Villa San’tAnna at Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco
Eating Your Way Through Your Next
Holiday: A New Crop of Cooking Schools
Just in time for the start of summer, we’ve put together a guide to meals worth flying for—whether your flight is a puddle-jumper to a rugged farm in British Columbia, or a journey halfway around the world to explore Southeast Asia’s many markets, each of these foodie-centric trips is worth logging miles for. Thankfully, the next generation of cooking schools expertly blends, say, the opportunity to learn cheesemaking from a monger who has been tending to a goat herd in the Alps, or canvass the farmers’ markets of Burgundy with a mother-daughter duo, while surrounded by jaw-dropping views and charming accommodations. Here, our list of culinarily focused destinations to whet your appetite.
Photos: Nathalie Kennedy
Anna Tasca Lanza, Sicily, Italy
For the last thirty years, Anna Tasca Lanza has attracted the likes of Alice Waters and the late Julia Child–so we know it’s the real deal. What began as a project on her family’s 19th-century Sicilian villa became a true farm-to-table way of learning and cooking, where every student learns as much about the garden and sources of the ingredients as they do about cooking them. After her passing in 2006, Anna Tasca’s daughter, Fabrizia, took over the school, making sure to honor her mother’s practices. Courses include everything from a one-day class to a five-day workshop, and range from lessons in horticulture and cheese making to wine production to coffee roasting. There’s also a ten-week program available if you’re looking for something more intensive.
Babylonstoren, South Africa
For the better part of a decade owners Koos Bekker and Karen Roos lovingly worked on restoring a 300-year-old farm at the base of the Simonsberg mountains into a wine destination in its own right. There are only thirteen rooms (formerly farm-workers’ cottages) and each one is whitewashed and pristine with an open floor plan and modern furnishings from the likes of Kartell and Bourellec Bros. For those in need of something more generously sized, whether it’s for themselves or for a couples getaway, the five-bedroom Owner’s House is pretty special, and features checkerboard floors in the bathrooms, a soaking tub, and the farm kitchen with its own wood-burning stove. On property, an eight-acre walled garden informs much of the menu at its restaurant, Babel, which churns out deliciously fresh meals. (In the summer months, it’s yellow tomatoes, apricots, and gooseberries, while a winter menu may feature, say, a slow-cooked lamb leg in a red wine sauce.) For a bit of pampering, spa treatments can be had in the bamboo pavilion, which also includes a Hammam. Guests can participate in the harvest, pruning, and picking (they provide trowels and gloves), and they also offer wine tastings, though Babylonstoren is also within easy striking distance of South Africa’s other celebrated vineyards. If you’re in need of an expert to help you plan a longer Africa trip, consider Deborah Calmeyer, a trip-planning ace at ROAR AFRICA, who can set you up at Babylonstoren and beyond.
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, England
This stunning old-world spot in Oxfordshire is home to Raymond Blanc’s two Michelen-starred restaurant—and an attached Cookery School. There, you can master macaroons and pistachio soufflés, or a fail-safe menu for a spring dinner party. They also have tons of cooking classes for kids. Speaking of children: There are only thirty-two tastefully appointed guest rooms, and while this Belmond has the feel of a quiet English countryside manor, they go above and beyond to ensure that little ones are entertained too. There are bikes, bocce, buckets of toys, and video games on-site.
Ballymaloe House, Ireland
Spread across 400, bright green, undulating acres, this country house in Cork looks straight out of central casting. People come for the on-site restaurant—which features a menu derived from Ballymaloe’s gardens and greenhouses—and also for its proximity to the Ballymaloe Cookery School & Gardens. You can sign-up for an afternoon of making canapes and finger foods, or multi-day course on baking or mastering fancy versions of pub food.
Photos: beall + thomas photography
Blackberry Farm, Tennessee
Buttermilk biscuits with a view. Equal parts luxury hotel, world-class kitchen, and working farm, this 4,200 acre foodie resort in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains is a slice of heaven for those hungry for rest, relaxation, good music, and, of course, incredible Southern cooking. Check their calendar before booking for events that may be of interest like truffle hunts, photography workshops, wellness weekends, and visits from celeb chefs like Joanne Weir and Daniel Boulud.
