There is no better way to discover a foreign culture than to take a bite out of it. Any tongue can interpret the language of food, an alluring song of flavours, ingredients and cooking methods that offers clues that lead you to a culture’s deepest roots.
These cooking schools and classes offer more than just a chance to garner valuable skills while on vacation, they also present the opportunity to delve into the very essence of a destination, where colloquial peculiarities aren’t diluted by tourism.
1. School of Artisan Food, Nottinghamshire, England
Creamy cheese, fluffy white bread and aromatic cured meats are just a few English traditions that the School Of Artisan Food aims to preserve in their purest form, and what better setting that Sherwood Forest for their campaign?
Welbeck Estate is a joy in itself, with rolling acres of scenic forest studded with gems such as the Welbeck Farm Shop and The Harley Gallery. The not-for-profit School of Artisan Food is housed in the estate’s 1850 fire station, a gorgeous building that envelops a cobblestone courtyard.
A quick peek inside is all it takes to discover that this is not a place designed for dabblers. The first-rate facilities include a resource library, a demonstration theatre, and dedicated rooms for dairy, baking and butcher training. Aspiring cooks can take classes in everything from macaroon making to the preparation of game meats, and the Advanced Diploma is a qualification sought by industry professionals from all over the world. The short courses are a quick immersion in an enchanting culture that is easy to embrace in so perfect a setting.
Macaron Macaroons and Meringues – 185 pounds per person
Gamekeepers’ Favourites – 190 pounds per person
2. Belcampo, Toledo, Belize
Set on land rich in Mayan history and luscious greenery, Belcampo Belize is one of those properties that it is hard to say a bad word about. The proprietor is an ardent conservationist who transformed this erstwhile fly-fishing lodge into a luxury hotel where guests can discover the secrets of Belize’s most iconic agriculture.
Crops of vanilla, coffee and cacao are incorporated into the Belcampo’s activity offerings, which include a Guided Farm Tour, a Jungle Foraging course, and a Bean to Bar Chocolate Making Class.
Check out Belcampo’s impressive Cacao Nursery, discover the history of the world’s favourite vice, and then follow the journey of the bean from roasting through to tempering in a hands-on experience that leaves your mouth and your mind full of chocolaty appreciation.
Bean to Bar Chocolate Making Class – $70USD per person
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3. Two Bordelais, Bordeaux, France
There are many foodie competitors, but it’s hard to outshine five days of wining and dining in the soul-refreshing countryside of Bordeaux. Two Bordelais is a school that stages only one Bordeaux tour per year, but makes it count with a spectacular of cooking, sightseeing and wine tasting that steeps you from head to toe in the coveted essence of Bordeaux.
A handsomely restored 17th century barn is both the home of hosts Jean Pierre and Elsa and the setting of classes and accommodation, and this is just the beginning of the adventure. Market tours, cellar door tastings and visits to medieval villages are all rolled into one experience which encompasses the best of Bordeaux’s famed hospitality.
The daily afternoon cooking class is a celebration of the local delicacies that have been sourced during the morning’s outing. Participation is hands-on without being rigid, and you can expect a week filled with laughter, special encounters and superb flavours. It’s a window into a culture that embraces the world’s finest wines and produce as an adored aspect of everyday life.
Tour including accommodation, wine, meals and local transportation: $5200USD per person
4. Pizza Consulting, Campania, Italy
The Italians cherish the flavours and textures of pizza dough in a love affair that is somewhat lost on the rest of the world. Pizza as we know it finds its roots in the vibrant, seaside sprawl of Naples, where master pizzaioli Enzo Coccia enlightens pizza chefs of all abilities on the way to prepare this much-loved dish in the way that it deserves.
Pizza Consulting courses come in three levels; The Amateur Course, The Master, and The Professional Course. Starting with a healthy serving of history and theory, the one-week Amateur Course runs from 10am to 2pm from Monday to Friday; a 20-hour intensive of rolling, kneading, spinning and baking. Although classes are conducted mostly in Italian, the services of an interpreter are available at an extra cost.
Signore Coccia’s father was a Napolese pizziola before him, and to say Coccia is passionate about his craft is an understatement. By all accounts, your classes will include many gesticulations and animated outbursts, but what more can you expect when you are learning a sacred Italian art?
