A:Call it the Top Chef effect or the Michael Pollanization of America—a thoroughly modern preoccupation with where our meals come from, how they’re cooked, and who’s cooking them. A happy by-product of this national obsession is food tourism, whether you’re more inclined toward a tasting tour of Oaxaca’s legendary moles or an izakaya crawl in Tokyo. According to the tourism and “place branding” experts at Resonance Consultancy, vacations with a culinary bent have ballooned into a $12 billion industry, drawing in some 27 million American travelers over the past three years. Looking for a truly immersive food adventure? Take a class at one of the following tourist-friendly cooking schools.
Le Cordon Bleu, Paris
The wise old chef of cooking schools offers a solid lineup of “short courses”—one-day classes on bread baking, French regional cuisine, and the like. If you’d rather be out and about, book the Paris Market Tour, a tour of select open-air markets that concludes with a demonstration on how to use the ingredients you’ve selected.
Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee
Blend 4,200 pristine acres in the Smoky Mountains with James Beard Award–winning food and a killer cooking school, and you get Blackberry Farm, a luxury hotel that lives up to its hype, and then some. Guests aren’t obligated to take a class—but why wouldn’t you, when they’re taught by the likes of Alain Ducasse? Upcoming classes range from a hands-on demonstration by the Food Network’s Katie Lee to an educational seminar from top Memphis chefs like Kelly English and Andrew Ticer. Don’t forget to bring your road cycle and burn off some of those calories by pedaling the area’s deceptively difficult climbs.
Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School, Hoi An, Vietnam
Anthony Bourdain raved about this spot on his old TV show, and for good reason. It’s gorgeous (situated on the banks of the Hoi An River near the east coast of Vietnam), delicious (boasts a revolving-door menu packed with spicy fresh-fish dishes), and is home to an excellent, surprisingly affordable cooking school. Go all out—by that, we mean spend a mere $30—and book the Red Bridge Classic Half Day Tour, which includes a stroll through the market, a boat ride on the Hoi An, and a two-hour class focused on regional treats such as clay pot fish, lemongrass soup, and beef noodle soup.
Run by expat chef David Sterling, this renowned school is dedicated to the bright, spicy flavors of the Yucatán. Sterling teaches Los Dos’s most popular class, an eight-hour overview of Mayan cooking, highlighted by a market tour and a full meal prepared by students.