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Jan 12, 2006 10:33 PM

why are cooking vacations so expensive?!

  • j

every time i look up classes to take all over the world...they are all usually only a few days or a week long. but are thousands of dollars! and for this poor chef, i can't afford a $5000 a week class in italy, spain, mexico, thailand, etc.

does anyone know of cooking holidays that are of high standards but easier on the budget?

i'm dying to take classes all over the world!

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  1. Is $3.3k cheap enough? I have not done this but if you are interested can show you where the teacher hangs online for a preview. you can email me at n_r_photmailcom

    I'd love to go to Italy and cook but I think I would do a short class and then cook on my own. I've only heard modest things about cooking classes in Thailand though I've heard that Kasma's eating classes are good.


    1. They can be very expensive but there are ways to lower the cost. Don't use some agency charging a fortune. Set it up yourself. Find culinary schools in each country you plan to visit and see what courses they offer. Then find a decent place to stay nearby. I did this all over the world in a dozen+ countries last year. So do some research and go for it. It may cost a lot, but not as much as when someone else sets it up for you.

      Here is just one example, Thailand. There are several culinary schools with great resorts / hotels nearby that are dirt cheap (comparatively speaking). One I like is Rocky Resort on Koh Samui, they just finished remodeling the place and it is amazing. Rates $60-250 per bungalow, with 1-3 bedrooms.
      They can set up courses at SITCA (Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts) for you or you can set up the courses you want yourself. 1 day = $40, a few days, a week, or the intense 12 day training for professionals- cost = $2660 (this course is for chefs who plan on adding Thai cuisine to the repertoire.)



      6 Replies
      1. re: JMF

        Another thing I did was contact restaurants in advance or even just walk in the door. I asked if I could observe and help for a few days. Quite a few were glad to oblige for a nominal fee, some even didn't charge when they saw I had good commercial cooking skills. Every high end resort I stayed at let me hang out in their kitchens and talk and watch. A few places made a trade with me and I taught them a few dishes and they taught me some. In India I taught a chef my made from scratch spaghetti meat sauce (minus the beef) and I was taught how to grill fish Kerala style.

        1. re: JMF

          thats really interesting. and kind of surprising they'd let you do that at a high end resort. i've worked at some 5star resorts and we didn't even audition potential chefs because of insurance issues if they weren't actually on the payroll.

          i'm DEFINITELY going to look into that in 3rd worldish places! thanks!

          1. re: junglekitte

            Do you consider Japan third world? I had no problems there at several places. Also South Africa, Brazil and Venezuela.

            1. re: JMF

              i'm going to brazil in a few weeks. i've desperately tried finding a school but the schools i've found there are even very expensive. :( if you have any pointers please let me know:)

        2. re: JMF

          That might work in a 3rd world country, but no way in France, Italy, and Spain.

          1. re: JMF

            Over the years I have taken 7+ Thai cooking classes from (a couple in Chiang Mai, in Bangkok, and Thai House outside of bangkok (traditional thai house, couple of days)). This time I decided to take the 6 day condensed professional course at SITCA (around $1,600 - $1,800 CAD). I stayed across the road at a resort for around $100/day. This course was the best course that I have taken. I would recommend this course for anyone that is interested in Thai cuisine from a professional or gourmet interest. The staff was very helpful, and very professional. I learned a lot from this course. On a typical day you would get up and go to the cooking class, eat or taste all of the dishes you prepared, take a break for a little while - go out and spend time on some of the best beaches I have been too, then go back for the afternoon session - then eat dinner there, and go back and relax. SITCA is locally owned an operated, and the revenue from the school get reinvested back into the local community.

          2. There's a whole bunch of them listed at Shaw's.


            1. Not exactly Italy, but I ran across this place in Maine that does cooking classes and it looks fun to me! I don't know where you live, so sorry if you live in Maine... wouldn't be much of a vacation then! :-)


              1 Reply
              1. re: Katie Nell

                Sorry... somehow I missed that you were a chef! Probably a little too elementary for you!

              2. Unless you insist on the social aspects of cooking classes abroad, you can experience all the shopping, cooking, and eating you want just by renting a flat or house for a week, which is cheap if you avoid American agents and use local listings. For France, google Chez-Nous, a listing service that offers rentals by private owners hoping to rent their holiday homes when they're not being used (most owners are in the UK and you have to phone them there then they send detailed information). Price range is vast so keep plowing through their website. There's also a magazine called Private Villas that lists from all over Europe (I've seen it at Borders) that has something online---it's also a listing service; I just checked their website and currently they are offering a couple of apartments in Tuscany for around 300 English pounds per week. Or contact the national tourism office of any country you like and ask for listings of "self-catering holiday accommodations". I have happily shopped in foreign markets and loved playing house in a strange setting---for as little as about US$30 per night. BTW you not only have the fun of shopping and cooking abroad but you save a mint by not taking all your meals in restaurants.

