Food is as integral to a culture as the landscapes that shape it and the history that defines it. That’s why intrepid travelers are no longer just fueling up at whatever fast-food restaurant they find on their way to the Louvre in Paris or to the canals in Venice – they’re spending hours lingering over dishes and discussing the ingredients with the chefs and the waiters.
As a result, cooking classes, which used to be something reserved for the wealthy or very curious, are super popular nowadays. They give travelers a chance to learn paella from top chefs in Barcelona, shop for fresh tomatoes and mozzarella in Rome’s markets to create bruschetta, and dive into the savory ins and outs of true French cuisine at a cozy villa. Food made with love always tastes better, and what’s not to love about a vacation where you’re not just learning, but cooking too?
The Location: New York, USA
The Experience: Hipster
The Cuisine: This part specialty food shop and part butcher also serves as one of Chelsea’s hippest cooking schools. Housed in a bi-level carriage shop and decorated with white subway tiles and well-loved hardwood floors, it feels more like a visit to your quirky yet stylish aunt’s house than a formal school. The cooking school focuses on farm-to-table and sustainable cuisine, which means curious cooks and fledgling epicureans can sign up for a wide variety of classes, like nose-to-tail butchering, jam making and the art of Japanese cooking. Not only do you learn the basics of cooking, butchering and baking, you’ll also get side-by-side lessons on how to eat mindfully and make all of your meals more environmentally friendly. From pie-baking in gingham aprons to vegetarian meals on the go, this is the ultimate cooking school for the young and the quirky.
The Raymond Blanc Cookery School
The Location: Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxfordshire, UK
The Experience: Comprehensive
The Cuisine: Nestled inside the breathtaking Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in the rolling countryside of Oxfordshire is the high-brow Raymond Blanc Cookery School. Led by by French cordon bleu Raymond Blanc, this ultimate cooking school offers specialty courses in all things French cooking – ranging from wine pairing to croissant baking and the art of Coq-au-Vin. The classes come with a hefty price tag (around $200 USD), but are half-day intensive and include complimentary beverages. If you’re really dedicated to the art of modern French cuisine, you can opt for the four-day residential course, which immerses you intensively into the art of sourcing ingredients, butchering, preparing and plating. Classes range in topics, but the most popular ones are the magic of macarons (clearly), patisserie and desserts, and sauces and stocks.
Château de Berne Cookery School
The Location: Château de Berne, Chemin de Berne, France
The Experience: Rural
The Cuisine: At home in the picturesque valley of Aix-en-Provence is the Chateau de Berne, a Relax & Chateau resort. Charmed and enchanting, this cooking school is set inside a meticulously restored 18th-century complex, combining the beauty of rural France with the luxury of a world-class hotel. Its on-site cookery school offers a series of day classes where you’ll learn the secrets of Provençal cuisine from master chef Philippe Migot, comprising regional fish and meat together with seasonal fruit and vegetables while taking advantage of some delicious Côtes de Provence wines.
La Maison Arabe Cooking Workshops
The Location: Marrakesh, Morocco
The Experience: Authentic
The Cuisine: Influenced by Moorish, Berber and Mediterranean flavors, Morocco’s most famous dishes are its briouates, pastilla, tagines and couscous. And at La Maison Arabe’s cooking school, you can learn how to prepare them directly by local Moroccan cooks or “dadas.” Class numbers never exceed 10, and there’s a translator on hand to help participants get a grip with the dada’s instructions. Plus, these dishes are easy to mimic at home, especially after spending an afternoon shopping in Marrakesh’s many spice markets for the necessary ingredients.
The Cooking School at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
The Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Experience: Adventurous
The Cuisine: Learn the true art of Thai cooking (right down to the savory broths) with a single day or a full, weeklong program at the expansive and luxurious Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai. Every day, you’re introduced to the mouthwatering world of Thai cuisine under the watchful eye of a trained Four Seasons chef. You’ll learn everything from preparing those infamous chicken satays served with peanut butter sauce to spicy salads and coconut-laden Thai curries. If you’re worried you won’t get to experience the bustling culture of Chiang Mai’s local markets, don’t fret – market excursions and vegetable carving workshops are also built into the program.