Improve Your Skills on a Cooking Vacation

Improve your kitchen skills on a cooking vacation or by taking a cooking class while traveling

Improve your kitchen skills on a cooking vacation or by taking a cooking class while traveling

A fun way to increase your cooking skills is by taking a cooking vacation, or participating in a cooking class when you’re visiting another state or country. We’ve taken many cooking classes around the world, and it has been one of the most educational and exciting way to learn new skills.

While Italy is one of the most sought after destinations for cooking classes and cooking vacations, there are endless possibilities when it comes to cooking abroad. We typically choose our destination first and then start looking for possible cooking class options, but you can choose where you go based on your cooking interests, too.

I have been highly anticipating the opening of FICO Eataly World in Bologna, Italy. We are specifically making a trip there in order to explore the 100,000 square meters of eating and cooking space.

Below we share some of our favorite cooking class experiences around the world, and give you a few more ideas for how and where to book your own cooking vacations, from pasta-making courses, to knife-skills classes in New York City.

How to Plan a Cooking Vacation

Planning a cooking vacation starts with determining if you want to do a fully immersive experience that lasts one or more days, or if you would rather take a class that just lasts a few hours and can be built into a vacation planned around other activities.

In Italy, you’ll find many classes that are full-blown experience, including accommodations, transfers, meals, multiple classes throughout your stay, as well as excursions that compliment the experience. Of course, there are also more casual classes in Italy you can take for a day (like the Italian Meal class I mentioned below), where nothing is included except the class itself and the food.

Some of the top destinations for cooking classes include:

  • Italy
  • France
  • Spain
  • Mexico
  • Greece
  • Cambodia
  • Thailand
  • Japan
Learning to make tiramisu in Italy

Learning to make tiramisu in Italy (photo by On the Sharp Side)

When you decide on a location, or a type of cuisine you want to learn how to make, you can start searching for the appropriate method of delivery. If you want to take a fully-immersive cooking vacation, I suggest starting with companies like Epitourean, who feature culinary and cooking vacations around the world. If you’re looking for one-day classes or demonstrations, check out tour sites like Viator or GetYourGuide.com, to find a few cooking class options in the destination you chose.

Read the Fine Print

When you do plan or schedule your cooking class, be sure to read the reviews and talk to the organizers to be sure this is the type of experience you are hoping to have. Make sure you know whether you’ll actually be doing the preparation, or if the food will already be prepared for you.

If you really want to learn basic kitchen knife skills, you should make sure that is part of the course description.

Ask what is included:

  • Will you get hands-on training?
  • Will you get to eat the food you make at the end of the class?
  • How many people will be involved in the class?
  • How many instructors per person will there be?
  • Will you get to choose your menu?
  • Are drinks included in the price?

These are just a few of the questions you should ask before committing to a cooking class. Make sure you know what you’re getting, so you won’t be disappointed. And above all else, relax and have a good time.

How Much Do Cooking Vacations Cost?

Fully immersive food vacation can cost quite a bit, because they include everything. You can expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 – $5,000 for a 5-day vacation in Italy or France. For instance, Epitourean has a Tuscany, Truffles, Cooking and Wine vacation that sells for $3,998 per person, but if you’re a subscriber, you can sometimes find the same trip on promotion for as low as $1,799. Being flexible with the time of year and the season is the most important tip for finding a good deal.

One-day casual classes cost way less than immersive food vacations. For instance, this 3-hour small-group Sushi Making Class in Tokyo is just $77 when booked through Viator. This Paris cooking class that including a 3-course lunch, wine and optional market visit is $190.

Ideas for International Cooking Classes

Italian Meal in Italy

Learning to make gnocchi at Villa Bordoni in Italy

Learning to make gnocchi at Villa Bordoni in Italy (photo by On the Sharp Side)

One of the most popular forms of cooking vacations takes place in Italy. Any foodie likely has this type of vacation on their wish list. Where else can you learn to make the perfect pasta, bolognese sauce and tiramisu. No matter what your favorite Italian dish is, you want to learn to make it with a Nonna (grandma) in Italy.

We spent a week in Chianti, driving between the most gorgeous hillside towns and vineyards, tasting wine and eating amazing food. It was the perfect opportunity to learn how to make a few of the Italian dishes that we love to make at home, but never had the proper skills for. At a lovely boutique hotel outside Greve in Chianti, called Villa Bordoni, we took a 5-hour class with a few other guests, that taught us how to make an entire meal, from start to finish – including focaccia bread, tortelloni, bruschetta, and tiramisu. It was fantastic!

Pizza Making in the Maldives

An unexpected cooking class we took was a pizza-making class in the Maldives at the stylish resort, Kandima Maldives. You’ll find that many resorts are starting to put cooking classes on their activities calendar for guests to enjoy while on vacation. Learning to make things like homemade pizza is fun and informative, but not too technical or tedious. It makes the perfect activity for everyone – singles, couples and families.

