Imagine yourself standing in a kitchen in Umbria, surrounded by the heady aromas of fried zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta, and slow-cooking porcini risotto. Or perhaps you are learning the intricacies of traditional Mexican cuisine alongside some of the best chefs in the world, or how to make homemade charcuterie in the heart of France.
Food has always been a natural entry into other cultures. With an abundance of TV cooking shows, menus that list the provenance of each dish’s ingredients, and culinary phenomena such as urban gardening, it’s no wonder that food itself has become a reason to travel. For those looking to re-create at home the meals they enjoyed afar, the possibilities are endless, from classes in country-chic B&Bs to posh resorts in exotic locales. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite food-oriented destinations around the globe.
When American expat Kate Hill bought a derelict farmhouse 20 years ago alongside a Gascon canal (the better to park her canal boat, naturally), there was a tree growing in the kitchen, its branches straining through what remained of a terra-cotta-tiled roof. After extensive restorations, the room is now the center of Hill’s cooking school, the Kitchen at Camont, a homey enterprise dedicated to the hearty, seasonal cuisine of the agricultural region. Hill, an author and professional cook, trains students of varying levels of skill, from professionals looking to refresh their palates and dig deeper into French cooking to beginners discovering basic French techniques like braising and sautéing. A proponent of nose-to-tail eating, Hill offers three- and six-week artisan butchery and charcuterie courses. Students in those classes stay at the farm where they train, while Hill’s other students lodge at the Hôtel Henri IV in nearby Nérac, the setting for Joanne Harris’s book Chocolat. www.kitchen-at-camont.com
Jenny Nichols has cooked for British and rock royalty (Queen Elizabeth and Rod Stewart, to name one of each). But these days the British chef spends her time on a more down-to-earth endeavor, the B&B and cooking school she runs with her husband, the film producer David Nichols. That’s not to say the 500-year-old Umbrian farmhouse, Ca’ Di Gosto, isn’t distinguished by its own kind of low-key luxury, from the swimming pool overlooking miles of olive trees to the spacious rooms with wood-beam ceilings and hand-painted tiles. As might be expected, the focus is on Mediterranean and Italian food, but Nichols brings a personal approach to the art of traditional regional cuisine. Students might learn to whip up a dish like fried sage leaves with mozzarella and prosciutto, or tagliatelle with white truffles, and then move on to a more whimsical selection from her upbringing, such as sticky toffee pudding.www.slowcooking.homestead.com
Set on a 100-acre working farm in the countryside of County Cork, Ballymaloe House’s cookery school, situated just a few miles away from the hotel, is a locavore’s paradise. Founded in 1981 by Tim and Darina Allen (he was working on the farm and she was cooking in the hotel’s restaurant), the school remains a family affair but now trains hundreds of students a year. They include would-be professionals enrolled in multi-week certificate courses, as well as novices seeking to learn more about, say, Irish cooking (think beloved dishes like Dingle pies, bacon with cabbage and parsley sauce, and poached salmon with Irish butter sauce) in three-day classes. Students have the option of staying at Ballymaloe House, which dates back to the 12th century and offers elegant accommodations, featuring luxurious linens and antique furnishings. www.cookingisfun.ie
Sazón, the cooking school at Orient-Express’s Casa de Sierra Nevada in the central colonial city of San Miguel de Allende, is housed in a 19th-century mansion, an appropriate setting for classes devoted to traditional Mexican cooking. The programs range from two-hour classes featuring local and regional specialties, to weeklong culinary packages that include luxury accommodations at Casa de Sierra Nevada and trips to local produce markets. Students learn from Mexican chefs and home cooks, who share their expertise, cooking tips, and family recipes. Sazón also invites world-renowned guest chefs, such as Patricia Quintana, Diana Kennedy, and Rick Bayless. www.casadesierranevada.com/web/omig/sazon
Most visitors come to India’s Ranthambore National Park for a glimpse of its large tiger population, not to mention the jaguars, monkeys, and more than 300 species of birds that call the jungle home. But lovers of Indian cuisine might consider making a trip to the Oberoi Vanyavilas, a resort on the edge of the park that boasts 25 luxurious tents nestled among mango and lime trees. The hotel, which has its own orchards and an herb and vegetable garden, offers cooking classes with its chefs. Each class starts with a mini harvest, with guests learning about the produce that will serve as their ingredients. There’s even a class for young cooks: At the end of the class, students receive a certificate declaring them Junior Master Chefs. www.oberoihotels.com
Rebecca Rothbaum is a journalist based in New York and has contributed to publications including Gourmet, New York, The New Yorker, and O, The Oprah Magazine.