by Ferne Arfin
A cooking school vacation is the gift that keeps on giving. Seniors are learning to cook all over the world these days and the best cooking school vacations combine great locations with loads of opportunity to experience the local culture and food industry. Usually, there are several hands-on classes led by outstanding chefs. Cooking school vacations are as much sociable fun for single seniors as they are for senior couples or groups of senior friends. These 10 tempt me the most.
1) Cooking in New Orleans–Now!
Back in business in The Big Easy, The New Orleans Cooking Experience’s Creole and Cajun cooking school breaks and vacations are held at The House on Bayou Road, a c.1798 "Petite" Plantation that survived Katrina with only some garden damage. Classes feature such noted chefs as James-Beard-Award-winning Frank Brigtsen, Austin Leslie of Pampy’s Creole Kitchen, Kevin Vizard of Café Adelaide, Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace, Michelle McRaney of Mr. B’s, and Gerard Maras of Ralph’s on the Park. Top Picks: New Orleans Cooking School Experience
2) Gourmet Cooking Weekends in the Napa Valley
Lana Richardson, with her team of guest chefs and instructors, offers gourmet weekend retreats, and longer breaks, in Italian, Mediterranean, Wine Country and Regional American cuisines at her Napa Valley, California, school. On the menu might be Four Cheese Quesadilla with Smoked Chicken, Balsamic Glazed Lamb or Meyer Lemon Cake with Sautéed Berries. The emphasis is on building basic skills you can take with you. Groups of 3 or more may be eligible for 15% discounts. Accommodation is extra. Top Picks: Gourmet Retreats at Casa Lana
3) Cooking School Vacations for Seniors – Seniors Learn to Cook in Positano
Boston-based Cooking Vacations International focuses exclusively on the regions of Italy. Their 7-night, "Lemon Lifestyle" cooking school vacation in Positano, on the Amalfi Coast, includes luxury accommodation at the Villa Azzurra, 3 hands-on classes with famous local cooks, visits to artisan food producers, plus excursions to Ravello, Capri and Sorrento. Senior travelers pick their own lemons in an Amalfi grove before learning to cook an all-lemon menu. It sounds delicious. Can I come? Top Picks: Cooking with Lemons on the Amalfi Coast
4) "Arabian Nights" Cooking School Vacation in Petra
Imagine learning to cook Jordanian food while staying in an 18th century, Bedouin village, near Petra, the famous Rose City — hummus, tabouleh, falafel and baba ghanouj, plus melt in your mouth kebabs, unleavened breads, fragrant rice with nuts and almonds. British company, Holiday on the Menu’s Jordan vacation includes 7 nights luxury accommodation, 4 cooking classes, shopping in the souk, excursions to Petra and the Dead Sea. Book online or through a toll free, US number 1-877-451-0882. Top Picks: Holiday on the Menu in Jordan
5) Cooking School Vacations in Marrakesh – How Exotic Can you Get?
A luxury culinary week at Dar Liqama – The House of Green Mint – a Saharan oasis near Marrakesh, includes guided shopping in the souk of the Medina, camel rides, explorations in the Atlas Mountains and 8 to 9 hands-on cooking classes where seniors learn to cook tagines, couscous, pastilla. Moroccan cuisine, influenced by centuries of traders and invaders from China, India, Spain and Persia and France is among the world’s most sophisticated and exotic. Top Picks: Rhode School of Cuisine in Morocco – Seniors Cook in North Africa
6) Gourmet Mexican Cooking – Senior Cooking Vacation in Conquistador’s Guesthouse
At La Villa Bonita, senior travelers with adventurous palates stay in a 16th century guest house, built by the Conquistador Cortes, in the center of Cuernavaca while learning to cook Mole Colorado, Pork in Pipian sauce,Frijoles Refritos,Arroz Rojo con Verduras and Flan with Chef Ana Isabel Garcia Moreno. Four and seven day programs can be combined with local golf packages. Classes are in English, Spanish or French. Top Picks: La Villa Bonita School of Mexican Cuisine
7) Seniors Cooking Vacation in Mexico – Cooking Classes for Ambitious Senior Cooks
New York based Cocinar Mexicano builds its week-long cooking programs around the Mexican festival seasons. Master classes are held in Tepoztlán,a cobbled town of adobe houses in the shadow of Mexican volcanos Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. You make your own accommodation arrangements (with their help)for these programs, but the outdoor, blue and white tiled kitchen/classroom is one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. This is a master class program for ambitious and experienced cooks. Top Picks: Cocinar Mexicano — Master Classes in Undiscovered Mexico
8) Cooking classes in Asti — with Senior Fitness from Pilates and Language Lessons
Spend seven days at a beatiful 5-star boutique hotel in Asti and improve yourself in every direction. Seven Piedmont cooking classes, conversational Italian lessons, spa treatments, market and winery visits and, amazingly, as much Pilates studio time as you can take. The stretching exercises are great for a flexible spine and supple body — and as a counter to all that pasta! Top Picks: The International Kitchen – Pilates and Cooking Discovery
9) On the Cooking School Vacation Vangard –Ontario Wine Country for Seniors
Culinary weekends at this winery based cooking school and restaurant in Ontario focus on the relationship between farm and table, with cooking classes alternating with visits to local growers. The refinement of wine country cookery in this region is relatively new so Seniors discover a developing cuisine. Packages with accommodation can be arranged, at special rates, at The Harbour House Hotel and The Riverbend Inn. Come with a group of friends for a private class. Top Picks: Wine Country Cooking School at the Strewn Winery in Ontario
10) Cordon Bleu Cooking School Short Programs at a Loire Chateau
You can’t get more classic — and classy — than Le Cordon Bleu. With a 100 year tradition, this where the world’s greatest chefs get their basic training. So this short program, at the Château des Briottières in the Loire is a real treat for senior travelers touring in France. The break includes two nights at the chateau and two hands-on workshops with a Cordon Bleu Paris chef, followed by dinner (made by the participants) and served in the elegant dining room. Top Picks: Le Cordon Bleu French Regional Discovery