Best Cooking Schools Around the World
More than any historic home tour, the School of Artisan Food provides a true taste of Downton Abbey through classes in traditional English cookery: cider making, wild game butchery, and fruit preserves.
It’s one example of the greater world of epicurean experiences that has opened up for travelers eager to pack their aprons and join immersion classes with local guides or expert cooks—whatever your time commitment, budget, and skill level.
We’ve done the dirty work to identify the best cooking programs around the globe, from a half-day course on chicken gumbo in New Orleans to a farm in the scenic backwaters of Kerala, India, where classes center on family recipes for chutney and curries. They share the ability to help travelers understand a local culture and to revisit a favorite destination with a fresh perspective. After all, it’s exhilarating to start the day at a local market then sit down to a meal of pasta with truffles, tom yum goong, or coquilles St. Jacques of your very own making.
Students are typically teamed up with multilingual instructors versed in the cuisine of the region. You can expect to pick up new kitchen skills and recipes, and lessons are often augmented by exclusive encounters with purveyors and artisanal growers, wine pourings at vineyards, and dinners set in private homes or at top chef tables tucked in a corner of their kitchen domain, so that you can observe pros in the heat of the action.
Some programs are suited to a weeklong vacation: kneading dough with a master pizzaiolo in Naples or cooking spice-infused tagines at a villa in the Palmeraie outside Marrakesh. Other daylong sessions cater to those who simply want to whet their appetites. Hotels and resorts are increasingly offering classes as well. Before booking, ask about class size, type of equipment (knives, stovetops) provided, and what meals and accommodation are included.
Here are the latest programs for seasoned cooks as well as beginners ripe for discovery.
Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena, CA
The Culinary Institute of America (from $2,195) at Greystone, in Napa Valley, runs a Flavors of Wine Country “boot camp” for beginners. The five-day, hands-on course introduces you to northern Californian cuisine, paired with wines from the world-class vineyards that surround the campus.
Two Bordelais, Bordeaux, France
Husband-and-wife team Jean-Pierre and Denise Moullé of Two Bordelais (from $4,000) hold a weeklong course on Bordeaux-style cooking in the kitchens of the 13th-century Château La Louvière and their own rustic farmhouse. A former head chef at Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse, Jean-Pierre is an expert at preparing ingredients such as agneau de prés sales (lamb raised in salt meadows), and Denise belongs to a wine-producing family from St.-Émilion.
Don’t Miss: Private châteaux wine tastings, a tutorial on local cheeses with an affineur, and a visit to a chocolatier.
Los Dos, Mérida, Mexico
At Los Dos (from $125) in colonial Mérida, American expat David Sterling teaches cocina yucateca, one of Mexico’s great regional cuisines. Daylong workshops start at the Lucas de Gálvez market to look for Maya staples such as chaya, beans, achiote, and epazote. After sampling snacks at street stalls, students head back to Sterling’s brightly tiled kitchen to learn the techniques for squash soup with maize dumplings, achiote-marinated red snapper, and pit-roasted venison.
Don’t Miss: Side trips to artisanal producers of rum, herbs, honey, and chicharrónes (fried pork rinds) arranged by the school.
Castello di Vicarello, Tuscany, Italy
At the 12th-century Castello di Vicarello (from $260; doubles from $530), hotelier and cookbook author Aurora Baccheschi Berti focuses on the rustic cuisine of Maremma, on Tuscany’s southwest coast.
Top Dish: Tortelli with ricotta and spinach, which you’ll prepare using the estate’s own olive oil and produce from the kitchen garden.
Pizza Consulting, Campania, Italy
In Naples, owner and master pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia of the celebrated Pizzeria La Notizia holds weeklong classes through his Pizza Consulting (from $950). Learn the secrets behind Neapolitan pizza—from proofing doppio-zero-flour dough to firing wood-burning ovens.
Don’t Miss: A visit to one of the regional olive and tomato producers that supply Coccia’s restaurant.
Langlois Culinary Crossroads, New Orleans
At Langlois Culinary Crossroads (from $80), Louisiana cookbook author Amy Cyrex-Sins offers a half-day course in a converted grocery store in the Faubourg-Marigny neighborhood.
Top Dishes: Prep chicken gumbo, red beans and rice, and other down-home classics that have made New Orleans one of America’s regional-food capitals.
Willing Foot, Maine
Willing Foot (from $1,075) arranges a five-day driving itinerary along Maine’s scenic Route 1, stopping at farms, fisheries, and bakeries and finishing with a farmhouse cooking class.
Don’t Miss: The lobster rolls at roadside stands.
Foxglove Farm, British Columbia, Canada
On rural Salt Island near Vancouver, Foxglove Farm (from $120; doubles from $100) holds cooking (and gardening) classes, as well as mushroom-foraging and cheese-making tutorials.
School of Artisan Food, Nottinghamshire, England
For an experience straight out of Downton Abbey, look no further than the School of Artisan Food (from $60), in Sherwood Forest. Their half- and multi-day courses spotlight traditional English cookery—cider making, wild game butchery, fruit preserves, and more.
Don’t Miss: Food historian Ivan Day’s class on historic pies, which includes elaborate Victorian meat pasties.
Cookery School at Daylesford, Cotswolds, England
The Cookery School at Daylesford ($460; doubles from $245) has a two-day hunting and foraging program on its 2,000-acre estate, along with courses in butchery, pastry, and bread making.
Spend the Night: Students can stay in one of the five light-filled stone-and-timber manor cottages on the property.