Castello di Vicarello, Italy
Though it offers incredible views of the Tuscan countryside and an excellent spa, the 12th-century castle-turned-hotel is really about the food. The owner, Aurora Baccheschi Berti, is a world-class chef who specializes in Northern Italian cuisine (check out her cookbook here). In addition to whipping up an Instagrammable daily breakfast spread she holds cooking classes (fresh pasta making, for example) using organic ingredients grown right on property. There’s also a working vineyard and an olive grove where you can witness the pressing process firsthand.
COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali
With an emphasis on holistic wellness, this stunning retreat calls upon certified specialists in yoga, Pilates and qigong, to personalized mountain biking, hiking and circuit training guides. In the Estate’s main kitchen, you can design your own three-course menu (go for an authentically Indonesian dish) to cook with chef. During your stay, you’ll likely live at Glow, an all-day restaurant/café serving pressed juice, organic salads, and fresh Mediterranean fish.
Daylesford Organic Farm, England
Experience firsthand what it’s like to live on a farm with the comfort of knowing you’re going home at the end of the weekend. Located in Gloucestershire, Daylesford is a real-deal working farm that focuses on organic, sustainable practices and passing on knowledge to anyone who’s interested. You get to stay at one of the adorably rustic cottages which are just steps from the Daylesford Farmshop (which you’ve probably seen scattered all over London) and ideally situated for classes at The Cookery School. You can also stay at their sister hotel, The Wild Rabbit—a modern inn, filled with country charm—located in the heart of the Cotswolds. Artisan bread making and quick and simple suppers are just a sampling of the inventive courses offered throughout the year. While there, stop by the on-site creamery, bakery, or market garden and load up on seasonal snacks for the trip back.
Photos: Michael Ableman
Foxglove Farm, Salt Spring Island, BC
A stone’s throw from Vancouver, Salt Spring Island is something of a creative enclave for the culinarily inclined. Think impossibly picturesque, rugged setting where you’ll find vintners, cheese makers, and other creative types in residence year-around. It’s just that spirit that inspired Michael Ableman and Jeanne-Marie Herman to open Foxglove Farm, a 121-acre organic farm which holds cooking and gardening classes, plus mushroom-foraging and cheese-making courses. Its location, 1,200 feet above sea level, means they regularly grow everything from peaches, plus, quince, figs, cherries, plus a nourishing mix of veggies and legumes. (As a result their veggies have graced the table at the likes of Chez Panisse and Zuni Cafe, too.)
Flora Farms, San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico
If you’re into more of a vacation enclave with a farm-to-table bent then head to Baja California to check into one of the ten charming Culinary Cottages at Flora Farms: a twenty-five-acre organic working farm in the foothills of Sierra de la Laguna Mountains in San Jose del Cabo. Renters and owners can submerge themselves in harvesting the heirloom vegetables–and cooking meals in the fully equipped cottages. Although access to the private beach club, family pond, pool, and spas is exclusive to owners and renters, The Field Kitchen (where the ingredients are often picked minutes before they are served), Farm Bar, and Flora Grocery (which sells sustainably raised meats, handmade breads, and organic vegetables), are open to all, expanding the community’s culinary experience beyond the cottage doors.
Jnane Tamsna, Marrakech, Morocco
The coolest husband and wife team–she’s a former Paris lawyer–turned–designer/hotelier, he’s an ethnobotanist–created this drop dead gorgeous estate that offers an intimate, wellness-focused escape ten minutes outside Marrakech. Nearly every inch exudes a sense of style and health: An organic garden produces vegetables for the ever-changing menu, the villas feature pan-African design with Moroccan rugs and Senegalese art, and the architecture lends itself to the most relaxed setting to sit back and sip tea. If you want to learn about Moroccan food culture head chef Bahija, who has a sort of cult-following amongst foodies, teaches classes focused on utilizing locally-grown produce, most of which is from the estate’s garden. If you’re feeling adventurous you can head to the medina to shop for traditional Moroccan spices. To top it all off, the couple is opening a Pilates studio this winter to round out their wellness offerings.
Los Dos Cooking School, Mérida, Mexico
This week-long Yucatean cooking workshop is a great alternative to the boozy ragers normally associated with Mexican getaways. The school is located in beautiful Mérida, inside the home of expat chef, David Sterling. Sadly, David passed away last year, but the workshop lives on under the direction of his right hand-man, Chef Mario Canu. This is a fully immersive, hands-on experience so expect to accompany the chef to the market for ingredients, which you will then prepare in his private (and perfect) kitchen. In addition to time spent cooking, you’ll be taken on tours of Mérida, the surrounding Mayan archeological treasures, and colonial Izamál. Additional trips to local farms and rum distilleries (in case you’re looking to booze it up a bit) can be arranged as well. We recommend shacking up at Rosas & Xocolate.
Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, Italy
Situated in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Val D’Orcia, this centuries-old estate south of Siena is truly incredible: Beyond the fact that you walk amidst remnants of walls from the 1100s, it’s surrounded by Brunello di Montalcino vineyards, there’s a world-class golf course, on-site truffle hunting, and the food is unbelievable. There’s a fancy restaurant, but there’s also a casual pizzeria—and kitchens in the villas where you can feast on bread and incomparably sweet tomatoes. While it’s plenty romantic, they have a lot of activities (including cooking classes) for kids.
Photos: Kristin Teig
Salt Water Farm, Maine
After working in some of the world’s most popular restaurants and assisting a well-known chef in NYC, Annemarie Ahearn decided to pack-up, move to the New England countryside, and lend her skills as a culinary teacher. What she ended up creating is a cooking empire of sorts, with a school, café, and a new cookbook, Full Moon Suppers at Salt Water Farm: Recipes from Land and Sea. At her farm on the Maine coast, she takes a hands-on approach to instill resourcefulness in the kitchen, teaching you techniques to cook instinctually with what’s seasonally available. From pasta-making to pickling to bread backing, she teaches one-off courses or week-long workshops, all of which take place in an idyllic barn. A note: While there are no on-site accommodations, the surrounding towns offer an ample selection of B&Bs and hotels.
Thacher House, Ojai
Hovering somewhere between a bed and breakfast and organic co-op farm, LA-transplant Calvin Zara’s refurbished four-bedroom Thacher house and its four private cabins is where you want to be for a fully-immersive, get away from it all experience (it accommodates no more than twenty guests at a time). If you stay here, be prepared to share the lush grounds with chickens and a family of goats, in addition to citrus and pomegranate trees and a garden. Needless to say, all the food served at the beautifully appointed dining room is sourced locally or from the Thacher House farm itself. Also on offer: classes in cooking, baking, olive-oil pressing, wine-making, and so much more.
Photos: Anson Smart
The Cook’s Atelier, Beaune, France
We love the entire concept behind this cooking workshop in Burgundy: American mother-daughter duo Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini had a love for French cuisine and communal gatherings, so they decided to combine the two and create an educational hub in the French countryside. The pair began by offering market tours, visits to wineries, and cooking classes–all in English–for curious tourists or locals. The idea took off and since its creation in 2008, the pair has opened a storefront, which houses The French Larder, where they sell their favorite wines and provisions. (You can also rent their quaint pied-a-terre, a two-bedroom flat close to the village’s markets and restaurants.) After dining with family, meeting local purveyors, and building confidence in cooking French cuisine, the experience will leave you feeling truly part of something.
Viña Vik at VIK Vineyard, Chile
Tucked in the heart of Chilean wine country, Viña Vik is a hideaway just two hours south of Santiago. The ultra-modern design, which offers wholly uninterrupted views of your surroundings—amidst some 11,000 acres of unspoiled land—is reminiscent of Frank Gehry. Winemaking is the primary focus here, and the Vik family (which also has Estancia Vik and Playa Vik in Uruguay), but the organic garden, which cultivates more than 250 different varieties of fruits and vegetables (kale, mint, lavender, peaches, and avocados, among them) is equally notable. There’s a dedicated culinary education program for guests around harvesting and cooking the produce. Come December, well-known Argentinean pastry chef Osvaldo Gross will host a series of classes for guests, too.
Artisans of Leisure: Flavors of Southeast Asia Tour
While the idea of traversing and eating your way through three countries in southeast Asia sounds exciting, the legwork required is kind of daunting. New York City-based outfitter Artisans of Leisure has a firm handle on the bespoke space, particularly when it comes to culinary trips. Considered more of a foodie journey than a cooking destination, the Flavors of Southeast Asia tour takes you to the best markets and cuisines in Singapore, northern Thailand, and Vietnam so you can get a literal taste of what each region has to offer. Spanning two weeks and covering more than six major southeast Asian cities, it combines the best of street food (our favorite), cooking classes (both private and group), and meet-and-greets with local, well-known chefs.