Hottest Culinary School Vacations
Anyone who’s ever watched the scene from Julie & Julia where Meryl Streep takes her very first buttery bite of sole meuniere understands how instantly gratifying it can be to discover a new culture by way of its cuisine. Thanks to the rise in popularity of culinary tourism, there are now thousands of cooking schools around the world that not only provide that first delectable bite but also help raise your culinary cred by the end.
Whether it’s figuring out where to roll the perfectly flaky pâte feuilletée or wrap up a mean summer roll, narrowing down the feast of cooking school options can be challenging. So we’ve put together a list of the best recreational culinary schools in some of the world’s hottest food cities. As Julia says, “Bon appétit!”
First-timers to NYC will love the institute’s market tours of Chinatown and Union Square Greenmarket. And those looking to up their cooking game can take multisession immersion courses, such as the art of bread making or a butchering workshop. Once class ends, ICE offers plenty of containers to wrap up all the goodies you’ve made -- so you can enjoy a nice afternoon of freshly cooked (or baked) items in nearby Madison Square Park.
Another recreational cooking school in Maine worth trying is Salt Water Farm. Here, you’ll learn classic garden-inspired meals and sample wine at Cellardoor Vineyard in nearby Linconville. No visit to Maine would be complete without the slap of salty, wet air; you’ll experience just that on a guided schooner tour of Camden Harbor offered by the school.
With the fragrant and colorful Merida as their inspiration, students tour the huge and colorful Lucas de Gálvez market, where they see unusual spices and condiments, piles of recados (the "curries of Yucatán") and seasonal fruits like guanábana (soursop) and marañon (cashew apple). Students also learn classic Mayan dishes, such as sikil pak (a dip of ground squash seeds and tomatoes) and sopa de lima (chicken soup with limetta, a local variety of lime.)
By the end of the week, you’ll be charring chilis and tomatoes on an open flame, rolling your own tamales like a pro and grinding spices in a molcajete, a volcanic stone mortar and pestle.
Under Kate’s careful guidance, you’ll learn about French cuisine in situ, breaking down a whole 400-lbs. charcuterie pig, canning your own foie gras and cassoulet, and going on day trips to a nearby market for a glass of rosé. You’ll take home the ability to determine your menu by what’s at the market that day; you’ll also be left with an indelible picture of “the generous Cascon cooks who create an edible landscape at each and every meal.”
The program’s main focus is on central and southern Italy’s “cucina povera,” literally meaning “poor kitchen,” but don’t let the “poor” fool you -- another key focus at Berti’s school is on making great food with simple, high-quality ingredients. “Acqua cotta”--literally water cooked with onions, basil and parsley, celery leaves, tomatoes and olive oil -- typifies this style. End the day with a meal served around a farm table, rich in cucina povera … and great conversation.
At Gioan Family Cookery School, instructor Vi, who should have her own Food Network show, makes learning the ins and outs of green papaya salad, fried spring rolls and fish in banana leaf foolproof, with slow-paced instructions and encouraging jabs (“You strong, you like Tiger!”). Steady stream of Tiger beers make the process even more fun. But book ahead -- just like the chili paste condiment you’ll learn to prepare in class, this place is hot!
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