A life-changing adventure abroad helped Lisa Rogovin start San Francisco-based Edible Excursions.
While working in advertising sales for Gourmet magazine for seven years, Rogovin began leading guests of a San Francisco hotel on weekend culinary jaunts throughout the city as a side business.
After her first taste of leading tours, she spent time thinking about — and working on — setting up a tour business.
“I left the United States for seven months on a food-and wine-fueled journey around the world, visiting 14 countries, living out my version of Eat, Pray, Love and cooking up my edible adventures business, which I launched when I landed back in San Francisco,” she said.
A food tour business begins
The first tours set off in 2004. The new business’ first excursion showcased the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace. In the time since, it has become a signature tour.
“It was the first, and it’s the only food tour offered there, and it takes place in one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, which makes it a must-see for anyone — local or visitor,” Rogovin said. “Plus there’s such a concentration of culinary artistry in a relatively compact space.”
Currently, the ferry building tour is one of nine on the Edible Excursions roster. Another San Francisco tour adds an Alcatraz visit to the ferry building tour, and other itineraries visit Japantown or one of two Mission District enclaves in the city.
Since starting in San Francisco, the company has branched out to Oakland and Berkeley.
In Oakland, tours highlight two popular neighborhoods, Temescal and Uptown.
With the Berkeley tours, groups can eat their way through an area nicknamed the “Gourmet Ghetto.” Considered by many as the birthplace of California cuisine, this area features artisan restaurants, markets and other culinary businesses.
Rogovin and her guides work hard to find the locations and partners for each outing long before the tour occurs. Like Rogovin, the guides come with backgrounds that make them well suited for leading Edible Excursions outings.
“My tours are all carefully curated,” she said. “We pair with partners who share their passion and knowledge and they’re run by guides who have experience in the culinary realm, whether as personal chefs, food writers, cookbook authors or other industry professionals.”
Tour participants can expect to eat well as they learn about the local culture and the people who make or grow the food.
“It’s a great way to connect to a community quickly and discover people and places that would take a ton of time to figure out on your own,” Rogovin said. “You get to meet fellow food lovers from near and far. Oh, and of course, we feed people well and often.”
Each tour can accommodate small groups up to 14. Custom tours for larger groups can be arranged.
Group Tour Media: What do you see as the future of group tours for Sunrise Tours?
Lisa Rogovin: In the Bay Area, the food tour industry is expanding at a dizzying speed, which really speaks to the increasing interest in experiencing and learning about good food. Visitors and locals choose destinations based on their culinary offerings. Food isn’t an afterthought anymore, it’s a reason to go someplace.
For the future of this industry, I anticipate more and more people wanting to learn about where food comes from and who the people are behind the scenes. Television programs like Top Chef have turned chefs into celebrities, generating a growing interest in food tours and culinary tourism. The future looks bright for our industry.
For more information about Edible Excursions, call (415) 806-5970 or visit www.edibleexcursions.net.