Cooking Classes On The Road

Apr 2014

What better way to embrace a new culture and pick up unique tips about the local cuisine than a cooking class during your travels.  The chefs undoubtetly have insider knowledge about the area markets and seasonal foods of the area.  Some can even be part of a bigger picture with visits to farms, wineries and markets filling out your days.  Cooking experiences  can be found all over the world; here are a few to whet your appetite.

cooking school around the world

Many of the locations feature sustainable, organic ingredients, and a few have their own farms right on the premises.  Agra tourism has skyrocketed in recent years, and cooking is on the agenda of many. Whatever the case, eating and learning about  local ingredients is a great way to support a sustainable economy in the travel industry.

cooking school europe

Eating in Italy and France is a well known sport, and one I can embrace wholeheartedly!  The markets are filled with the freshest of ingredients.  Experience the best of the countryside—and cuisine—in a day or weeklong time frame.  You’ll find striking beauty, spectacular views and charm.  The Slow Food principle thrives here, and many produce award winning artisan products of fruit, honey and olive oils.

  • Toscana Taste and Beauty is a cooking school hosted at Il Paluffo in a Tuscan Eco lodge.   They offer an all inclusive seven day Tuscan experience which combines cooking classes, wine excursions and cultural excursions in nearby Florence, Sienna and other small villages.  Traditional recipes focus on organic ingredients and the opportunity to enjoy an authentic hands on taste of Italian life.
  • A school with over 30 years of experience, Case Vecchie in Sicily is run by a family that has been cooking their whole lives.  Three and five day courses are paired with visits to local cheese tastings at dairy farms or coffee sipping with the local barista.  If you’re a fan of tomatoes, a taste of the school’s own sun-dried pastes and confits will satisfy.  The estates wine will have you reminiscing about your wonderful experience once you arrive back home. Homestyle recipes will ensure you’ll appreciate with all five senses the Sicilian dolce vita.
  • The Cooking Classes of Patricia Wells in Provence leaves visitors swooning.  In addition to learning to cook traditional French dishes, the experience of living like a local and soaking up the culture of life in Provence is what has her students raving about the dreamy weeks that sell out far in advance.  One of particular interest to me is the Black Truffle Cooking Extravaganza-a focus on the most luxurious and rare of ingredients.  Truffles are included in all of the prepared dishes and participants take part in a truffle hunt.  Students will come away with a new appreciation and understanding of this exotic ingredient of French menus.

cooking class asia

I’ve had several cooking experiences in Asia, the ingredients were more exotic to me, but the food just as delicous.

  • While Burma has only recently opened to a heavy tourist trade, there are opportunities to experience outside of actual schools.  The Governor’s Residence in Yangon provides a market tour and cooking demonstration for guests of the hotel.  A more in depth, off the beaten path experience {and one i’ve put to the top of my list after visiting Myanmar earlier this year} is cookbook author Naomi Duguid’s Burma Food Tours.  Her exquisite cookbook Burma:River of Flavors was one of the reasons I chose to travel there this year.  This is a real hands on, life of a local experience which she also does in Chiang Mai.
  • In the backwaters of Kerala, India, you can take a kettu vallam boat thru water lilies and stay at Philipkutty’s Farm, a perfect hideaway for the bespoke traveller.  Their program will give you insights into the southern Indian experience and if you’re lucky, you’ll learn recipe secrets passed down over the generations. Walking on the property you’ll come across a working farm, spices growing throughout and jackfruit bigger than your head.  It’s a rich and rewarding experience, a justly chosen area for National Geographic Traveller’s 50 Places of a Lifetime.
  • From the moment you arrive at The Marari Beach Resort, you know this is a spot that has a special relationship with the environment.  Part of a small village, the fisherfolk of Mararikulam have lived for centuries in harmony with the land and sea. The coastal culture is intertwined with the resort. Dinner in an open air pavilion gave many choices from the organic garden nearby. At the Farmers restaurant you will pick ingredients from the garden and prepare family style with the chef. I was not aware there were so many different kinds of spinach. The farm grows 6- everything from creeping spinach, which produces a great fushia berry used in natural dying, to red, green and miniature varieties.  My family still raves about the coconut prawn dish I learned to cook there.

This is only a small sampling of cooking experiences from around the Globe.  Have you ever indulged your inner chef when  on the road? I’d love to hear about the experience in the comments.

Photo of Truffles via Patricia Wells, all other photos Alison Abbott.

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  1. These classes look like fun!

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. Getting to know a country’s food is a great way to get to know the culture. I’ve taken part in classes in Africa as well as Europe but yet to do one in Asia! I’ve just come back from a fabulous cooking holiday in Tuscany – I learnt so much and had a fabulous time. Would highly recommend them everyone!

    • alison says:

      Sounds like you’re way ahead of me here Kat! It’s also a great way to bring back memories when your back home. Do you have a favorite dish you’ve learned to cook? My daughter perfected pasta in Florence and we are always begging her to make it! Where were the classes you took in Tuscany?

  3. What a wonderful article Alison. We are what we eat, so I entirely agree, that there is probably no better way to get to know the people and their culture, than in this way. Coming close I believe, would be their native music and dance, perhaps?

    This article, however, hasn’t helped much in reducing my jealousy about Kathryn’s recent trip, and your trips 🙂 loving the sound of your prawn coconut prawn dish.

    • alison says:

      Hi Jackie. The friend I often travel with studied dance in college and performed in India. We try to incorporate visiting dance performances on our travels and I agree it’s another great way to get another hit of the local culture.

  4. I do like the idea of a cooking holiday although it’s not something I’ve done as yet. I did do a day’s cooking course at a Thai restaurant in the UK once, and our children got to make their pizzas at a lovely little restaurant in St. Moritz once, but that’s about the closest we’ve got unfortunately… hopefully one day! 🙂

    • alison says:

      Paul, Sounds like you given it a whirl. Timing is everything and I bet your travels will take you into a kitchen again very soon. You would look good with a chef’s hat on!