Taking a cooking class is one of the best ways to get close to local culture while traveling. It’s far more active and fun than simply sitting down in a restaurant, and you’ll walk away with the best souvenir there is: a unique recipe. Learn traditional techniques and tasty new dishes to add to your repertoire at home by attending a cooking lesson in one of these countries.
What destination is more closely aligned with the glamorous image of food and wine than Tuscany? Italy’s central region characterized by rolling hills and simple, slow cooked fare is naturally an excellent place to brush up on your cooking skills. Many a rustic farmhouse or medieval villa amid the region’s ruggedly romantic landscape holds a cooking school, where you can try different kinds of olive oil, learn how to make fresh pasta from scratch, and end the day tasting the fruits of your labor paired with local Chianti wine. Have more than a day to devote to your culinary education? The region is home to several “gourmet getaways” allowing you to explore the best of foodie culture for an entire weekend or longer.
Few destinations conjure up more exotic images than Morocco, and Moroccan cuisine is a big part of that picture with its richly spiced tagines and jeweled piles of couscous. Master this Middle Eastern art, melding Moorish, Berber, Mediterranean, and Arab influences, at one of Fez’s cooking schools. Start with a morning market run in the local souq before returning to the school’s home base where you’ll prepare a flavorful Moroccan feast. Marrakech also plays host to excellent markets and cooking schools, some of which offer specialty classes where you can learn how to make bread or yogurt from scratch, or blind taste different spices – telling them apart is harder than you’d think!
Many Southeast Asian countries have cooking schools available, and Vietnam is certainly no exception to the rule. The sleepy colonial city of Hoi An is home to many a good market, including a morning fish market and a riverside night market, and locals make the most of those offerings in daily cooking classes. Take a field trip to a nearby farm or market before whipping up local specialties like pho, Vietnam’s trademark beef noodle soup, or clay pot fish. Classes are also available in larger cities like Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, where you might also be invited to tour a traditional medicinal garden or a mushroom house.
Mexico is one of many nations whose traditional cuisine has been significantly warped in American culture. Upgrade your weekly taco night by learning from the best in Oaxaca, a southern indigenous state known for its distinctive regional cuisine. Foodies may know the area as “lugar de siete moles,” or the place of seven moles, as the city is brimming with a wide range of variations on Mexico’s signature chile-chocolate sauce. Learn how to make tortillas from scratch or perfect your salsa technique with premium local ingredients. Many classes will also give you the chance to try a shot of fiery mescal.