Top 10 Culinary Holidays

Culinary Classes

Sometime within the last decade people started taking note of what they were putting into their mouths and essentially, their bodies. With this realisation came a boom in the cooking industry. Both men and women began to recognise the therapeutic and delicious satisfaction enjoyed with the art of good food. If you'd like to join the culinary revolution and go that extra mile with your cooking, you can join the fast-growing list of culinary holiday revelers. I've put together a list of the top ten culinary destinations in the world; from the romantic lights of Rome to the culturally rich city of Mexico, we’re taking you on a appetising journey across the world.


TurkeyCooking in Turkey

The first thing that came to mind was probably your Christmas dinner. This time, however, we’re talking about the country. Turkey’s roots stem from a deep appreciation of culture and residents take pride in their culinary skills. Gokpinar Retreat Centre, a culinary school run by Caravan Turkey, sits on the Aegean Coast on a hilltop overlooking the countryside and surrounding traditional village. It has specialised cooking classes along with traditional Turkish accommodation.

Holiday in TurkeyHoliday in Turkey

The food is made with fresh, organic fruit and vegetables picked from their own garden. A popular feast in Turkey is Al Fresco barbecue, mainly because of the cultuers' love of the outdoors. In the classes you’ll learn to make Turkish Coffee, baklava (a sweet pastry filled with honey), borek (a pastry filled with cheese, meat or vegetables) and Turkish Ravioli. Imagine learning to cook all of these dishes as you look out at the mountain-top views of Gokpinar! If it sounds too good to be true, hold your taste buds because there is more to come. You also get the chance to shop at the local open air market, visit village weddings to see how they cook, enjoy live traditional music, go horse riding or spend the day on one of the bays in a gulet (traditional wooden boat), go to a Turkish bath tour or visit Pamukakle (also known as cotton castle).

There are so many activities to do that you are bound to make a string of memories. The culinary package includes seven nights accommodation, all meals, and unlimited tea and coffee - you know we love our tea. Also, of course, you’ll get cooking classes everyday. A Turkish culinary holiday is going to be one of the big travel winners of 2013.


FranceFrench wine and cheese

From the country famous for its cheese, wine and the Eiffel Tower, you would expect no less than world class cooking and iconic sights. Thankfully, France delivers on both fronts and Cooking In France gives it that extra pizzazz that makes a culinary holiday there even more attractive. Located in Dordogne, the relaxed, friendly environment is perfect for honing your creative cooking skills. As for the menu, you can call them up and choose what you would like to cook.

All dishes are personally prepared by you and by the end of the week, you’ll be brimming with new-found cooking ideas. You can stay with the cooking school in warm, cosy, ensuite accommodation or you can find lodgings elsewhere and commute.

The programme is also flexible and allows you to choose single or multi-day stays. If you’re a beginner cook, don’t worry because they cater for people like us. Also, if you think that learning to cook while listening to a French chef is a bit too tricky for you, fear not because there will be an English chef on hand, ready to explain everything. Learn to cook pastries, breads, soups, the best fish and shellfish and master the art of modern food presentation, all while soaking up the joie de vivre.

The UK

Bedruthan PoolBedruthan Hotel pool

Now for something a little closer to home. Bedruthan, in Cornwall, is more than just a holiday culinary course. It is a four-star hotel fully equipped with all the amenities and features of a luxurious London hotel, with a little extra. Overlooking the blue waters of Magwan Porth Beach, the resort promises to be an attractive feature for foodies and travel enthusiasts alike. If you don’t want to cook all day, that’s fine too because you can enjoy other activities, like a luxury spa overlooking the ocean, cliff-top walks, and arts and crafts classes such as sewing, shoe-making and embroidered art.

Cooking ClassesCooking classes

The award-winning family hotel has rooms, villas and apartments. The light, airy rooms conjure up the different elements of Earth and in case that isn't enough, you can open your door and stare into a seemingly endless blue ocean. But you’re probably asking, “what about the food?”. Well, how about learning to make cider apple butter, sloe gin and port, and cranberry jelly from the very beginning? Or maybe you love seafood and you've always wanted to learn the secret to filleting, curing, salting and smoking the freshest fish? Here you can learn to do that with an extra modern, Asian-flavoured edge. Breads are also popular and you can knead your way to the softest, warmest most delicious bagels, olive and tomato bread, and focaccia. My mouth is already watering!


