It's one thing to explore a culture's cuisine through fine dining -- but to truly gain a love and understanding of a region's palate, spices and flavors you have to learn how to make it. Cooking classes are a popular form of experiential travel and offer an immersive, hands-on look into a country's most popular dishes. Eat your way through the world with some of the best cooking classes around the globe, which are sure to find their way into your heart and stomach.
Haute Cuisine in a Haute Hôtel
The biggest news in the world of cuisine comes out of Paris. The famous chef Alain Ducasse has opened a cooking school in Paris. Of course this is not just ANY cooking school. The 7000-square foot area includes four kitchens, a wine cellar and a kitchen boutique. (Oh boy, cooking AND shopping.) The objective, says the web site, is to recreate the experience of cooking in your own kitchen. (Although it is difficult to imagine such grand kitchens in tiny Paris apartments.)
You will earn your toque in one of Paris’ most renowned hotels, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris, where Ducasse serves as executive chef. You will probably want to have a meal or two at his namesake Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée. Or make a reservation for lunch or dinner atop the Eiffel Tower at his Le Jules Verne restaurant with its stunning views of the city of light. The hotel offers a two-night stay combined with your choice of a half-day or full-day cooking lesson. Of course the Plaza Athénée would not object if you want to extend your stay and visit a view boulangeries, patisseries and cafes while you are there.
On graduation, you get a cookbook written by Ducasse, a chef’s hat, and an apron to take home as souvenirs—not to mention being able to casually say to friends, “Come over this evening and I’ll prepare one of the dishes that I learned from Alain Ducasse.”
However, if you’ve done French forever, and want to move on to something exotic, the Rhodes School of Cuisine’s Moroccan Cooking School may appeal. They want to house you in a sumptuous Moroccan estate, take you shopping in the souk for all the right spices, and then teach you to make dishes to make your Sultan swoon. The villa Dar Liqama, just outside Marrakech, consists of an eight-bedroom house around the traditional Moorish courtyards, and a five-bedroom house that includes a 3-room master suite. Of course you eat what you prepare, and each course is paired with an appropriate Spanish or Moroccan wine. A full week allows time to include other activities such as a round of golf or a camel ride.
If you harbor a secret love for Italy (planning each moment you are away for the next time you go) and believe that Florence is Heaven on Earth, have we got a great suggestion for you. The Apicius International School of Hospitality, offers the Culinary Institute of Florence. There, amateurs get non-academic week-long courses about Italian cuisine and Italian wine. Because the school caters to an international student body, optional excursions to art museums and Italian language training may be added to the cooking program. The Institute offers an appealing opportunity for private wine appreciation classes. Can’t stay a week? Choose from their flexible programs for one day/one person up to four days/20 persons. With this program, you make your own housing arrangements, but with all those former Medici palaces offering palaces overlooking the duomo, that will be a snap.