Feature photo and photo above by WordRidden
TAKING A COOKING class can be a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture and meet other travelers. The bonus? You don’t have to worry about shopping for ingredients or doing the dishes, and even if you don’t make a dish perfectly, there will be plenty to eat!
Classes for novices are offered in many countries all over the world, and they are usually pretty affordable. Here are seven reasons why you should take advantage of a cooking class during your travels:
1. You’ll try some of the best food the region has to offer.
Photo by WordRidden
Maybe you’ve seen the locals eating a delicious-looking dish, but you can’t figure out what’s in it or how to order it.
Why not learn how to make it yourself?
Most classes will show how to make several local specialties, some of which may be difficult to find in restaurants. There might be plenty of familiar food to eat wherever your travels take you, but wouldn’t you rather explore authentic regional cuisine?
A cooking class will highlight some of the best local dishes.. Part of the class might involve a trip to a local market or specialty food store off the beaten path, introducing you to some edible delights you never knew existed.
2. It’s great chance to ask questions only a local can answer.
Your instructor will probably a native of the area, or at least know it very well. Take advantage of his or her knowledge, food-related and beyond. He or she can answer questions about the language, where to find a great cup of coffee, and which restaurants are hidden gems, not to mention which markets or other sites you should check out.
Photo by WordRidden
3. It’s a perfect opportunity to meet other travelers.
While you’re chopping vegetables or waiting for water to boil, there’s plenty of time to chat with your classmates. You may be able to pick up some great tips on where to go next, or have a captive audience for some of your own stories.
4. You don’t have to worry about doing the dishes.
Photo by WordRidden
One of the perks of traveling is that you don’t have to do many chores, and the cooking class will be no exception! Classes give you all the fun of cooking, but the clean-up is left in the hands of someone else.
5. You get good food and plenty of it.
Generally you’ll be making quite a few dishes — enough for a meal plus leftovers. Share the food with your friends or take it back to your room for a snack! You definitely won’t go hungry. You’ll be able to sample quite a few dishes in one sitting so you won’t waste money at a restaurant ordering something you don’t like.
6. A cooking class leaves you with a unique souvenir.
After you return home, you’ll still have the recipes from your class. It may be tough to convince your friends to sit through your four hour slide show of Italy, but if you can offer them pizza like they make in Naples, you’ll probably have a few takers.
Plus, recipes can be made and shared for years to come, and they don’t take up any space. T-shirts and trinkets are nice, but recreating the amazing mole you had in Oaxaca will bring back fond memories of you trip, and won’t collect dust on a shelf in your apartment.
7. The atmosphere is mellow and fun.
Unless you’re at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, most cooking classes have a relaxed atmosphere with no pressure, so even if your culinary skill doesn’t extend past microwaving a cup of noodles, you will find success in your class, and who knows! You may find a new passion for the culinary arts!
Recommended cooking classes in Asia and Europe:
May Kaidees: A vegetarian restaurant with branches in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, Thailand. They offer vegetarian cooking classes 7 days a week and include a market tour, lunch, and recipe booklet.
Old Hanoi: A popular restaurant in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam that offers half-day cooking classes. You’ll get a market tour, prepare four different dishes, and eat what you made.
Cookery Magic: Located in an old house on Palau Ubin, Singapore, this class includes transportation to the island by boat, a walk through the jungle, cooking instruction, and lunch for $110.
Marguerite’s Elegant Home Cooking: If you’re in Paris and want an introduction to cooking French food, Marguerite will take you to a market and show you how too cook a simple menu. The class finishes with lunch.
Cook and Taste: Located in the heart of Barcelona, classes last half a day and include a market visit, lunch, wine, and a recipe booklet. Lessons are taught in English, Spanish, or French.
InTavola: This cooking school in Florence, Italy, offers courses ranging from beginner to professional level, including classes that focus pasta-making, dinner, lunch, or cooking with a market visit.
Food is a force for creating authentic connections with others as well as lasting memories of your travels. Even if you don’t take a cooking class, you can learn to eat like a local. If you’re unsure about local culinary customs, check out one of our favorite blogs from a community member who’s decoded it all for you… at least in Japan.
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Catherine is currently teaching English in Chiang Mai, Thailand. When she's not at work, she is usually running, browsing in used book stores, or drinking Thai iced coffee.