Travel Tips

10 Top Cooking Schools, Gourmet Getaways and Learning Vacations for Foodies

Locations in this article:  Chicago, IL New Orleans, LA Paris, France Savannah, GA

Cooking schoolForget about New Year’s resolutions.

Whether you’re on track for a professional culinary career or learning how to boil water, there is a gourmet getaway designed for you. Resident foodie Courtney Crowder uncovers 10 gourmet getaways, where cooks of all levels can combine travel with culinary education.

Get ready to indulge!

1. The Conscious Gourmet, Greenwich, Connecticut

The Conscious GourmetAll too often we eat what is quick and accessible, but not necessarily the healthiest. The Conscious Gourmet cooking school, founded by Diane Carlson, is geared toward educating guests on how food can affect one’s physical health, emotional and psychological well-being. The Conscious Gourmet has a variety of cooking adventures including its Core Programs, which are four to six-day retreats that take place all over the country. The program fee of $1,545 includes five cooking classes with meals, four lectures, three yoga classes and a conscious gourmet goodie bag.

Scheduled retreats in 2010 will take place in Sedona, West Palm Beach and Santa Fe. For locals, Carlson offers some day and half-day classes in her Connecticut home. She also offers personal consultations for those wishing to get back on their diet or learn more about how food affects the body. 917-975-9721,

2. The Culinary Institute of America, various locations

Culinary Institutes of AmericaThe Culinary Institute of America is often considered the pre-eminent place in the United States to get a culinary certificate. They offer a full-time course load for students, but they also have classes for anybody who wants to learn about food. The institute has three campuses: St. Helena, California, San Antonio, Texas and the main campus in Hyde Park, New York.

One of the best options for cooking with the CIA is its two to five-day boot camps that have specific themes like the BBQ Boot Camp, Baking Boot Camp or Gourmet Meals in Minutes Boot Camp. Prices depend on theme and length of class but can range between $850 and $2,000 per person. The CIA also offers weekend classes, which are one-day intensive tutorials that cost around $250 and include a cookbook.

Guests who attend classes at the California campuses also have the opportunity to enroll in wine classes that educate on the art of pairing food with wine., 800-888-7850.

Find more culinary experiences in Gourmet Traveling, North American Style.

3. Anna Teresa Callen Italian Cooking School, New York, New York

TerrineMore often than not, the food that Anna Teresa Callen presents to her classes invokes the image of grandma’s home cooking. Callen is an Italian transplant, having grown up in the town of Guardiagrele in central Italy. Her culinary style combines Old World traditions with the ease and pace needed in today’s go-go world. Recognized by the James Beard Institute, Callen is approachable manner and teaches her classes with an attentive manner to make sure that every student leaves with a new appreciation for cooking.

Callen is also the author of several cookbooks, including the highly regarded Food and Memories of Abruzzo, which features land and sea recipes from this unique Italian region. The cooking school has about 10 programs a year, which cost about $800 a course. 212-929-5640.

4. Chef Joe Randall’s Cooking School, Savannah, Georgia

Chef Joe RandallChef Randall, a 43-year veteran of the food industry, began his cooking school in 2000 to educate people on the real flavors and stories of traditional and contemporary Southern cuisine. Chef Randall offers at least one class a week in his Savannah, Georgia classroom. Of the wide variety of topics covered in his classes, highlights include the Flavors of New Orleans, the Duck Class, Creole Feast and Southern Desserts. Classes vary in price, but most are around $65 for about three hours.

Chef Randall also offers a three-day workshop called a Culinary Vacation in Savannah, which runs from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. The weekend teaches students to make a traditional Southern dinner, a summer picnic and a Low Country brunch. The entire weekend costs $195. 912-303-0409,

Traveling to Savannah? Check out nearby Bluffton, South Carolina.

5. The New Orleans Cooking Experience, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bourbon streetNew Orleans cuisine is known for incorporating global flavors to create its own unique culinary culture. The New Orleans Cooking Experience is located inside the House of Bayou Road, which is a renovated Creole plantation. Using the flavors found in traditional Creole and Cajun cuisines, the chefs teach students to cook authentic Louisiana dishes. The Cooking Experience offers several half-day cooking classes ($150), which include a two-and-a-half-hour class followed by a four-course dinner party.

