Americans stockpile cookbooks, ever in search of the “authentic.” Is it any surprise that culinary tourism is booming? It only makes sense to indulge those gourmet lusts and do a little sautéing on vacation.
The most expected and established cooking destinations are in France or Italy, but here are 10 other places around the world to play with your chopping block.
1. Oxford, North Canterbury, New Zealand. At Jo Seagar’s Cook School and Café, in a small village not far from Christchurch, explore cheesemaking during a weekend specialty program or just stop in for a one-day Lunch and Learn. The surrounding Waimakariri region offers plenty of that famous kiwi outdoor adventure, including spring skiing through October (seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere). Just don’t eat and then go Zorbing.
2. Lafayette, Louisiana. The Cajun Country class, run by Epiculinary, is taught in Lafayette, where you’ll pass a good time with Chef Patrick Mould making fresh and spicy Cajun and Creole dishes like jambalaya, shrimp rémoulade, and Acadian bread pudding with roasted rum pecan sauce during the day, then doing a little fais do-do dancing at night.
3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. You don’t have to go to France to learn French cuisine (don’t tell the French). This is the 28th anniversary of the La Cuisine Française school on the Herengracht canal in friendly, mellow Amsterdam. The wide variety of classes includes Saturday night’s Table des Amis, at which a few friends or family can whip up a meal together and then have a gezellig (cozy) evening canal-side. End the day with a cup of coffee and a crunchy, syrupy stroopwafel, the Dutch biscotti. It’s smakelijk (tasty).
4. Wimberley, Texas. Cue up the ’cue and tongs—it’s Barbeque Camp at the Blair House Inn Cooking School, near Austin in the rolling Texas Hill Country. Dazzle backyard party guests with your virtuoso baby back ribs with Cherry Coke glaze followed by a Fredericksburg peach cobbler chaser. The last Barbeque Camp for this year is in August, but there are plenty of other classes, including American Comfort Food, September 10-12.
5. Penrith, Cumbria, England. Former BBC Russian linguist Andrew Whitley thinks that bread matters, along with organic ingredients and respect for their origins. He teaches artisan bread-making classes near the business that he founded, the Village Bakery at Melmerby. Whitley is happy to cover the fundamentals for new baking enthusiasts, but he also teaches how to bake for a living. If the verdant Eden Valley location or the Lake District isn’t to your liking, FoodAdventure lists other culinary travel options in England.
6. Thailand and Myanmar/Burma. Serious Asian food enthusiasts can take a 17-day guided journey with the experienced operators at the Globetrotting Gourmet. “Tastings Thailand” includes the first Isan Food Festival in the northeast region, a Thai cuisine master class weekend at the Sofitel Raja Orchid in Khon Kaen, and plenty of visits to local markets for exploration and tastings. Sydney-based tour guide Robert Carmack is particularly excited about the “Tastings Myanmar/Burma” leg, which “takes in Rangoon and two very special Buddhist lunar celebrations in the Inle Lake vicinity,” he said via email. “Burma is such a special country, so little changed in nearly 50 years—although we see rapid cultural differences each visit.”
7. Providence, Rhode Island. A visit to Providence’s culinary museum will demonstrate that little Rhody’s culinary charms extend beyond quahog stuffies or an Awful Awful at the Newport Creamery. The Jacob Hill Inn runs a series of cooking classes that includes a New England Clambake in the fall. In honor of the city’s ethnic heritage, inn owners Eleonora and Bill Rezek are also happy to arrange a Portuguese cuisine class anytime.
8. Chiapas, Mexico. A six-day cooking class that also includes food photography is available in tropical Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico. Marilyn Tausend, author of four books on Mexican cooking and a Culinary Adventures guide for more than 20 years, noticed that students for her courses brought digital cameras but were not always confident in using them. She has arranged a special trip with photographer Ignacio Urquiza to combine camera work with her mercado visits and hands-on lessons in regional cuisine.
9. Helsinki, Finland. Here’s something that’s hard to get at home: smoked reindeer fawn tongue au gratin. The Lapland Food Course at the Keittiö Kokka also offers classes in less Santa-related cuisine, including seafood, duck, and desserts made from all sorts of berries. Helsinki is a walkable and attractive neoclassical city with a tradition of good design from icons like Aalto and Saarinen, plus Nokia-fueled connectivity.
10. Greenwood, Mississippi. Deep in the kudzu-choked Delta lies a cult touchstone for appliance groupies. It’s the Viking Range factory and cooking school in Greenwood, overlooking the oozing Yazoo River. The Viking Cooking School teaches Southern Cookin’, of course, but don’t miss kitchen learning for kids and teens, 3-day or 12-week series, and surprises like the Vegetarian Cocktail Party.
Culinary Adventures photograph by Ignacio Urquiza