Our good friends at Tablet have found the most beautiful places on earth to sharpen your cooking skills.
And we’re sharing them with you.
A heaping bowl of pho on a tucked-away Hoi An side street. A painstakingly plated twenty-course feast at one of the world’s great temples of gastronomy. A perfect picnic on some sun-dappled slope in Tuscany or Bordeaux. Whatever the particulars, we’ve all had that incredible meal on the road that, years later, still gets our stomach rumbling with desire. For those willing to sprinkle some kitchen-time into their vacations, it’s possible to learn to recreate those meals — if not quite the scenery — back home. Here we present some of the best hotels for learning to cook like a pro.
CASA DE LAS OLAS
Tulum, Mexico — “Basically a food fest in paradise.” That’s what hotelier Sam Shendow calls the low-key, week-long sustainable food workshop at this five-room eco-retreat in Tulum. Led by a pair of chefs from leading local restaurants Hartwood and Cetli, the course combines hands-on cooking experience in the region’s best kitchens with plenty of time for tasting — lots and lots of tasting, from beachside ceviche to the finest local mezcals. (See the workshop dates and details.)
Charleston, South Carolina — Every stay at Zero George revolves around food — languid afternoons spent wiping condensation from a glass of iced tea, sipping cocktails and munching canapes on the veranda, a dinner of Low-Country classics in the courtyard. Opt for some time in the kitchen with Chef Randy Williams, and, come check-out time, you won’t have to give up that cornbread with lavender honey and chambord cream that they hooked you on.
CASTELLO DI CASOLE
Tuscany — At this thousand-year-old aristocratic estate, you can brush up on your Italian, hone your Tuscan-pottery-making skills, or learn to make some of the best fresh pasta and tiramisu you’ll ever eat. We’ll take the pasta and tiramisu. The cooking classes here make use of fruits and veggies from the hotel’s own gardens, as well as the best local ingredients — and in these parts, the best local ingredients aren’t anything to sniff at. (Or maybe they are….)
THE NAM HAI
Hoi An — Let’s be honest; bumming around on the beach and lazing about the spa come first. But let’s say you’ve done your due diligence in the relaxation department, and somehow you muster the willpower to extract yourself from the Nam Hai’s impossibly luxurious, inertia-inducing villas. It’s then that you’ll want to sign up for the Follow the Chef program, a half-day food excursion that begins with hunting produce in the resort’s gardens and ends with a garden-fresh meal of spring rolls, Vietnamese noodles and banana blossom salad.
Mendoza, Argentina — Though wine tends to get all the attention in Mendoza, the food at Finca Adalgisa — a working vineyard, olive oil producer and eleven-room farmhouse hotel — is every bit as good as the stuff they put in bottles. If they can pry that wine glass out of your hand for a short while, you might find yourself baking homemade empanadas in the outdoor clay oven or grilling some juicy local steaks for a hearty Argentine meal. And yes, the wine goes well with all of it.
London — At One Aldwych, executive chef Dominic Teague has opened his kitchen for a master class in the art of afternoon tea — perfect for British grannies looking to elevate their game and simple sweet-tooths alike. Guests learn to make delicate pastries, inspired sweets and all the usual teatime snacks before sitting down to taste their work, served in properly high style in a private dining room at the hotel’s Axis restaurant.
LES SOURCES DE CAUDALIE
Bordeaux — Admittedly, the dishes you learn to make at Les Sources de Caudalie might not come out quite the same back home. (They don’t hand out Michelin stars for nothing.) Still, a lot can be gleaned when you learn from the best, and twice each month Chef Nicolas Masse walks guests through the basics — and not-so-basics — of classic French cooking. However your scallops, foie gras and chocolate pastries turn out, you can always go to the restaurant for the real thing.
Cape Town — The restaurants at the Cellars-Hohenort are widely regarded as some of the best in South Africa, so it’s no surprise that the cooking classes at this winery-estate are some of the best as well. In the Cape Malay Kitchen class, students prepare refined takes on dishes like prawn curry under the guidance of a Malay cooking expert — with some good South African chenin blanc, naturally, to wash it down.
CAVALLO POINT LODGE
Sausalito, California — San Francisco’s reputation as a culinary mecca is well deserved, but it’s over the bridge in Sausalito where you’ll find the region’s best hotel cooking school. At Cavallo Point, local chefs lead classes on everything from warm winter stews to the foods of Mesopotamia. Whatever the topic, there’s an emphasis on the same Slow Food values that underlie the hotel’s acclaimed restaurant, and all the lessons are done on top-of-the-line culinary equipment, at comfortable work stations, in the 12,000-square-foot exhibition kitchen.
Vytina, Greece — The Mediterranean diet continues to have its acolytes, and where better to learn how to “eat Greek” than right at the source? At this design-forward minimalist hotel in the little mountain town of Vytina, only fresh, local products are used in the kitchen, and in the cooking classes there’s a decided emphasis on educating participants on the nutritional elements of each dish — though really, we don’t need to be told twice about the benefits of olive oil and cheese.