The Cooking Experience also offers vacation programs including the Long Weekend Getaway ($385), two classes and dinner at Brigtsen’s Restaurant offered Thursday through Sunday, and the Weekend Getaway ($290), a dinner class on Friday and a lunch class on Saturday. 504-945-9104,

Learn more with Ask the Locals Travel Guide: New Orleans, Louisiana.

6. The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia

Patrick O’Connell’s kitchenPatrick O’Connell, chef and owner of The Inn at Little Washington, has received five James Beard Awards including the coveted Best Chef in the United States. Foodies have the opportunity to learn with Chef O’Connell by taking part in the Inn’s Stagiere Program, named for the apprenticeship that is part of any French-trained chef’s education. Classes focus on foundational culinary techniques in a professional kitchen, and provide expediting experience during an actual dinner service. The Stagiere is offered in two or three-day packages that are made up of eight-hour days in the kitchen and includes chef pants, apron and a personalized copy of Chef O’Connell’s cookbook. Cost for a two-day stagiere is $1,800 and a three-day stagiere is $,2400. Contact Rachel Hayden at 540-675-5238,

7. The French Pastry School, Chicago, Illinois

Pastry pipingThe French Pastry School’s team includes a facility of 10 renowned and award-winning instructors. The School offers two certificate programs: L’Art de la Patisserie, a 24-week pastry program, and L’Art du Gateau, a 16-week cake baking and decorating series.

For those looking for less of a commitment, The School also offers continuing education courses for everyone from the pastry professional to the food lover. Some of the classes for the general enthusiast include the Fundamentals of All Things Chocolate and Decorating Wedding and Special Events Cakes. Most classes cost around $525 and are three days in a row for five hours. The School also offers Pastry Camps from $925, which are five days long and give a more in-depth look at the subject matter. 312-726-2419,

Don’t miss Culinary Travel Journal: A Single Woman Finds Love in Paris Cooking Schools.

8. The Savory Spoon Cooking School, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin

Savory SpoonThis is a seasonal cooking school open from June through October. The Savory Spoon is owned and operated by Chef Janice Thomas who specializes in food fusions. Having studied all over the world including France and Mexico, Chef Thomas combines the flavors of many cultures when teaching her classes. The school offers cooking classes ranging from basic techniques to advanced courses.

In addition, the school offers culinary adventures where guests travel with Chef Thomas to experience the food, culture and cooking of a certain country. This year, the school is traveling to Tuscany for seven days to learn about the marketplace-to-table freshness of Italian cuisine and to dine on authentic Italian food ($3,400). The dates of other trips to Provence, France and Mexico are to be determined. 920-854-6600,

9. Hugh Carpenter’s Camp Napa, Napa, California

Hugh Carpenter has been a culinary educator for 35 years and his camp is preparing for its 19th year in Napa Valley. Each program is six days long and includes multiple cooking classes.

Napa vineyard morning2010 camps are taking place in July, September and October and this year’s theme is pairing locally made wines with appetizers and entrees. In between scheduled classes and winery visits guests will have the chance to explore the area on their own including visiting recommended spas, artistic studios and historic towns. All the recipes are sourced from Carpenter’s 15 cookbooks, which guests can purchase to remember how to make certain dishes at home. Camp Napa costs $2,100.

In 2011, Hugh will offer his signature culinary camp in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with cooking classes, cultural dinners and events and shopping excursions ($1,920). Teri, Hugh’s wife, accompanies him at the camps and is a professional photographer, so great memories also come with the package. 707-252-9773,

Find another great culinary experience with Wine Boot Camp Chronicles.

10. Napa Valley College, Napa, California

The Napa Valley College acts as a community education center with courses in a variety of subject areas— including food and wine. Chef Barbara Alexander, who heads up the school’s culinary program, has dedicated herself to expanding the number of visiting expert teachers. Some of the more interesting classes offered include Dungeness Crab Mania, Spring Breads, Backyard Farmsteading for the Foodie, and Special Occasion Cake Decorating. Most classes are one day and cost around $100. These courses are perfect for home-chefs who want to learn more in a specific culinary area or cooks who just want to have fun with food. The school has two campuses in Napa and St. Helena. 707-253-3000,

By Courtney Crowder for

For more great experiences, don’t miss our section devoted to Cooking Schools & Cooking Classes.

And for more foodie fun, check out our Culinary Travel section.