After many less-than-fulfilling years of working in advertising, Lisa Rogovin made the bold decision to quit her job and focus on what made her happiest: food.
“I knew the GM at the Four Seasons hotel, and he happened to ask me what I wanted to do with my life,” Lisa said. “I told him I would love to feed my passion.”
So she designed a walking tour of the ferry building and farmer’s market, and paired it with a winemaker’s lunch back at the Four Seasons for hotel guests. She ran them on weekends in addition to her full-time advertising job, but after a year and a half, Lisa realized she was craving more.
“I just decided to do the whole ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ thing with my life,” she said. “I was like, ‘Alright, I’m getting rid of the husband, getting rid of the house, getting rid of the job.’
“I traveled for a year, went to 14 countries and pretty much just fed my soul.”
During that year, Lisa traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Barcelona, India and several other countries throughout Asia, Africa and South America.
“I started the trip with a guy who I’d just started dating. I told him I was taking a trip in five months, and he was like, ‘Well, I can come with you.’ And I was like, ‘Well, maybe. We’ll see…‘“
“He wound up coming with me, and now he’s my husband and we have two children together … It worked out just fine.”
Though there wasn’t a big food tour industry at the time, Lisa sought out her own food experiences, crafting her own food tours wherever she went. Of all the countries she visited, she said Thailand and Israel’s food scenes ranked among the best.
“Israel was pretty delicious. In Tel Aviv, the richness of the soil and the nutrients just give the food so much flavor … And there are lots of complex flavors and spices because there are so many influences — wherever Jews have migrated around the world, (those influences) wind up coming back to Israel.”
When Lisa returned from the trip in 2004, she geared up to pursue a new career inspired by an experience she had on vacation in Mexico before her big journey.
She did a tour with a local there who brought her to the neighborhood farmer’s market and taught her about the ingredients used in authentic Mexican food. Afterwards, they went back to the woman’s house and cooked a meal using the produce from the market.
Inspired by the local, authentic feeling of the tour, Lisa crafted her own food tours in San Francisco. With her walking food tour company — Edible Excursions — guests explore one of the city’s neighborhoods with a tour guide, tasting samples of food from a variety of local eateries.
Each tour is lead by a passionate guide — a mixture of cookbook authors, recipe developers, food bloggers, personal chefs and past (or future) restaurant owners, Lisa said Edible Excursions tour guides “love, live, eat, breathe and sleep food.”
And in addition to tasting amazing foods, guests learn all about a neighborhood’s history on the tours.
“We want you to leave with some sense of education, history about a neighborhood … We’re hoping that guests walk away from the experience with a sense of satisfaction, not only from the food, but interesting stories as well.
As a passionate advocate for preserving communities in San Francisco, Lisa said storytelling is a crucial element for many of the tours.
“I think the Japantown tour is so important because of the history of Japanese people and Japanese-Americans in this country,” she said. “It was the first point of entry for Japanese people into this country … and that neighborhood is shrinking tremendously.
“It has shrunk from 36 blocks to 4 blocks as it is, and it’s still shrinking. Hopefully it won’t be wiped away, and I feel like I’m doing a job by helping to keep the awareness up.”
To learn more about food, the shrinkage of Japantown or where to find the city’s best pastrami sandwich, ask your Scout to book you a tour with Edible Excursions. Tours start at $68/person and explore neighborhoods in SF as well as the East Bay. You can also text “edible excursions” to 415-915-2421 to book.