If you are wandering the world, especially long-term, you’ll most likely be trying some of the best cuisines each city and region has to offer. For however long you are out for, your days will be spent gorging yourself with the world’s most famous dishes and lesser known local treats. This is great, except for that most trips end; and with the completion of an adventure (or move to a new region) so ends the continual onslaught of delicious cuisine.
But rather than tracking down a local restaurant at home that may or may not have your favorite dish, or even be good at it if they do, we have opted for a unique way to bring the world’s best foods home with us: cooking classes. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” By taking a cooking class while traveling, you’ll be sure your desire for your favorite dish will never go unrewarded again.
Why Take a Cooking Class?
The old saying is true for a number of activities, especially when on the topic of cooking. By learning to cook a local cuisine in the country you are traveling in you get an edge over all of the alternatives. Your instructor will be familiar with the food, know the local way to prepare it, and even give you feedback on how to perform the technique to make the dish perfect. You even get to take home recipe cards and cook books with the entire set of instructions for future use.
For us, this style of cooking has allowed us to grow our international culinary experience substantially. Prior to taking cooking classes we tried our hand at international cooking but failed miserably due to picking poor recipes and not knowing subtle styles to the food that we love so much. By taking a cooking class you become more discerning on the proper ingredients, and become more knowledgeable on whether a recipe for a foreign cuisine is a good one.
The second reason to take a cooking class is a simple one: pride. It is the one secret ingredient that takes all cooking attempts from just okay and makes them stellar. If you’re not proud of your food you will not enjoy it as much. The feedback and lessons of a cooking class instill this value in each and every recipe you learn yourself, making all subsequent recreations fabulous. Now isn’t that better than fumbling around with a questionable recipe from the internet?
Types of Cooking Classes
To get into the various type of classes that are available would be a pretty extensive process as not all lessons are created equal. Rather than going through every single type, the following are a few of the various styles you may want to keep in mind when looking to plan your next day of cooking abroad:
- Market Tours
- Half Day Classes (1-3 food items)
- Full Day Classes (3-5 food items, with Market Tour)
- Cooking Courses (2-7+ days)
- Dessert Classes
- Drink Classes
- Specialty Classes (Focused Cuisine, Themed Courses, etc)
It is important to make the distinction between these type of classes as your goal for learning to cook in a specific region may be better suited for one over another. Looking for a specific food item? You may only find it in one of the itineraries of a full or half day class. Going as a couple? Many full-day classes offer breakout groups to where you and your spouse can split up and learn different cuisines, and come together and share them after prep time. Increased variety equals happy stomach when it comes to cooking.
The one downside to a cooking lesson is that they are not the cheapest of experiences, with classes ranging anywhere from $20 in South East Asia to $1,000+ per person for multi-day classes in Europe. While the high end may be extreme, there are always cheaper alternatives to keep the cost to under $125 per person for most one day course; even in Europe. For those who love to cook this price is pennies compared to all of the times you may go out to the dish at home, as you may find that nothing compares to your favorite dish once you master it yourself.
The Best Food Destinations
There really aren’t any bad cooking class destinations; but your decision to take one should definitely be looked at in tandem with what part of the country you are in. It is our opinion that the best locations for cooking classes are the same cities that are known for their local cuisine and love of food. The reasons are similar to our argument for why you should take a cooking class that we mentioned above, pride of the food (and access to good markets doesn’t hurt either). People who love the food make great teachers, and the famous food cities will also have the dishes you want to make. It is truly as simple as that.
A few of my favorite cooking classes we’ve taken so far have been, not surprisingly, in the food centric cities of Chengdu, China (for Sichuan cuisine) and Chiang Mai, Thailand. I ate well in both cities and my opinions of the cooking classes are reflected in part because of that. It is due to this trend that our longing for classes in some of our upcoming destinations like Provence, France and Tuscany, Italy are so high on our radar.
They love food, we want their secrets, and a cooking class is the best way to get it.
What about you? Have you taken a cooking class in a foreign destination? Where did you go and what did you think about it? Let us know by commenting below!
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