Cooking Classes Abroad: Travel for Taste

French cooking class. Jeff Kubina
By Charis Atlas Heelan

Culinary vacations are an ideal way to immerse yourself in a destination's cuisine and culture. Plus, enrolling in a short-term cooking class gives you the best souvenir possible -- the ability to reproduce delectable dishes in your own kitchen back home.

Whether you're making pasta in Florence or rolling sushi in Tokyo, language needn't be a barrier. Each of these schools conducts its cooking classes in English.

Photo Caption: French cooking class. Photo by Jeff Kubina/Flickr.com.
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Boqueria Market, Barcelona. Jordan Sim
In a city known for architecture and incredible food, Barcelona's Boqueria market is the perfect place to start your culinary adventure.

What: Cook & Taste (www.cookandtaste.net) offers three-and-½-hour Catalan cooking classes at 11am and 5pm each day. Start your session at the famed Boqueria market choosing seasonal produce, and then proceed to a contemporary kitchen in the historical area of Barcelona. Here, you'll learn how to make traditional specialties like paella, gazpacho, and tapas.

Where: The school is at Carrer del Paradis, 3.

How Much: Morning or afternoon classes are €60 per person. Three half-day seminars are also available.

More Info: tel. +34/933-021-320; info@cookandtaste.net

Boqueria Market, Barcelona. Photo by Jordan Sim/Flickr.com.
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A chef prepares Lobster Fra Diavolo. ralph and jenny
The only downside to a Florence food vacation is the weight gain. At least you can shed those unwanted pasta pounds by walking along the cobblestone streets and through the city's museums. Or you can just buy new clothes in the hundreds of boutiques.

What: In Tavola (www.intavola.org) -- an association dedicated to spreading the rich food and culinary traditions of Italy through education programs -- offers classes for individuals, groups, and professionals.

Where: Just across the Ponte Vecchio, at Via dei Velluti, 18/r

How Much: Prices vary; for example, make a traditional four-course meal and dine on the result (€65) or sign up for a three-hour Homemade Pasta workshop (€50).

Contact: tel. +39/55-217-672; info@intavola.org

Photo Caption: A chef prepares Lobster Fra Diavolo. Photo by ralph and jenny/Flickr.com.
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The island of Ikaria, Greece. kdask
The Greek Island of Ikaria has ancient relics, idyllic beaches, and the renowned cooking school of celebrated Greek chef and author Diane Kochilas. Here, you can immerse yourself in the flavors of Greek cuisine without the throngs of tourists.

What: Kochilas runs Glorious Greek Cooking School and Culinary Tours (www.dianekochilas.com), specializing in weeklong Greek cooking vacations in Ikaria.

Where: The school and accommodations are in the village of Agios Dimitris, on the island of Ikaria in the Eastern Aegean, less than 150 miles from Athens. It is accessible by a short flight or ferry from Athens.

When: April 26-May 2; June 26-July 2; July 3-9; July 10-16, 2011.

How Much: $2,350 per person based on double occupancy, including all meals, accommodations, classes, and excursions

More Info: www.dianekochilas.com

Photo Caption: The island of Ikaria, Greece. Photo by kdask/Flickr.com.
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Fleur de sel from Guérande, France. Mudd1/Wikimedia Commons
You'll never go hungry in Paris. Here, food is life and indulgence is a daily occurrence. Round out your Paris trip with a French cooking course.

What: For an almost Julia Child-like experience, sign up for a class at L'Assiette de Paris (www.cookinparis.eu). The three instructors -- Kathy, Janine, and Julia -- demonstrate a variety of French dishes at one of their homes on most Wednesday and Thursday mornings (with wine pairing courses on Tuesdays).

Where: The informal classes are taught out of private kitchens in Maule and Noisy le Roi, in the western suburbs of Paris; addresses are only given out to participants.

How Much: Most demonstration classes are €45 per person; certain seasonal and specialty classes costing around €60 per person. Each class includes lunch and a glass of wine, plus recipes.

More Info: katwine@wanadoo.fr

Photo Caption: Fleur de sel from Guérande, France. Photo by Mudd1/Wikimedia Commons.
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Cooking at the window in Lisbon, Portugal. bjaglin
A quiet, rural setting awaits you in the small town of Portel, where you can sample fresh produce straight from the farm and wine directly from the vineyard.

What: Refúgio da Vila (www.refugiodavila.com) is an elegant boutique hotel that offers traditional Portuguese Mediterranean cooking classes for individuals or groups of four. There is also an indulgent one-week all-inclusive food, wine, and culture program.

Where: The hotel and cooking school is on Largo Miguel Bombarda in Portel, a 90-minute drive from Lisbon, near the UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Évora.

How Much: Individual classes are €125 per person with lunch or dinner, including wine, or €95 per person in groups of four. The one-week live-in program is €1,999 based on double occupancy and includes accommodations with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with wine; all supplies for the cooking classes; tours of wineries, markets, and historic sites with an English-speaking guide; and transfers to and from Portel from Lisbon.

