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For many travelers, enjoying their destination’s local cuisine is at the top of their vacation to-do list. Cuisine and travel are so closely tied together that an entire industry, known as “culinary tourism,” has sprung up to capitalize on the connection. But some foodies are taking their love of cuisine further and actually going into the kitchen by attending cooking classes in exotic locales.
Case in point: Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico is expanding its offerings from the traditional spa activities and amenities, such as facials, Pilates and nature hikes. In August, it added La Cocina que Canta, a cooking school focused on healthful cuisine, with a focus on â€˜Cuisine of the Californias.â€™ The cuisine is defined as, â€˜a superb all-natural diet. It is low in fat, sodium, and refined flour and sugarâ€”while high in energy, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.â€™
The owners are hoping to draw a new crop of foodie guests to their 3,000-acre property that includes a 5-acre organic, sustainable farm. The school itself was created in response to the spa’s guests who expressed an interest in learning how to continue the healthful lifestyle they pursued while rejuvenating at the spa. Guest chefs include Jill Melton of Relish Magazine and Suneeta Vaswani.
Cooking classes last 3 hours and cost $75 each. Demonstrations are shorter, only 1Â½ hours and $30. Currently, classes are open only to guests of the ranch, with 1-week stays ranging in price from $2,800â€“$4,300 per person. But since the ranch is located only an hour away from San Diego, the spa is looking into adding day classes for non-guests. With recipes such as the berry parfait with avocado cream, wild salmon patties, and linguini with sun-dried tomato pesto, La Cocina que Canta is sure to tempt guests’ taste buds.
For those who want a hands-on culinary experience, but can skip the spa in favor of cultural immersion, other companies are getting in on the act, including:
- Viking Life is the culinary travel arm of Viking Range. Partnered with the Culinary Institute of America, it promises you will â€˜cook where the locals cook. From Bombay to Barcelona, you’ll meet and learn from local chefs, street vendors, butchers, bakers, vintners, and farmers.â€™ Travel with them next year to Vietnam, India, and Turkey.
- The Culinary Institute of America (pictured, right) offers continuing education classes and intensive â€˜boot campsâ€™ for serious foodies who want to travel to its Hyde Park, N.Y., campus.
- Active Gourmet Holidays specializes in cooking tours of France, in particular Provenance, Paris and Loire. It also offers other active European tours, such as biking and wine tasting in Italy, and painting and gourmet dining in both France and Italy.
- Gourmet Retreats at Casa Lana offers cooking vacations at its Bed and Breakfast in Calistoga, Calif., and tours to the central region of Mexico, specifically San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. Check out its website, or call 1-877-YOU-COOK.
- The New Orleans Cooking Experience, or NOCE, heralds the experience it offers as â€˜authentic Creole cuisine with a dash of Cajun. Our highly personalized cooking classes focus on the techniques of creating Louisiana food, as well as the history and culture of our region.â€™
- Chef Ana Garcia, star of the soon-to-be PBS channel series My Mexico with Ana Garcia, can be your guide on a week-long culinary adventure at La Villa Bonita Mexican Culinary Vacation in Cuernavaca, Morelos, MÃ©xico.
- Good Tastes of Tuscany offers cooking classes (focused on Tuscany, naturally) for every level in its 14th-century kitchen. From single-day classes for beginners, to its 7-day Culinary Adventure that immerses you in the culture of Tuscany, it aims to please every guest.
Preparing a meal from scratch is a tough proposition for some, but a passion for others. Are these vacations so popular because time-starved people need to take a break from their harried daily lives to actually have time to prepare a meal? Are people seeking meaning behind the foods they cook, looking to soak up the minutia about a new cuisine that only a hands-on experience can provide?
Or, could it be the continued drive for authenticity in cuisine that spurs on this growing movement toward exploring increasingly specific cuisines? With so many varied options, this trend seems likely to continue indefinitely.
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