Newcastle family flying high on Travel Guides fame

Food and travel made Newcastle’s Fren family famous in 2017 but it was just a taste of things to come. 

POPULAR: Jonathon, Cathy, Mark and Victoria Fren are familiar faces at Oma's Kitchen and on Channel 9 television series Travel Guides.

POPULAR: Jonathon, Cathy, Mark and Victoria Fren are familiar faces at Oma's Kitchen and on Channel 9 television series Travel Guides.

Mark and Cathy Fren, who own and run Oma’s Kitchen with the help of their children Jonathon and Victoria, starred in the first season of Travel Guides last year.  

Their sense of humour made them popular with viewers, many of whom have visited the family’s Watt Street restaurant. Even so, the Frens were shocked when the show’s producers asked them to return for season two. 

“We are just ourselves on the show, an ordinary family with four different personalities,” Mark Fern told Food & Wine. “But we have come to realise that people are able to relate to us. I mean, who doesn’t say ‘Who farted?’ on a road trip?”

Episode one of season two aired on Monday, where each family jetted off for a week-long holiday to Bologna, the food capital of Italy. The Frens hosted a sold-out themed dinner event and screening on the night, and will continue to do so throughout the series.

So, what can viewers expect in season two?

“If anything is going to go wrong, it happens to us. There are plenty of laughs,” Victoria said. “The most amazing thing is that out of the eight holidays we hadn’t been to any of the destinations. This made it very exiting for all of us. The viewers can look forward to our honest and open reviews of each destination.”

It is very much a case of business as usual at Oma’s Kitchen, though. A new Bavarian menu has been introduced with vegan and gluten-free options as well as sharing platters, and there are new German beers on tap. The restaurant is now also open for dinner three nights a week.

The signature pork knuckle sharing platter with marinated pork steak and a pork, a beef and a beef/cheese sausage has proven popular at $65. It is served with potato mash, red cabbage, sauerkraut, apple sauce and gravy.​ 

“As soon as Travel Guides was aired we all became more recognisable. A day doesn’t go by when we are not asked to have a photo taken or told how great the show is,” Victoria said.

“The restaurant is always buzzing with our regulars as well as fans popping in from all over Australia to meet us and ask if Jonathon has a girlfriend yet. But we are all still working extremely hard at Oma’s Kitchen with long days and nights and the usual meltdowns.”

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