For a long while, the art of preparing food suffered severe neglect as convenience foods proliferated. But over the past decade, people have begun to rediscover the pleasures of food and cooking. And these pleasures have extended to the travel industry: Travelers are looking to combine vacation with education by going someplace where they can learn—or re-learn—to cook. As a result, culinary tourism has become an immensely popular travel niche.
Home-Based Travel Agent has gathered some good options, in and out of the U.S., for your clients who want a vacation centered around food, wine and education. Note: Classes are seasonal at many properties.
The White Barn Inn & Spa, Kennebunkport, ME
This Relais & Chateaux property's restaurant was recently awarded Mobil five-star status for the first time. Cooking lessons start at about $500 per person. The Guest Chef Series Packages include two nights' deluxe accommodations; continental breakfast daily; afternoon teas; a welcome cocktail party; a two-hour cooking demonstration; an optional hands-on class in the afternoon; a six-course tasting menu dinner for two; a signed White Barn Inn cookbook; and a White Barn Inn apron. Call 207-967-2321, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.whitebarninn.com.
Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, TX
The culinary program here is free to guests and emphasizes healthful cooking. Package options start at $1,455 per person. They include accommodations, tours of Hill Country organic farms, three meals daily and all activities and programs. Call 800-847-5637 or visit www.lakeaustin.com.
The Manor on Golden Pond, Holderness, NH
The "Fork in the Road" cooking class packages include two nights' accommodations; full gourmet breakfast, afternoon tea and a candlelight gourmet dinner daily; cooking classes each morning; a recipe book; and a culinary gift. Prices start at $600 per person. Call 800-545-2141, e-mail [email protected]ngoldenpond.com or visit www.manorongoldenpond.com.
Blair House Inn, Wimberley, TX
Theme-class packages at Blair House include a two-night stay at the inn, all food and beverages during your stay, cooking classes, recipes and all taxes and tips. Prices start at $715.88 per person, single occupancy, $609.88 per person, double occupancy (two cooking school participants in one room). The five-day classes start at $1,240.98 per person, single occupancy, $1,028.95, double occupancy. Call 877-549-5450, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.blairhouseinn.com.
Yates House Bed and Breakfast, Rocheport, MO
During the fall/winter season, Yates offers gourmet packages that include a Friday night reception; classes Friday and Saturday with dinner; a guest vintner discussion; and a tour of the local vineyard. This package is $150 per person. Accommodations are not included. For spring/summer, individual groups of eight or more can be accommodated with customized classes. Call Dixie Yates at 573-698-2129, e-mail [email protected] or visit yateshouse.com/gourmet-weekends.htm.
The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, WV
Anyone who is familiar with the TV program Barbecue University with Steven Raichlen will recognize the Greenbrier—the show was taped on location there. Students prepare the menu, then enjoy the fruits of their labor with a glass of specially selected wine. Adult classes are $208 per class; kids' classes are $98 per class. Accommodations are additional. Call 800-228-5049, e-mail cooking [email protected] or visit www.greenbrier.com.
Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
Rated "America's Number 1 Small Hotel" by both Travel + Leisure and Zagat, Blackberry Farm showcases cuisine made with heirloom produce, artisan cheese and free-range organic meats, all produced on the farm. With past instructors such as Todd English and Dean Fearing, this has become a first-rate culinary destination. Guest chefs demonstrate their skills and guests enjoy the food, along with wine chosen from a guest vintner's private cellar. For information, call 800-557-8864, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.blackberryfarm.com.
The Washington Hotel, Washington Island, WI
The focus of the cuisine here is that it's local and sustainable. Room rates start at $89 per night; the best accommodations, Captain Ben Johnson's Home, are $800 for two nights June-September, $1,000/week (Sunday through Sunday). Discounts are available in conjunction with the class. Private and custom classes are available for groups of up to 10. Call 920-847-2169, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.thewashingtonhotel.com.
Thorn Park Country House, Clare Valley, Australia
Classes are a combination of hands-on participation and demonstration with rotating guest chefs. Prices vary from $450 to $675 per person (double/twin share) for three-day packages. Host David Hay can accommodate a small group (minimum four people) and develop a customized program. Call 011-8-8843-4304, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.thornpark.com.au.
Inn at Coyote Mountain, Coyote Mountain, Costa Rica
Set in a nature preserve in the Costa Rican jungle, this is the only property in Central America offering a culinary vacation program. A three-day, three-night package costs $750 per person and includes instructions, accommodations, three meals daily and trips to a farmer's market and a coffee farm. Call 902-482-8360, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.cerrocoyote.com.
Ritz Paris—Ritz Escoffier School, Paris
At Ecole Ritz Escoffier (the Ritz Escoffier School, named after Auguste Escoffier, the hotel's first head chef), students can choose from courses of varying levels, lengths and types, from a two-hour fruit and vegetable pairing class to a 2.5-day bread-baking and Viennese pastries training course. Groups can have tailor-made courses designed for them. The costs of the courses are separate from accommodations. Call 011-33-0-14316-3050, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.ritzparis.com.
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Bali, Indonesia
Guests here can learn to cook Balinese cuisine (such as chicken satay, pickled vegetables, grilled red snapper wrapped in banana leaf and Balinese pumpkin treat), spa cuisine and Asian cuisine, which includes an optional market tour. The three-hour classes take place in an air-conditioned, state-of-the-art kitchen housing a large, kidney-shaped, black granite preparation unit with induction hot plates. There's no additional cost to guests. Call 800-819-5053 or visit www.fourseasons.com.