Explore the world of cacao at Belcampo (from $1,350), a lodge in the jungles of Belize, during a four-day, roots-to-bar master class led by Katrina Markhoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolat.
Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley, CA
Auberge du Soleil (from $375), a 52-room resort set on 33 acres in Napa Valley, holds daylong workshops on how to make your own terrine, saucisson, and salumi.
During the summer, the professional culinary arts school Ferrandi-Paris (from $1,622), in Montparnasse, opens its doors to beginning pâtissiers who want to master the intricacies of making macarons, the iconic French dessert.
Virgilio Martinez, Lima, Peru
During an exclusive daylong course, rising-star chef Virgilio Martinez (from $500) will lead you on a morning tour of the bustling Surquillo market to introduce you to the rare fruits, seeds, grains, and seafood he first discovered on foraging trips to the Amazon and the Andes. You’ll return with your ingredients to his renowned Central Restaurant for a private master class.
Don’t Miss: Martinez’s innovative seven-course tasting menu at Central.
Backstreet Beijing, Beijing
Lillian Chou, a former editor at Gourmet magazine, leads private day tours and cooking classes through Bespoke Beijing (from $500); both give travelers a street-level taste of the city. She’ll guide you through Sanyuanli Market to sample regional specialties, such as Tianjin jianbing (rolled bean crêpes) and candied hawthorns. Classes end with a family-style meal of pickles, steamed buns, dumplings, and braised goose.
Don’t Miss: A trip to an organic farm near Beijing to cook tofu in a wok over a wood fire.
Hanoi Cooking Centre, Hanoi, Vietnam
Chef and cookbook author Tracey Lister and partner Linh Dinh Phung helm the Hanoi Cooking Centre (from $55), near the city’s Old Quarter. They offer hands-on, half-day lessons on dishes of the northern highlands (such as bun oc, noodle soup with escargot), but their true expertise is the humble fare of Hanoi’s street-food stalls.
Don’t Miss: Walking tours that include stops for pho; French-colonial-influenced pastries; and ca phe, iced coffee with condensed milk.
International Culinary Center, New York
The International Culinary Center (from $195), in Manhattan, has a star-studded faculty (André Soltner; Jacques Pépin; Jacques Torres), who have created short courses for home cooks on knife skills, tapas, pâtés—even on baking the perfect New York bagel. We love the Art of Japanese Cuisine program, led by chef and cookbook author Hiroko Shimbo.
Le Cordon Bleu
Le Cordon Bleu (half-day classes from $60) spreads the classical French gospel globally. One- to four-day courses and workshops are available for amateur chefs at most of its 40 campuses, from Tokyo to Lima; in Paris, a popular demo on boeuf bourguignonne honors famous graduate Julia Child.
Philipkutty’s Farm, Kerala, India
Located in the scenic backwaters of the region’s Malabar Coast, Philipkutty’s Farm (from $13; doubles from $235) is where Aniamma Philip and her daughter-in-law Anu Mathew hold multiday classes centered on treasured family recipes for chutney, appam bread, vegetable thoran, and curries redolent of spices from their garden.
Spend the Night: The five antiques-filled villas face tranquil Vembanad Lake.
137 Pillars House Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand
At the colonial-style 137 Pillars House Hotel (from $115; doubles from $320), chef Jaiphak Na Chiang Mai tempers the heat of traditional fiery recipes. Fans of Thai food eager to master tom yum goong (prawn soup with lemongrass) and gaeng kiew wan gai (green curry with chicken) won’t be disappointed.
Don’t Miss: A visit to the local Tanin Market, where students shop for ingredients such as lemongrass and galangal (blue ginger) before pulling out the mortar and pestle.
Agrarian Kitchen, Tasmania, Australia
Set on a five-acre property an hour north of Hobart, the Agrarian Kitchen (from $370) is a working farm with an extensive vegetable garden, orchard, and berry patch. Students can roll up their sleeves and learn everything from making pasta by hand to cooking with truffles.
Don’t Miss: Some courses are not for the dabbler: owners Rodney and Séverine Dunn are best known for their practical multiday master classes on farming techniques, from plucking chickens to whole-hog butchery.
Le Mas Candille, Provence, France
Up in the hills above Cannes, chef Serge Gouloumès of the hotel and restaurant Le Mas Candille (doubles from $608) begins his half-day master class with a tour of the town’s farmers’ market, then returns with students to his kitchen to prepare classic Provençal dishes.
Spend the Night: The property’s 46 rooms face the French Alps.
Faim d’Epices, Morocco
Among the citrus groves at Faim d’Epices (from $150), just outside Marrakesh, Paris-born chef Michel Paillet peppers half-day courses with spice workshops and flatbread baking.
Top Dishes: Soulful tagines such as beef with pears and candied oranges.
L’Amandier, Provence, France
Chef Denis Fétisson conducts half-day courses with ingredients (artichokes, cherries, peaches) raised on Côte d’Azur farms. His base is L’Amandier (from $110), a restaurant, boutique, and cooking school.
Don’t Miss: A tour of the property grounds (including a former almond mill), made famous by mentor-chef Roger Vergé.
Rhode School of Cuisine at Dar Liqama, Marrakesh, Morocco
The Rhode School of Cuisine at Dar Liqama (from $2,900), set in the suburb of Palmeraie, holds a weeklong course on how to prepare everything from harira lentil soup to rosewater ice cream.
Spend the Night: The eight-bedroom villa has a hammam.