Cooking School Vacations and Culinary Tours
Culinary vacations are also known as cooking school vacations and consist of short trips, which last between one day and several weeks, where students will be taught details of traditional and regional cooking styles.
Cooking school vacations are nearly a perfect way to get intensive, but short-term initiation to a particular cuisine or international region. Take Italian cooking vacations for example—they are thriving. And the age of food TV has helped drive up this new-found type of adventure travel.
A Vacation For Every Desire
Culinary vacations can either form part of a larger cooking program - the Italian Culinary Academy in New York teaches half of its courses in Italy and half in New York - or can be self-contained. They can be organized through cooking schools, hotels, restaurants or specialty travel agents, and comprehensive details of the various culinary vacations on offer can be found on the internet. Culinary vacation destinations can be both local and international, but all destinations offer instruction in unique traditional regional cooking or baking styles.
Culinary vacations are usually organized in such a way that they can be enjoyed by both serious culinary students and those who only casually indulge in the culinary arts.
There are also some vacation packages that style themselves as "culinary vacations" but that include only visits to local restaurants instead of actual cooking classes. Students who are interested in taking the cooking classes on offer in the different locations around the world should therefore check to see whether their package does involve actual cooking lessons before making any bookings.
How to Taste a Country
Imagine how some of the best chefs in the world continue to cut their teeth in the culinary world. Yes, they attend some of the finest culinary schools, but most still do a stint in France or Italy. Why, if they learned how to cook in French culinary school, would they need to go to France? There is no better place to really learn a cuisine than on its native soil. The ingredients have a particular taste of the earth and air, the seafood is unique, the beef and poultry are raised on different food with different methods of animal husbandry. Talk to any expert chef and he or she will tell you any cuisine is remarkably unique to its own native land.
Agricultural methods, soil composition, climate and types of native species, even air quality can all affect the taste of food. When you want to learn how to cook an authentic Tuscan meal the best bet is a cooking school in a northern Italian villa. Need to master a regional French culinary technique? Check out the culinary vacations in France.
Don’t rule out what you could learn of local and regional cuisine on vacation in the U.S. Destinations such as New Orleans, Charleston, and Santa Fe all feature quite stellar and unique regional cuisines well worth the trip.
Experience a Country
You’ll discover that many cooking school vacations operate on a schedule that puts you into a kitchen for maybe half the day. During this time you receive hands-on guidance in assembling and cooking a particular meal or dish. The advantage here is that you get to eat everything you make. The second part of your day or vacation is focused on structured or unstructured sightseeing.
Structured sightseeing may be already planned into your curriculum by the cooking school. You are likely to visit local wineries, restaurants, bistros and cafes, sample the fare of the best local chefs, and even learn how to buy your own meal ingredients from a local market or farmer.
Classes for Amateur and Pro Cooks
Cooking school vacation packages are just that--designed to be instructional, enjoyable and valuable, but they ARE vacations. Serious foodies, amateur cooks, and professional chefs are common clientele. Most course work is designed to appeal to both, but if you’re a professional chef you may find particular schools that separate the cooking classes for hobbyists from those designed for working or student chefs.
It’s not hard to find a culinary school vacation. They are plentiful and available in almost any major international destination you can imagine. When you need intensive instruction in a regional international cuisine, consider a week or two in a small, intimate international cooking class.
Local Culinary Vacations
Many states offer culinary vacations to students who wish to learn more about regional American cooking styles and specialty cooking methods. Most tours will last several days and will include participatory cooking classes as well as gourmet meals and excursions to local places of culinary interest. Tours are available in several states, including the following:
- West Coast Region: California (representative tour: Napa and Sonoma's Culinary Treasures);
- Midwest Region: Michigan (representative tour: The Bake-cation in Ann Arbor);
- East Coast Region: New Hampshire (representation tour: Snowville New Hampshire Getaway);
- Rocky Mountain Region: Colorado (representative tour: Boulder's Basic Techniques of Cooking);
- South East Region: North Carolina (representative tour: Savory Carolina Comfort in Fearrington); and
- South West Region: Arizona (representative tour: Savory Sedona Culinary Getaway).
International Culinary Vacations
Culinary vacations are available in countries all over the world and can teach a student a wide variety of skills including how to prepare exotic cuisine and how to select the ingredients used to make each dish. The courses taught during these trips are often combined with trips to local markets, food or wine tasting exhibitions, tours of local specialty farms and traditional dinners. International culinary vacations are offered on most continents including:
- Africa: tours are available to countries like Morocco and South Africa;
- Europe: tours are available to countries like Greece, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Turkey;
- South America: tours are available to countries like Peru and the Caribbean islands;
- Asia: tours are available to countries like Japan, Thailand and Indonesia;
- Australasia: tours are available to countries like Australia; and
- Northern America: tours are available to countries like Canada and Mexico.
Representative Local + International Culinary Vacations
USA West Coast Region - Washington
The Discover Heirloom Cuisine Program (Discover Heirloom Cuisine)
Highlights of this trip, which takes students to Cashmere in Washington, would include:
- Three participatory cooking classes that teaches students those preparation techniques developed specifically for Washington's heirloom cuisine (heirloom fruits and vegetables are those that have been cultivated in an area for at least 50 years);
- Tours of the heirloom fresh markets;
- Wine tasting excursions to the La Toscana vineyard;
- Agricultural science lessons and cheese tasting with artisan cheese makers; and
- Learning how to make heirloom dishes including vegetable lasagna, berry cobbler, potato chowder with rosemary crisps and fruit ceasar salad.
