Culinary travel offers the best of food and adventure

chefclaudioThis article appeared in the October/November 2013 issue of AARP Magazine.  I thought it may be of interest to my readers.  Enjoy!

Some say the way to most deeply understand a place is through its cuisine (just ask Anthony Bourdain). That’s the idea behind culinary  travel, where visitors learn to cook like the locals as a way to experience a foreign culture. “Travelers want to get out of the bus or the car and actively learn and do,” says Erik Wolf, executive director of the World Food Travel Association.

Colorado-based Epitourean says it sent about 3,000 foodies to Italy in 2012; in 2013, it was on track to send a few thousand more. Other popular destinations: California’s Napa Valley, and Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, where low-country cuisine is the draw. David Loy, Epitourean’s president, says cooking trips are “on people’s bucket lists.”

Cost varies widely. Many U.S. bed-and-breakfast inns offer two- or three-day culinary getaways for less than 1,000. The Blair House Inn in Wimberley, Texas, has a three-day “barbecue camp” for $621 per person, double occupancy, plus airfare. But spending a week in France’s Loire Valley while learning how to make chocolate soufflé is about 3,000, fights excluded.

The article included a few trips to consider:

The International Kitchen – Various locations ($3,500 per person)
Enjoy Italy’s Amalfi Coast on one of International Kitchen’s best-selling trips–six nights in a boutique hotel where travelers cook classic regional dishes and visit places such as Pompeii. The price: $3,500 per person, double. May-September, excluding airfare; $2,950 during low season.

John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, North Carolina ($1,107 per person)
Escape for a week to dig in the dirt and learn how to grow and cook with fresh herbs. The price is $1,107 per person, double, for six nights with family-style meals and a shared bath, airfare excluded.  Also at the folk school: A weekend class–wheat-free cooking, for example–costs $435 per person, double.

Los Dos Cooking School – Mérida, Mexico ($1,725 per person)
Try a three-day, four-night Yucatán cooking workshop. Oklahoma-born chef David Sterling teaches at his colonial mansion in downtown Mérida. Learn to make favorites like salbut (crispy tortilla topped with ingredients such as smoked port). The price: $1,725 per person, double, with a minimum of two, excluding airfare.

And here’s one that I’m familiar with:

Active Gourmet Holidays – Various locations (Prices vary by location)
Whether it be learning to master local dishes from a renowned chef in the heart of Provence, biking amidst the spectacular red poppy fields of Chianti, or tasting fine Tuscan wines from the Brunello region, Active Gourmet Holidays offers the perfect culinary tours.