Nowadays, heading to a destination known for great restaurants is only part of the fun. Culinary vacations are all the rage, especially those bringing travelers into the kitchen with cooking demonstrations, market tours, and hands-on lessons. So if you’ve been longing for a weekend focused on dining, consider a culinary escape where you can not only eat well, but also see the locals and culture up close through the common language of food.
Culinary trips are known for being indulgent escapes, both for your taste buds and your wallet. However, with careful planning, such excursions can be enjoyed by travelers on any budget.
If you like a certain type of cuisine, chances are you’ll be able to find hands-on cooking courses and travel packages in that cuisine’s home region.
The International Kitchen offers more than 70 programs in France, Italy, and Spain. Local experts conduct hands-on lessons in an intimate setting, with prices varying by location, course duration, and number of participants.
The kitchen’s popular Cooking Class in Paris is offered every day except Sunday as long as two people are participating, and on Saturdays if there is a minimum of four students. This day-long course encompasses a market visit (note there is no market on Mondays), preparing a complete meal in the instructor’s home deluxe kitchen, and lunch. Current per-person rates are $250 for two or $230 for three participants; discounted group rates are available.
For more information on day classes or multi-day cooking retreats, visit the International Kitchen website.
Roberto Donna, chef and owner of Galileo restaurant in Washington, D.C., offers a variety of Italian cooking and wine courses and events at his restaurant, as well as culinary vacation excursions to Italy several times per year. Recent classes have focused on multi-course dinners specific to Italian regions, improvisational cooking with market ingredients, and Italy’s sauces. One-time classes typically range from $100 to $125. Cooking excursions to Italy cost approximately $5,100, and cover accommodations, all meals (some with wine), hands-on cooking classes conducted at culinary schools, transportation, day trips, tastings, and a chef jacket and apron. Airfare is not included.
For additional details, visit the Galileo website.
To learn the secrets of fine Southwestern cuisine, consider the Muy Sabrosa Cooking School package at the Inn on the Alameda in Santa Fe, NM. This minimum two-night package ranges from $310 to $570, before taxes, and includes accommodations, a demonstration cooking class and lunch for two at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, a daily continental breakfast, an afternoon wine and cheese reception, and a discount at a local restaurant.
Read more about the cooking school on the Inn on the Alameda website.
If you’re planning a trip to Oahu, consider supplementing your vacation with a cooking class or series at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental’s Kahala Culinary Academy. Classes are available for a variety of tastes and culinary skill levels, with upcoming courses including fundamentals of cooking, party planning, and a master chef series. Travelers purchasing at least one series of courses will receive a chef’s apron, recipe folder, gift card, and cooking magazine subscription, plus early announcements on upcoming culinary promotions and discounts. Individual demonstrations start at $55 per person; hands-on classes start at $115 per person. Special pricing may be available for groups or for purchasing a cooking series.
Visit the Mandarin Oriental website for more information or to register.
Kimpton Hotels, a boutique hotel chain, is known for pairing its properties with outstanding restaurants. Member hotels offer culinary classes and events at their hotel restaurants, with upcoming courses including a new cooking class series at the Sazerac restaurant in Seattle, and ice cream socials at Postrio in San Francisco.
For more information and updates, visit the Kimpton website.
How to budget
There are a variety of ways to save on your culinary trip.
- Take some friends and ask for group discounts. In many cases, the per-person price will be less if several people are participating.
- Comparison shop. The best way to save is to compare what’s available. Visit the CVB website of the area you’re visiting to see listings of area restaurants and courses, or inquire to see if offerings are provided through area hotels.
- Once you’ve gotten a list of possibilities, contact the providers individually to see if any culinary packages are available. Combining a hotel stay or a variety of courses may make the accommodations and/or class prices cheaper.
- Check area cooking stores for one-time only demonstrations or classes. Sur La Table, a gourmet cooking store chain, offers a variety of programs at participating stores in 12 states.
- Be a student. Many adult education centers in major cities offer food, wine, and culinary courses, with a variety of one-time-only classes available. For example, if you’re planning to visit Boston, check the listings at the nearby Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Upcoming classes include quick Asian cuisine, fish recipes, breads, and cooking with caramel. Many classes are available for $100 or less. Check online course catalogs at adult education centers in the city you wish to visit to see if any food or wine classes will be offered during your weekend trip.
- Sample many cuisines at once by attending a [% 16901 | | food festival %]. Upcoming affordable feasts include the Taste of Chicago, the Newport Chowder Cook Off, and the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Whether you’re a foodie or a novice chef, a culinary getaway can be a great introduction to a new place through food. And best of all, you can relive your trip often by taking your lessons—and recipes—back home for authentic at-home gourmet meals, dinner parties, and more.
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