                7 Replies
                1. re: N Tocus

                  The cooking school experience abroad is unique. It isn't just shopping, buying food and cooking it yourself.

                  People come to learn new techniques, to experience authentic cuisine prepared in an authentic setting.

                  The knowledge one gets, the tasting experiences, the people one can meet through these programs is not something one can do alone. Especially when there is a language problem.

                  1. re: Fleur

                    exactly. i want to to learn from other chefs... new techniques, ingredients, etc.

                  2. re: N Tocus

                    I have to agree with you about do it yourselfing. THe best way I've found to immerse yourself in the food is to live it. Schools are great but all too often focus on making things in ways I'll never make again. If you want to learn a specific cuisine, pick up cookboks my mother would have killed for when I was growing up. Jacque Pepin's new Fast Food My Way is outstanding in how to incorporate French into everyday cooking.

                    Rent a house, take some friends, challenge yourself. Do a little research on the on where you're going, learn how to be polite in a foreign language, bone up on shopping words. I arm myself with a food guide and as narrowly focused a regional cookbook as possible. Lunches out and dinners in and everyone picks something at the market to make for dinner. Try to figure out how to use yesterday's leftovers (not usually covered in schools).

                    I'm blessed with a wife who enjoys planning trips as much as going on them. She's found us homes in Italy and France with marvelous kitchens to work in.

                    All that said, there is an even better option in my book - rent a boat. Cruising a canal in the south of France is truly a way to get to know the food of region.

                    Wine, cheese and pate again? Oh well, if I have to.



                    1. re: Larry

                      Larry, when I saw your photo I immediately thought "That was our boat!". Yes, the Crown Blue Line does it right. Their kitchens are actually "cook-friendly" and fully stocked. It is a wonderful trip, especially if you happen to hit one of the small towns on market day, or as I did, when the freshly-dug onion seller was making his deliveries. From Beziers, through Carcassone in the wine-frowing area of Langeduoc, the wine & food choices were marvelous.

                      For some, driving their own boat and doing their own cooking does not constitute a "vacation". I happen to come down firmly on the side of "do it yourself" and this was one of the best vacations ever, especially if you get bicycles with the boat to peddle into town for more food experiences.

                      One note of caution: when salivating over the glossy catalogues of available boats, be forewarned that "Sleeps Eight" does not equate to eight, full-sized American adults. Or it did not for the four of us who chose a "sleeps eight" boat and were extremely happy with the decision to spend a few extra dollars for the luxury of being able to close a door for privacy. In most of the "sleeps eight" designs, it means that someone will be using the living room/dining area for their bedroom, which might be fine if you are all on the exact same sleeping schedule. But two heads is two heads, no matter how compatible you are.

                      1. re: Sherri

                        When we went on the Midi, they gave us a list of the market days in the towns along the way, we planned our stops around them. My mom chatted up the staff for resto recs to boot.

                        We went in the fall so the traffic was light and the markets were grand. The sleepy little towns are what we all hope to retire to. Languedoc is truly the undiscovered treasure of France.

                        You're right about the galleys, we didn't lack for equipment in a very capable kitchen. I also agree about dinette bed, whoever sleeps there has to go to bed late and get up early. We always ignore it and add an additional bed for the empty luggage.

                        When you figure in the cost of a hotel, transportation, and meals, this is the least expensive way you'll ever have the best time of your life.

                        If you ever want to head back to the area, we found a lovely place outside Bezier, Mas Du Vigneron in Corbieres.



                      2. re: Larry

                        maybe i should have been a little more clear. my point is to find a cooking vacation that is high quality on the cheap. i can't rent a house or a boat (haha!!!) for that matter. i already do own cookbooks and try recipes out at home. i want to go to a different country and learn cuisines from the locals. tips they have. different equiptment. meet new people. shop in their local markets. i'd probably be doing these trips alone finding a group of people who all come together would be a lot more enjoyable for me.

                        thanks though :0

                        1. re: junglekitte

                          I guess the real question which always comes up is what is "cheap"? What you're looking for is not a vacation, it's an education that will make you better at your vocation and able to command more pay. What is that worth to you?

                          If you want someone with a lifetime of experience to do a brain dump and skill transfer they've placed a value on that that you have to be willing to pay. Going cheap can be a false economy.