Amateur Course: € 700,00 + VAT
5. Philipkutty’s Farm, Kerala, India
Step onto a traditional vallam boat for a short launch across the backwaters of Kerala to discover the oasis of Philipkutty’s Farm. You’ll be welcomed by Anu, her mother-in-law Aniamma and her daughter Anya, who have transformed their island coconut farm into a home stay experience with a solid streak of luxury. Accommodation is available in one of five utterly captivating villas, but you don’t need to stay the night to take part in Aniamma’s traditional cooking class, as long as you agree to call her Mummy.
The backwaters of Kerala are a lacy network of waterways that form a scattering of islands just inland from India’s Malabar Coast. Mummy’s cooking class is part demonstration, part participation, and the dishes she prepares are redolent with the influences of Syrian Christianity and backwater living. The common inclusion of meat and fish is an interesting contrast to regular Indian cuisine, and Mummy’s instinctive use of home-grown spices and produce speak of years of inherited knowledge, a unique treasure trove that you are invited to plunder at will.
Cooking Class: INR1000 per session
6. Agrarian Kitchen, Tasmania, Australia
The paddock-to-plate movement is at its finest at the Agrarian Kitchen, a cooking school that is committed to re-establishing the connection between the kitchen and the land. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we cultivated everything we ate, and sustainable farming was a necessity as well as catalyst for strong community bonds.
Nestled on five acres of farmland that is as fruitful as it is beautiful, the Agrarian Kitchen invites students to rediscover the reality of food in an effort to promote the sustainable harmony of old. This doesn’t mean there’s a lack of indulgence; Cooking With Truffles has proved a wildly popular class, and co-founding chef Rodney Dunn’s complementary cookbook is dedicated to recipes that star this enigmatic root. Cooking With Fire, Vintage Baking, and Mutton Dressed As Lamb are a few other short courses available, all of which focus on harvesting and cooking foods as close as possible to their source.
This 19th- century schoolhouse is only a 40 minute drive from Hobart, but it’s a fresh-faced world where you’re easily inspired to create a sustainable loop of your own.
Cooking With Truffles: $440 per person
Cooking With Fire: $440 per person
Vintage Baking: $385 per person
Mutton Dressed As Lamb: $485 per person
7. North Carolina BBQ Society Bootcamp, North Carolina, USA
In North Carolina, barbeque is a serious business. Firmly ensconced in the history of the Old North State, barbeque is a tasty legacy of roasting meat in an ingenious blend of seasonings - the big decision being; which blend? Eastern versus Lexington is the question of style that has divided the state in a mostly-friendly feud that made it as far as the Senate, but luckily you can learn both methods at the North Carolina Barbeque Society’s BBQ Boot Camps.
Starting at 2pm on a Friday and wrapping up with the buffet of your dreams at 6:30pm the next evening, these camps will have you cooking pulled pork, beef brisket and quality ‘slaw to a professional level - literally. The course teaches the nuances of critiquing barbeque, so once you graduate you are officially considered an NCCBBQ Society tasting judge.
BBQ Bootcamp: $449USD (Mandatory membership $35USD)
8. Bali Asli, Karangasem, Bali
Penny Williams’ initiation into the joys of Balinese cooking happened in a delightfully authentic manner. After 16 years working in London and Sydney’s best restaurants, Penny signed on for a four-year stint as Executive Chef at the Alila Manggis Hotel. It wasn’t until she helped her colleagues prepare food for a local ceremony that Penny started to realise the depths of beauty that so many tourists miss out on.
Penny’s school of culinary experiences is known as Bali Asli, and it brings visitors face to face with the wholesome delights of Balinese culture. Rather than offering just a cooking class, Bali Asli is a total immersion in local lifestyle, a day-in-the-life experience that culminates in a meal that is infused with newly-found meaning.
Catch your own lunch in ‘A Day In The Life Of A Balinese Fisherman’, or combine local herbs and spices to create time-tested Balinese beauty treatments in ‘A Day In A Traditional Balinese Beauty Salon’. No matter which culinary adventure you choose, you’ll be nursing a mind and belly full of local goodness as you walk away through the jungles of East Bali.
A Day In The Life Of A Balinese Fisherman: IDR988,000 + tax and service charges
A Day In A Traditional Balinese Beauty Salon: IDR988,000 + tax and service charges