Thai Green CurryThai Green Curry

For a truly authentic Thai cooking experience, Thai Cooking Holidays is an idyllic experience. Classes are run by an English-speaking cook and menus can be adapted to suit personal tastes. The courses are delivered in a professional, relaxed atmosphere where everyone has their own work station with a gas cooker. You’ll start at the very beginning, learning how to prepare Thai cooking ingredients - a vital part of the Thai cooking technique.

Floating MarketThai Floating Market.

Learn how to make delicious Hot and Sour Soup, Green Curry with chicken, Thai-style fish cakes and fried noodles, Panaeng Curry with pork and lots, lots more! In the evenings you can enjoy a cocktail on the tropical beach or a wind-down with a boat trip down the Mekong. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Doi Suthep Mountains, the school promises to deliver an unforgettable cooking experience, in style. While you're there, make sure you use some of your free time to visit Thailand's famous floating market. Locals flock to the waters, where they take their boats and sail around selling fresh produce.


Malaga, SpainCooking in Spain

The secret of traditional Spanish cooking lies in the brain of Italian-born, Spanish-raised cook, Sergio Rifugio. The master chef has worked at top class establishments and has overseen the running of food and beverage at a number of different luxury complexes on the Costa de Sol. At Cooking Holiday Spain he not only shares his most trusted and reliable recipes, but also allows guests to pick his brain and find out what makes Spanish food so unique.

WrapSpanish Wrap

On your first day you’ll get the chance to take in the local Costa de Sol culture when you go out to Malaga Central Market to buy the items and ingredients needed for the cooking lessons. Just to give you a taste of what your time here will be like, imagine this: A journey through the breathtaking Ronda Mountains near the rustic Gaucin Village, where four different meals accompanied by regional red and white wines will be prepared. You can also visit the Olive Oil Mill and learn to use olive oil and spices in the traditional Spanish way. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the natural park and go wine tasting at the Wine Museum - your time in Spain will no doubt extend far beyond the borders of simply learning culinary skills.


Vietnamese CuisineVietnamese cuisine.

The joy of travelling lies in discovering different cultures, new places and of course, tempting and testing your taste buds. Luxury Vietnam Vacation offer a wide variety of Vietnamese tours, many of which include flights, airport transfers, hotel accommodation, tours around the city and of course, culinary classes. The natural cuisine of Vietnam is full of flavour and colour, with added health benefits.

Vietnam CookingA Vietnam cooking class

There are three regions in Vietnam, each offering their own take on Vietnamese cuisine. In the North, many dishes are on a seasonal basis and the food is lighter and milder than the other regions. Central Vietnam introduces you to very spicy, well-seasoned dishes. In the South, the food has a lot more vegetables, rice and seafood, with a touch of French, Cambodian and Thai culinary techniques.

You can also enjoy a tour in Ho Chi Minh City, through Central Vietnam and ending in Hanoi, discovering the vast landscapes and traditional restaurants, all while staying in five-star hotels. For the cooking ingredients, guests will shop at the Hoi An’s Riverside Market where you can enjoy the authentic Vietnamese culture before spending the afternoon putting your culinary skills to the test. You also have a choice of hotels depending on what package you book, so the tour is completely flexible and up to you.


Mexican CookingCameras filming the cooking classes

Active Gourmet Holidays is a leading, culinary-holiday organiser, with people from all over the world learning and staying with them. In Mexico, guests start off with hands-on cooking classes in either the fully equipped kitchen or the outdoor kitchen under the palapa (thatched structure) overlooking the private beach. Yes, you read correctly: an outdoor kitchen with a private beach, in the popular city of Cabo. Local chefs will teach you how to make dishes such as Chilaquiles ( toasted tortillas covered in green or red salsa, shredded chicken, and a little sour cream) and Tamales (a mixture of corn dough and filling that can be sweet, meaty, or spicy, wrapped inside bananna leaves or corn husks).

You won’t find a city filled with skyscrapers, fast cars or high-flying jets. Instead, you are allowed to enjoy the peace and tranquility of an unspoiled beach city and the house you will stay in is surrounded by dunes and rugged rock formations.

MexicoBeautiful scenery in Mexico.

It is a true summer holiday - lounge in your hammock with a book and a glass of wine, sip cocktails while wearing a straw hat and sample the food you've just made, while dipping your toes in the salty waters of the quiet beach. If this isn’t enough to tempt you, then maybe whale watching will. During the season, dozens of migrating whales swim past, so close that you can almost touch them. For the more adventurous, Cerritos Beach is close by and is one of the best surfing corners in Mexico. And if you want a bird’s-eye view of the migrating whales, you can sign up for an ultra-light flight, which will pick you up in front of the resort. The beach, the food, the adventures and the people are what make Mexico so unique. It’s guaranteed to be an experience that will remain with you forever - especially when you’re making authentic Mexican dishes back home.


