Travel Pearls: Cooking Classes

I thought I was a pretty good cook until I met Graham . Well, I am still a pretty good cook, but he uses spices and herbs better than I do, so his dishes are so flavorful and the aroma while he is cooking gets the salivary glands going.

Because we are foodies, we try to include cooking classes on our vacations as a way to be exposed to new techniques and regional specialties.

Our first such experience was in Napa, California where we attended a demonstration class at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone. The only one that would fit our schedule was a class on Philippine cooking, which introduced me to fish sauce and I learned to appreciate that aroma and flavor can be different. Fish sauce is now a part of our pantry items!

All three CIA campuses (Napa, California; Hyde Park, New York; and San Antonio, Texas) offer other demonstration classes, and hands-on classes from 2-hour sessions, one day or two day sessions, to a one week boot camp. Go to the Culinary Institute of America website for information on how you can fit a CIA class into your next trip.

The following summer we planned a trip to Nova Scotia and I started looking for a cooking class. There is a culinary school but at that time it only offered longer classes than we had time for. Then, after diligent searching, I discovered Cooking Solutions, run by Chef Kevin Wagner. 

His website indicated there were cooking classes and the one scheduled for Yarmouth fit our schedule, but the topic was not posted. Now here is where advance planning really can pay off, especially with someone who has a kind heart like Kevin. We got into an email exchange and he asked what kind of class we would like. I responded that there were two ways to go: lobster and seafood and ways to prepare it OR Acadian cooking. Chef Kevin informed me that he would surprise us and to come to the class.

It was held at one of the local grocery stores, Sobey’s. They have a community room with a demonstration kitchen, complete with the mirror over the stovetop. When we arrived the Monday evening regulars had been told about us and welcomed us heartily. They had left the front row for the five of us as they were thrilled to be learning some of Acadian heritage cuisine, something none of them had ever asked for! We paid our fee which was $5 Canadian for each of us and learned how to prepare a wonderful meal, and then we all enjoyed it. Sobey’s subsidizes the classes but they win, as people usually exit the class and then purchase the ingredients to replicate the experience at home.                             

Finally, in December 2009 my sister, daughter and I went to Paris for a few days. To cook in Paris…..ahhhhhh. Graham was a bit jealous to say the least. My research identified a number of possible classes and we arranged to spend our time and money (€185 for each of us!—this was competitively priced) with Charlotte Puckette, a expat from Charleston, South Carolina who fell in love with Paris and stayed.

We started the class in the fresh market near Charlotte’s apartment. Our guide, Richard Nahem, met us and helped us make purchases for the meal we would prepare. Charlotte’s home in the 7th Arrondissement was a wonderful inside view of a renovated 400-year-old building.    We sat at the counter and helped chop and stir

and later…..ate.

Charlotte has written a marvelous cookbook that celebrates the mixture of cultures Paris has become. You can pick up your copy at Amazon .


The point here, in case you missed it, is to include something you love in each of your vacations. Your memories of the trip will be enhanced and you will have a great time!!!

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3 Responses to Travel Pearls: Cooking Classes

  1. Pierotucci says:

    Great idea in N.S. I bet the supermarket comes out smelling like roses, I bet they would attract even more tourists if the did some more adverts. Thanks for sharing.

  2. The element that made this a fantastic experience was Kevin being willing to think outside his normal box. He asked a chef he knew who had learned the cooking traditions of Acadia from his grandmother to lead this class. The food itself is not fancy; fish and root vegetables play a huge part.

  3. Xaria says:

    That’s more than senslbie! That’s a great post!

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