, appropriately named Cocoa.
Elaine never tires of the variety of fine wines and dining that Napa offers. She and her husband have visited over 200 of the wineries and tasting rooms in Napa, belong to numerous wine clubs, and take advantage of food and wine education courses offered by various professional groups in the region. Elaine grew up in Wisconsin, so it is no wonder that one of her favorite stops on the Napa tour is the opportunity to sample some of the amazing cheeses made in northern California!
Marie draws on her experience in theatre and comedy to keep tour guests entertained for hours. Having grown up in Detroit, Marie has lived in many of the country’s major cities, including New York City, Los Angeles and now San Francisco. When not leading food tours or movie tours in SF, she can be found performing in local theatres and comedy clubs. Her dynamic voice has contributed to voiceovers for commercials and animated films. Marie makes her home in Cow Hollow and loves the Neopolitan pizza at nearby A16. For sushi, she is a regular at Kiss Seafood in Japantown and her favorite chocolate of the moment is Poco Dolce’s Peanut Butter Bar.
Detect a Southern drawl? Sarah hails from the Deep South (Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee) and is now proud to call downtown Napa her home. Sarah and her husband retired in Napa after spending many years living in Reno and visiting wine country on the weekends. Sarah dedicated her professional life to nursing and anesthesia, and she traveled extensively with the Peace Corps and Operation Smile. She has visited over 20 countries in Africa, has lived in Australia, and traveled throughout Europe, Mexico, Central America and Peru. Sarah and her husband belong to numerous wine clubs in Napa Valley and have an impressive wine collection. She loves cooking and entertaining, and collects new recipes wherever she travels. When it comes to dining in downtown Napa, she is overwhelmed by all the wonderful choices but TORC is currently her top pick.
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.
Maggie is a chocolate connoisseur, actor, graphic designer and copywriter. In that order. A native New Yorker, happily resettled in San Francisco, she enjoys showing visitors what’s new in San Francisco, and places that never get old. Current favorite food spots are casual lunch or happy hour at Nick’s Crispy Tacos, seafood salads at Swan’s Oyster Depot (worth the wait!) and special occasion/ dress up dinner at Boulevard. Choosing a favorite among the chocolate makers and melters in SF is like asking a parent which child they love most. There’s only one answer. She loves them equally.
Originally from Minnesota, Stephanie has called San Francisco home since 2004 and adores exploring the neighborhoods, running the hills, and driving her scooter around town. After working several years as an editor in the online music industry, she now stays busy as a freelance writer and editor, holistic nutritionist, and yoga teacher-in-training. When she’s not tapping at a keyboard or balancing on a yoga mat, she is traveling to (or dreaming about) an exotic locale. She also runs a travel blog with her husband at Big & Small Travel.
Some of her SF food faves include: The Mill’s Adventure Bread, Slanted Door’s pho, Darwin Café’s kale salad, and Dandelion Chocolate’s 100% cacao bar. She could also spend several days in Rainbow Grocery’s bulk section. Most importantly, she believes eating dark chocolate daily is an essential part of a happy, healthy, and well-balanced life
Founder and CEO-emeritus
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.
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. After a ten year stint at the helm of Gourmet Walks, Andrea sold the company to Ahmet, but will continue as a key advisor. When she’s not practicing yoga or taking a spin class, she loves seeing plays–she’s an avid supporter of local theater. Of course, she makes time to try restaurants in the area and revisit her standbys; her favorite San Francisco eateries are Nightbird, Kusakabe and Lord Stanley. 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!