New Orleans Cooking Experience, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photography by June Naylor
An Education in TASTE

The popularity of planning a vacation around cooking classes grows each year, as the proliferation of destination culinary programs proves. Here are some I’ve recently enjoyed.

LOS DOS IN MERIDA, MEXICO: The culinary heritage of the Yucatán comes to vivid life at the hands of chef David Sterling. Taught in his beautiful home in the colonial city, classes include the one-day Taste of the Yucatán and expand to three-day and one-week packages, suited to beginners and experts alike. You’ll go to street stalls and the market, meet local producers, and work in the kitchen to learn traditional techniques. The historical perspective fascinates and the food seduces. Starting at $125 per day.

NEW ORLEANS COOKING EXPERIENCE, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: Beloved chef Frank Brigtsen is one of the instructors at this exceptional culinary school in the Lower Garden District, geared to acquainting you with the rich heritage of Creole and Cajun cuisines and Louisiana food culture. The lunch or dinner that goes along with the class will be among the best you’ll enjoy in this great city of gastronomy. Offered Thursday and Friday evening and Saturday morning/afternoon, the four-hour class is $165.

SANTA FE SCHOOL OF COOKING, SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO: A sense of place ranks as one of the most important ingredients at this school, now in its 24th year and in a new, expanded location downtown. An easy walk from the Plaza and near numerous excellent hotels, the school balances cooking technique and regional history with exceptional flavors. A roster of professionals teach classes, whether your choice is a three-hour demonstration option; a two-hour hands-on class; or the three-day Southwest Culinary Bootcamp. Fees start at $75 to $100 for the shorter classes and are $1,250 for the bootcamp.

THE INTERNATIONAL KITCHEN is a Chicago-based company producing gourmet vacation programs in far-flung lands. Some of the newer, more exotic classes include Seaside Cooking in Portugal and The Cuisine of Sultans in Turkey. Your cooking experience level doesn’t matter, as classes work for all. You’ll come away having mastered a wealth of recipes with a deeply cultural experience to boot. Time is divided between the kitchen and markets, as well as sightseeing. Trip costs vary widely, but the Portuguese trip mentioned above is $1,990, and the Turkish program is $3,450, including lodging but not airfare.

THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL BANGKOK THAI COOKING SCHOOL, THAILAND: Your classmates can just as easily be novices as well as trained chefs from other countries. No matter: Chef Narain puts on a four-hour class that’s as entertaining as it is informative, with exceptional eating to be had as well. You can sign up for single classes or attend each morning session, Monday through Saturday. Classes are 3,800 Thai baht each (about $130), or 20,000 Thai baht ($650) per week. Ask about packages that include limousine service to and from the airport; a jet-lag massage at the famous Oriental Spa; meals; four days of classes; and lodging in a Superior River Wing Room.