More Info: tel. +35/1-266-619-010; reservas@refugiodavila.com

Photo Caption: Cooking at the window in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by bjaglin/Flickr.com.
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Baklava in Istanbul, Turkey. gsz
With history all around you, it may be difficult to drag yourself inside. Luckily, learning how to prepare Istanbul's traditional dishes will be as rewarding as visiting its monuments.

What: Learn how to prepare a classic Ottoman five-course meal at Cooking Alaturka (www.cookingalaturka.com). Classes, which run over lunch or dinner, include two hours of tuition and two hours to savor your culinary creations.

Where: Akbiyik Caddesi 72a, Sultanahmet, near the Blue Mosque and Arasta Bazaar

How Much:
120 Turkish Lira (about $77) per person, with instruction in groups of two to 10 people, a five-course lunch or dinner, two glasses of wine or beer, coffee/tea, and recipes to take home

More Info: tel. +90/212-458-5919; info@cookingalaturka.com

Photo Caption: Baklava in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by gsz/Flickr.com.
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Noodles, eggs and other ingredients at a Thai cooking class. WordRidden/Flickr.com
Krabi, on the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand, is a paradise of white sandy beaches, waterfalls, and caves. Why not combine the beach with great food for your next vacation craving?

What: The Thai Cookery School (www.thaicookeryschool.net) runs morning, afternoon, and full-day cooking classes six days per week, where participants can learn how to master everything from spring rolls to Masaman curry.

Where: 269 Moo 2, Ao Nang, Muang. You can reach Krabi by short flight from Bangkok or by ferry from Phuket and other islands.

How Much: 2,200 Thai Baht (about $73) per person for a full-day course, which includes the preparation of various sauces, curries, vegetables, fruits and spicy Thai salads; a recipe book; lunch and dinner; and transportation from your hotel. A half-day course ranges from 1,100 to 1,300 Thai Baht ($36-$43).

More Info: tel. +66/75-662-155; info@thaicookeryschool.net

Photo Caption: Noodles, eggs and other ingredients at a Thai cooking class. Photo by WordRidden/Flickr.com.
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Balinese food. amrufm
The food in Bali, a delicate blend of subtle spices and fresh local produce, is part of Balinese life and its traditional Hindu religious ceremonies. With tropical beaches, the mountain town of Ubud is the island's spiritual center.

What: At Casa Luna Cooking School (www.casalunabali.com), Chef Janet de Neefe teaches participants about the herbs and spices used in ceremonial and everyday Balinese dishes. Students then prepare a lavish Balinese feast. Menus change daily, so you could take a different class each morning for a week and learn dishes like chicken satay, smoked duck, gado-gado (a vegetable salad with a peanut sauce dressing), or mie goreng (fried noodles).

Where: Casa Luna Cooking School at Honeymoon Guesthouses, Jalan Bisma, Ubud.

How Much: 300,000 Indonesian Rupiah (about $33) per five-hour class, which includes a trip to the market to buy produce, cooking instruction, and lunch with local rice wine. There is a 10% discount on classes for guests of the Honeymoon Guesthouses.

Contact: tel. +62/361-973-282; info@casalunabali.com

Photo Caption: Balinese food. Photo by amrufm/Flickr.com.
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Outdoor cooking in Beijing. Aaron T. Goodman
With so many regional varieties and flavors, your trip to Beijing will be one your taste buds will never forget.

What: Run by chef and author Jen Lin-Liu, Black Sesame Kitchen (www.blacksesamekitchen.com) holds various Chinese cooking classes each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in a residential courtyard space. Classes feature regional specialties, seasonal dishes, and changing menus that range from dumplings to stir-fry dishes.

Where: Central Beijing, 3 Black Sesame Hutong, Dongcheng District

How Much: Prices for three- to four-hour classes are 250 RMB to 300RMB ($37-$45) per person, including tuition (demonstration or hands-on) and a meal.

More Info: tel. +86/1369-147-4408; blacksesamekitchen@gmail.com

Photo Caption: Outdoor cooking in Beijing. Photo by Aaron T. Goodman/Flickr.com.
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Platter of sushi in Tokyo, Japan. WordRidden/Flickr.com
Japanese food is all about delicate taste, texture, color, and presentation. Although it may seem beyond the reach of a novice cook, it is possible to learn the basic skills of Japanese cooking, especially when you are being taught by experts in Tokyo. Take a culinary adventure in Japan's eclectic capital and discover ancient food-preparation traditions with a contemporary twist.

What: Akasaka Cooking School (www.akasaka-cooking.com) runs a series of Basic Japanese Cooking classes that are taught in English by professional chef instructors. The two- to three-hour courses run daily and can be arranged to suit your schedule and group size. Learn to prepare dishes like teriyaki chicken, sushi, and tempura.

Where: 3-21-14 Akasaka, Minato-ku, in central Tokyo, near the Akasaka-mitsuke Metro station.

How Much: ¥8,000 per person (about $98) per class, plus an ingredients fee. The class includes food preparation, eating what you've made, and take-home recipes in English.

Contact: tel. + 81/3-3582-9074; info@akasaka-cooking.com

Photo Caption: Platter of sushi in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by WordRidden/Flickr.com.
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