Those interested in taking this culinary vacation can contact Discover Heirloom Cuisine directly through their website (http://www.discoverheirloomcuisine.com/).
Africa - Morocco
Exotic Flavors of Fez (Culinary Quests)
Highlights of this trip, which takes students to Fez, Morocco's third largest city, would include:
- Tours of the olive oil mills in the nearby city of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun;
- Excursions to the town of Khoukhate to watch demonstrations on how to roll and cook couscous;
- Wine tasting tours of vintages produced at the Domaine de la Zouina vineyards;
- Trips to the souks, which are the local food and produce markets, followed by cooking courses that utilize the products just purchased at the souks; and
- Learning to prepare authentic Moroccan cuisine including harira soup, tagines stew, briouates pastry and pastilla meat pie.
Those who are interested in going on this tour can contact Culinary Quests directly in order to obtain further details. They can be contacted through their website at http://www.culinaryquests.com/.
Europe - Poland
Cooking your way from Krakow to Zakopane (Poland Culinary Vacations)
Highlights of this trip, which takes place in Zakopane in Lesser Poland (Malopolska), would include:
- Tastings of local Polish delicacies and beverages including the handmade bryndza and oscypki cheeses, lamb dishes and the highland teas (Polish vodkas);
- Luncheons and dinners at traditional Polish restaurants;
- Excursions to the Szczawnica Health Resort to experience the alkaline spring waters;
- Attending a demonstration by an artisan oscypki cheese maker; and
- Learning how to prepare regional Polish cuisine including moskole, pierogi and kwasnica goralsko.
Further information about this, and further, culinary vacations in Poland can be obtained directly from Poland Culinary Vacations through their website at http://www.polandculinaryvacations.com/.
South America - Peru
A Taste of Peru for Foodies (Active Gourmet Holidays)
Highlights of this trip, during which students will stay in both Lima and Cusco, would include:
- Hands-on cooking classes that teach the basics of the Peruvian "criolla" style of cooking as well as how to prepare traditional dishes, native dishes and dishes in the style of the exciting new Peruvian fusion cooking method;
- Instruction in the origin and development of the Peruvian culinary style;
- Specialty dinners will give students a taste for Peruvian highland food, Cusquenian food as well as the Peruvian-Japanese fusion style called Nikkei;
- Tours of working Peruvian vegetable farms and the Lima produce markets; and
- Learning to prepare traditional Peruvian dishes including El Cheviche, Pisco sour martinis, tiradito and lomo saltado.
Further information about this Peruvian cuisine adventure can be obtained directly from Active Gourmet Holidays, and they can be contacted through their website at http://www.activegourmetholidays.com/.
Asia - Indonesia
Cooking in East Bali (Holiday On The Menu)
Highlights of this trip, during which students will stay at a resort in Eastern Bali, would include:
- Touring the resort's organic gardens and choosing fruits and vegetables from the garden to be used in the cooking lessons;
- Observing the Balinese farmers' agricultural practices and learning about seasonal vegetables;
- Visiting the village market at Klungkung and learning how to use traditional Balinese cooking utensils like the ulekan;
- Going out on excursions in the traditional Balinese fishing boats, the jukung, to discover the local fishing techniques; and
- Learning to prepare traditional Balinese and Indonesian dishes including pepes ikan, nasi putih, sate ayam and sambal coriander dan cabe.
Anyone who is interested in booking this trip should contact Holiday On The Menu directly through their website at http://www.holidayonthemenu.com/.
Australasia - Australia
Cooking in Australia (Holiday On The Menu)
Highlights of this trip, which has its home-base in Sydney, would include:
- Touring the Sydney Fish Market, which is the second largest fish market in the world, and then taking a class where students will cook the fish that they have just bought;
- Visiting the Fox Studio Farmers Market to learn about Australian produce and, again, to select foodstuffs that will be used in that day's cooking class;
- Going on wine, cheese, bread and oil tasting excursions;
- Participating in specialty Australian cooking classes where students will learn Australian barbecue and fish preparation techniques; and
- Learning to prepare Australian meals such as barbecued ling fish in banana leaves, grilled garfish with panzanella salad, macadamia and coconut praline with tropical fruits and seared tuna with preserved lemon.
Further information concerning this culinary vacation can be obtained directly from Holiday On The Menu (see above contact details).
Northern America - Mexico
Mexican Cooking Tour (Active Gourmet Holidays)
Highlights of this trip, which takes students to Tepoztlán near Mexico City, would include:
- Going on fieldtrips to the market, or mercado, in nearby Cuernavaca to learn how to choose the best Mexican spices, fruits, vegetables and meats;
- Taking classes in preparing seasonal dishes (only available during the seasons in question) including those dishes served during the Day of the Dead celebrations;
- Visiting the market in the town of Tepoztlán;
- Food tastings, including a tequila tasting, and meals at traditional Mexican restaurants; and
- Learning to prepare authentic Mexican dishes such as quesadillas with squash blossoms, potatoes and chile poblano strips, dessert tamales with pineapple and pork in pipian sauce (molo verde).
Further information concerning this trip, and the others that Active Gourmet Holidays has to offer, can be found on their website (see above).
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