Thai Cooking in Chiang Mai

Preparing the ingredients for the dishes we made in Chiang Mai

Preparing the ingredients for the dishes we made in Chiang Mai (photo by On the Sharp Side)

Thailand is very similar to Italy in that everyone wants to learn how to make Thai food. Cooking classes are ubiquitous throughout Thailand, but especially in Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

We took a cooking class in Chiang Mai though the Galangal Cooking School. The class began with a walk though one of the open-air food and vegetable markets in the city, where local shops. After picking out the ingredients, we returned to the school and made a 3-course meal that we each got to pick from a menu. This option was great because we could each make dishes that we loved and wanted to learn. It turned out to be especially good because we each got to prepare our own ingredients, learning special knife skills.

I made fried spring rolls and Pad See Ew, which is my favorite dish (stir-fried wide rice noodles with soy sauce). Nick made spring rolls too, and a Northern Thai dish that is found in Chiang Mai, called Khao Soi – which is braised chicken with egg noodles in a spicy coconut sauce.

Making Afternoon Tea in England

Afternoon tea cooking class in England

Afternoon tea cooking class in England (photo by On the Sharp Side)

There are very few things that I associate with England, and afternoon tea is probably the biggest one. When traveling around the English countryside, you’ll find that afternoon tea and cream tea are offered at many cafes, restaurants and bars throughout the country. It’s a great reason to stop for a rest and a bite to eat in the afternoon – plus, it’s fun!

While we were on a road trip in the southwest of England, we took a cooking class at Vaughan’s Cookery School in Wiltshire to learn how to make our own afternoon tea. You might think it’s easy to make, since it consists mostly of little finger sandwiches, but don’t underestimate how difficult it is to bake the perfect scones!

Our afternoon tea cooking class consisted of making tea cookies, which happen to be the Queen’s favorite, as well as scones and finger sandwiches. We even went home with a fantastic scone recipe to make at home.

Learning to Cook in Spain

One of my favorite countries for food is Spain. We’ve done two cooking classes in Spain – one in Catalonia and one in Galicia. Both have similar foods, but prepare them in a different way. It was fun to learn the process in both areas, to see how they differ and to further appreciate the culture and heritage that led them to prepare their different takes on these dishes.

Arroz Gallega

Arroz Gallega (photo by On the Sharp Side)

In Galicia, we learned how to make octopus, which is served very simply, with just high-quality olive oil and salt. It’s so delicious when prepared this way. We also made a Galician version of empanadas, which I’ve learned how to make in Argentina, however this version is quite a bit different than the ones they make in South America. They resemble a full pie, rather than a hand pie. We also made Arroz Gallega (pictured above) which had many similarities to paella from Valencia.

Cuina a la Sils cooking class in Catalonia

Cuina a la Sils cooking class in Catalonia (photo by On the Sharp Side)

In Catalonia, you find unique dishes like one we made called Cim i Tomba (a fisherman’s stew), and Fideus a la Cassola, which is a noodle dish with tomato and onion base. Again, so simple, but so incredible. What we loved most about the cooking class in Catalonia was that it was run by the grandmas of Catalonia, an association called Cuina a la Sils, which was formed in the 90s. They support the recovery and preservation of the rich culinary traditions of our grandparents, that have begun to fade in modern households. Rather than allow those recipes and traditions to disappear, Cuina a la Sils educates about and demonstrates the use of traditional cooking methods and recipes, all over the world.

Sushi Making Class in Tokyo

Sushi making class in Japan

Sushi making class in Japan (photo by On the Sharp Side)

Sushi is one of the most beloved foods of Japan. And they know how to do it right. But I bet you don’t know how to do it right at home. I certainly don’t. When I bought my first sushi knife, I learned how to cut fish correctly and make a passable sushi roll that wouldn’t immediately fall apart, but it wasn’t anything like the sushi we got in Japan.

A sushi-making class in Japan can be as involved and in-depth as you want it to be. You can take a 2-3 hour class that teaches you the basics about ingredients and making basic rolls. Or you can go all out and learn how to make perfectly cut sashimi, sushi and nigiri. It’s one of the best activities to do in Japan if you like food.

Find a Cooking Skills School

There are cooking school in nearly every city around the world that focus not only on a specific cuisine, but also on kitchen skills. It shouldn’t be hard to locate the type you’re looking for. One of my favorite classes was a knife-skills class in London at a cookery school. The class taught slicing, dicing, chopping and fileting using Wustof knives. It’s important to learn knife skills with a set of high-quality and sharp knives. There are also knife sharpening schools in many large cities, so you can learn the proper technique for using a honing rod and electric or manual knife sharpeners. We actually prefer using a sharpening stone – you can read about that here).

CONCLUSION

Taking a cooking class or vacation around the world will open your eyes to the many possibilities for cooking different cuisines at home, and it will teach you kitchen skills that you maybe didn’t have before, but above all, it will give you a better appreciation for the food.

Leave a Reply