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Performers, Pork and Pastry!

April 28, 2013

After I blogged about my favorite survival job and why I hate that term, I started hearing about all these other actors who were leading   of fun tours.  Meet lovely Heather Refvem who leads a Greenwich Village Food Tour – YUM!

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-Is being a tour guide a good fit for an actor? Pros? Cons?

The tour guide part, absolutely! Half of our tour guides are performers of various types. For one thing, the tour is three hours and you have the rest of your day to fill as you please. Just like an acting job, we have a script for the tour but we have freedom to make it our own. We take 16 people per group, it is very intimate and whether people on the tour know it or not they are our “unassuming co-hosts.” Unlike performing on stage, we can see our audience and we use different tactics to engage them, so we have to be on! Most of the time it’s great and you feel like your showing your friends around the neighborhood, sharing amazing food with them. There are worst things you can do with your day than hand out a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies to your 16 new friends. But as I said you have to be on and even then the group dynamic isn’t always magical and while it’s a short day, even the best days take a lot out of you. The other problem is the winter is dramatically slower, so in the past I’ve had to pick up shifts at a restaurant. However recently, I began working in our office helping to set up for the tours and this has evolved into me working on social media, research, design projects etc. as well. These days I can rely on what I make working the office, but in the past winter has been stressful. One more thing, being a food tour guide isn’t always friendly for your waistline. I don’t eat while giving the tour, but part of my job is trying the restaurants on my own… or rather I get inspired by the amazing food around me and go back to “research”… it’s a blessing and a curse.

-Does the job fit into your own brand as an actor at all? Or your type as an actor?

Yes! I tend to gravitate towards quirky characters and tour guiding is a quirky job. I love bringing joy to audiences when I perform and that is exactly my goal when giving the tour. I also do improv which is an asset. As a tour guide you need to be flexible, in control and not let them see you sweat when things go wrong, while also becoming each visitors new best friend. I’m definitely cast-able as “the best friend,” plus it’s a role I enjoy playing and get to every day on the tour!

-My job as a tour guide is definitely one of my favorite “survival jobs.” How does yours compare to other jobs you’ve had?

I’m very lucky to have had this job for 5 years now, so I don’t have many other “survival jobs” to compare it to. My first job after moving to New York was at the tea shop and I also picked up shifts serving at a Cuban restaurant one year, but that is it. I have fond memories of working at the Cuban restaurant which is sadly closed now. It was owned by an 80-year-old Cuban lady who became my surrogate grandmother. It was hard work and very physically demanding which can be especially rough when you are a performer. The tea shop was a total circus! Crazy boss, slacker staff, good product but that was about it. It’s gone now too… We had fun, but it wasn’t ever going to be a long-term situation. Obviously, the food tour has been a long-term situation and until I get a series regular…I don’t see myself leaving. Between the office and giving tours, I am comfortable and happy. I can pay my bills and I have the freedom to pay for acting expenses, but I also have flexibility to design my day so I can be an actress. My boss is very understanding and supportive of my being an actor.

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-I’m a bit of a foodie! Tell me more about your food tour!

Foods of New York Tours offers food tasting walking tours that integrate the cultural and history of Manhattan’s most delicious neighborhoods. I give the Original Greenwich Village Tour that started back in 1999. The tour starts on Bleecker Street, home to Murray’s Cheese Shop, Faicco’s Pork Store and Rocco’s Pastry Shop, all landmarks in the neighborhood and culinary destinations. Because we have been around for 14 years, we are truly integrated in to the neighborhood and have developed personal relationships with the owners, chefs and managers of the shops and restaurants we work with and because of that we are able to share their personal stories with our guests and have access to behind the scenes experiences that people wouldn’t have visiting the neighborhood on their own. On certain days, we brings groups to a 200-year-old farmhouse hidden in the middle of the block that is now a private party space for the Italian restaurant in front. Our newest addition to the tour is a restaurant owned by a chef that we have known for 6 years and when he is available, he prepares the tasting himself and personally greets each group. In between tastings, we share the history of Greenwich Village and point out notable historical landmarks and share our experiences of living in New York City.

-It sounds delicious! Thanks so much Heather. Where can folks connect with you?

They can connect with me at my Website, Facebook, or Twitter

I also write the blog for Foods of New York Tours and run the FoodsofNY Facebook and Twitter Pages

If anyone is interested in taking my tour, I give the Original Greenwich Village Tour on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, usually around 12:30: Shoot us an e-mail at info@foodsofNY.com to let us know you’d like to request me as your guide, there is no guarantee, but it helps draw the request to our attention when scheduling tour guides.

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