Cooking classes - a reason to travel

June 19, 1994|By Tanya Wenman Steel | Tanya Wenman Steel,New York Times News Service

This summer, thousands of people will combine their vacations with cooking classes, culinary tours and food festivals, choosing to work on both their tans and their tapenade.

The 1994 edition of "The Guide to Cooking Schools" (Shaw Guides, $19.95) lists 193 cooking vacation programs, a figure that has tripled in the last five years.

These gourmet getaways "are part of a growth movement of travel for enrichment," says David Roth, publisher of Palate and Spirit, a New York-based quarterly devoted to culinary travel.

Costs vary widely, from a $50 three-hour class conducted in a Connecticut country store to a $12,000 cruise in Europe.

What follows is a guide to some summer cooking programs (although many of these operate year-round), most of which cater to the novice as well as the experienced cook. When choosing, be sure to inquire about the intensity level, class size, accommodations (if any) and cost. Except where noted, all prices are per person, include double-occupancy accommodations and most meals, but do not include air fare.

Europe

* Le Cordon Bleu in Paris is thought by many to be the creme de la creme of cooking schools. Founded in 1895, it counts luminaries like Julia Child among its graduates. Although it is thought to be the place for serious study, it also offers one- to five-day courses for 12 amateurs (conducted in French and translated into English) that consist of demonstrations and hands-on instructional classes.

Besides the usual workshops, there are also trips to Champagne and Versailles, and excursions to local markets, museums and bakeries. Prices for the one- to five-day programs range from $215 to $970, lodging excluded. Cordon Bleu also has schools in Tokyo and London, where summer classes are available. For all programs: (800) 457-3433.

* One-week sessions focusing on various specialties are offered at the Ritz-Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise, located in the basement of the venerable Hotel Ritz in Paris. A maximum of 10 students attend hands-on and demonstration classes, addressing topics like chocolate, cakes, breads or pastries.

The cost is $850 to $915, depending on the topic chosen, lodging excluded; (800) 966-5758.

* Paul Bocuse, the three-star Michelin chef, is the president of a professional cooking school near Lyons, France. He will offer several one-week basic courses for nonprofessionals to be held in August and September. The cost is $1,000, lodging excluded; (212) 697-5156.

United States

* A beach romp in the Hamptons can be combined with one of Peter Kump's School of Culinary Arts' three-day cooking courses. Topics include baking, spa cuisine and Italian or Provencal cooking, and are conducted by teachers from the school's Manhattan location, including Anna Theresa Callen and Nick Malgieri. Held at Kump's East Hampton retreat, eight participants spend the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) in class.

The cost is $50 for one-day demonstrations, $360 for three days, lodging excluded; (800) 522-4610 or (212) 410-4601.

* The Culinary Magic School, held one weekend in June, July and August at the century-old Governor's Inn in Ludlow, Vt., is run by Deedy and Charlie Marble, who together have won 12 national culinary awards. At the former governor's house, within sight of Okemo Mountain, the weekend is packed with a six-course dinner, a full day of instruction on healthy, low-fat cooking, and visits to a nearby winery and an antiques market with more than 300 dealers. Guests are sent home with a packed picnic hamper. The package is $339 per person; (800) 468-3766 or (802) 228-8830.

* For sun, sand and soup, the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island in Florida is holding culinary weekends once a month in July and August. Included in the package are a lunch at the chef's table in the kitchen, a five-course dinner, a kitchen tour, a hands-on cooking class, a gift basket and ocean-view accommodations. The package costs $650 per couple for the weekend; (800) 241-3333.

* Jane Butel's Cooking School in Albuquerque, N.M., instructs groups of 10 on authentic Southwestern cuisine. Ms. Butel, who has written 12 cookbooks on the subject, offers both weeklong and weekend summer courses. Students make about 15 to 20 items daily, including native breads, chimichangas, moles and tamales. Students usually have free time in the afternoons and evenings.

The cost is $495 for a weekend, $1,495 for a week; (800) 473-8226.

* The Napa Valley is California's third-largest tourist attraction (after Yosemite and Disneyland). During July and August, Hugh Carpenter, a cookbook author, leads 16 participants on a six-day culinary journey through Napa and Sonoma counties that includes cooking classes at Cakebread Cellars; tastings at Trefethen Winery, Opus One and Iron Horse Vineyards; a croquet tournament at Meadowood resort, and meals at Tra Vigne, Mustard's Grill and Catahoula. The price is $860, lodging excluded; (707) 944-9112.

In the fall

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