Whether you sign up for a week-long cooking class at a villa in Tuscany, spend a few hours with a celebrated chef in Louisiana or learn local recipes from a family in Asia, getting into the kitchen in a destination is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in a new culture.
Today, the opportunities range from a half-day experience in a local’s kitchen to an intensive multi-week experience with certifications. For those who want to stay domestic, they can consider taking classes at the New Orleans Cooking Experience, which offers lunch and dinner classes with famous local chefs. Or check into Blackberry Farm, a five-star farmstead in Walland, Tennessee. Though activities include hiking, fly-fishing, biking, canoeing and plenty more, the property mostly draws foodies looking to bliss out in rural Appalachia with its legendary culinary offerings; there is no better way to spend an afternoon than in the company of the cheese maker, the brew master or the beekeeper. Notable pursuits include hunting for truffles with 500-year-old-bred Lagatto dogs; gathering and preparing a seasonal meal under the direction of a Farmstead Artisan; and shadowing one of the restaurant’s lauded chefs for a day.
For a more serious foodie, they might consider a class at the Cordon Bleu in Paris or a stay at Ballymaloe House, a quintessential Irish farmhouse hotel that is home to a world-renowned cookery school and restaurant. The property includes a 100-acre organic farm, so many of the courses make the farm-to-table connection evident: one can learn how to raise chickens, or forage for mushrooms before cooking them into a rustic risotto…and also featured are more straightforward offerings such as pizza- or cheese-making. Aspiring chefs can sign up for the 12-week certification program, which covers everything from how food is grown to cooking techniques.
For something truly personal and authentic, it is possible to learn from the locals. In Florence, for instance, the Desinare cooking school celebrates the region’s love for how food inspires community. Classes include food photography and table design as well as those based on recipes of your choice. Another new entrant to the gourmet travel excursion comes from Traveling Spoon, a California-bred company dubbed the “Airbnb of home-cooked meals,” which connects travelers with vetted hosts for in-home meals, market tours and cooking classes. The enterprise’s vast network includes 14 Asian countries from Turkey to South Korea, so you can learn how to make Thai curries passed on from generation to generation or discover native fruits and spices at an orchard outside of Penang, Malaysia. Not only will you get to trade a demonstration kitchen for a local’s private home, but you’ll come away with an understanding of the local culinary and cultural traditions.