ItalyDelicious Italian pasta

Go Learn To gives you something different in Italy: organic cooking. Puglia is Italy’s third largest producer of organic foods, has over 300 days of sunshine each year and is home to some of the country's most beautiful scenery. The package offered gives you a seven or eight night stay at Masseria Montenapoleone, a luxurious five-star hotel, where you will learn to cook in professional kitchens. Although Italy takes their cooking seriously, the lessons are informal, fun and relaxed. The local cook or the professional chef at Masseria will open their revolving kitchen doors and teach you how to cook authentic and tasteful Italian dishes. From breads, pastas and risottos to mouth-watering desserts, Italy promises to be an unforgettable experience.

Italian foodTraditional Italian Cooking

As for the organic part, the ingredients you source are locally produced by Masseria’s very own organic farmland and from farms in the surrounding area. Imagine starting the cooking procedure at the very beginning by collecting the organic ingredients and getting the opportunity to visit and chat to the various suppliers. But your time in Italy won’t only be spent learning how to cook. The package also includes a visit to a local seafood market and an excursion to the wine museum.

Other excursions include a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Alberobello, visiting the enchanting town of Polignano al Mare, popping in at (and hopefully getting samples from) the cheese and biscuit producers and too many other places to mention. Between all of this, you’ll receive up to five cooking lessons. At the end of the day, you’re bound to be just a little knackered and the stylish Massiera Hotel will take of care of that with its tranquil, relaxing ambience.


MoroccoMarrakech's fresh-produce market

Marrakech is an unlikely mixture of creative energy, golden-age architecture, majestic palaces and friendly people. And Chef Peta Mathias takes guests on a week-long journey that delves into the exotic cuisine of this interesting and internationally-appealing city. Guests get to lodge in two different locations during their stay; some 40 miles outside of Marrakech in the village of Atit Ourir.

AccommodationMoroccan cooking activities

The house, with its rustic, earth-element-like decor, is peaceful and charming with large en suite bedrooms and an organic garden. In the second accommodation, a quirky hotel open since the 1950s, you’ll find traditionally-styled rooms and many historic antiques originating from other, age-old hotels in the town. Morocco is, at heart, a place surrounded by nature - deserts, mountains, valleys and the sea are never too far away. Learn to make Rabbit Couscous, and anyone keen to learn how to guillotine and skin a rabbit can have their chance. You’ll also learn how to make olive bread in a wood fired oven, briouats (traditional, stuffed pastries) and salads.


Indian delightsIndian delights

Can you smell that? No? Not yet? You will soon. Indian cuisine is one of the world’s best kept secrets, that everyone knows about. On the Go Tours offers an exciting, tropical-themed cooking course in Goa, India. Learn to cook traditional, Indian food in a custom-built kitchen, situated on the banks of the Mandovi River in central Goa. All the while getting to taste the fruits of your labour.

IndiaAn authentic Indian experience

You'll also have the chance to visit the local market where you will buy fresh produce, visit spice merchants and purchase a few useful Indian cooking utensils. Prepare to cook and sample dishes from South India, including the local Goan food, which has many noticeable Portuguese influences.

The different regions of India each have their own flavour and recipes that are passed down through the generations. So your culinary experience here will be truly traditional with age-old, trusted recipes.

Besides sampling India’s best homemade cooking and waking up to sunrises, you can visit temples, go on boat cruises and join cultural dance programmes. Imagine growing your own vegetables, catching your own fish and grinding masala from sun-dried spices. Or if you feel like relaxing in a hammock and reading a book, then go ahead. This is YOUR holiday and while you’re enjoying the food, you should enjoy the experience too.

Last Updated: February 2013

Caelyn Woolward

Caelyn Woolward

Having lived in the same house for 18 years, Caelyn decided it was time to pack her bags and head out an adventure. The trip took her to the tiny place of Grahamstown in South Africa where she majored in Journalism and English at Rhodes University. Fresh out of university and having lived the student life for the last four years, she is slowly adapting to working at Essential Travel under the guidance of senior writers. She finds comfort in the smaller cities of the world nestled away in Europe, Africa and South America.