The best restaurants at luxury hotels have always given diners a culinary education, but some destinations really school you on food-with onsite cooking classes. The editors at Startle.com rounded up some of the best cooking classes in the U.S.-and one in Italy-that let you into the kitchens and behind the scenes for hands-on training with top chefs. Read on for our picks where you can slice, dice and cook your way through your stay.
Photo courtesy Blackberry Farm
Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.
Located in Walland, Tenn. in the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm is an idyllic, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star resort with its own farm that provides many of the ingredients used by the restaurant, The Barn at Blackberry Farm, including heirloom tomatoes, wildflower honey, artisan cheeses and fresh eggs. The Farm began offering cooking classes more than 20 years ago, and now offers epicureans four-day packages that include everything from cooking classes and wine tastings to elaborate meals prepared by executive chef Joseph Lenn. Visiting chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Startle.comTastemakerThomas Keller sometimes help teach specialty classes. The Farm releases its yearly schedule in early November, and popular classes tend to sell out by January.
The White Barn Inn, Kennebunkport, Maine
Head to quaint Kennebunkport, Maine for a stay at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel, The White Barn Inn. While there, take a dip in the stone pool, take a bike ride along the coast and dine at the Five-Star White Barn Inn Restaurant, known for its rustic and romantic candlelit dining room and refined upscale New England recipes. Afterward, you can work side by side and learn directly from chef Jonathan Cartwright during the hotel's private cooking classes. The two-hour classes consist of hands-on demonstrations from Cartwright or executive sous chef Derek Bissonnette and the restaurant's team, all while you prepare dishes from that evening's menu. After, you'll receive the inn's cookbook signed by the entire kitchen staff. Personalized classes are also available.
The Biltmore Hotel, Miami
In 2009, The Biltmore Hotel in Miami opened its Culinary Academy, which is led by executive chef and longtime cooking instructor and cookbook author, Lourdes Castro. The Culinary Academy provides much more than just simple cooking classes. It offers guests and local residents the opportunity to learn hands-on in the kitchen. There are so many classes to choose from; you can focus on everything from Italian and Asian classics to chocolate desserts or tapas. If you'd rather emphasize your training on the culinary basics, there are several three-day culinary boot camps that provide intensive instruction on fundamentals and techniques. There's even a culinary program for children and teens.
Villa San Michele, Fiesole, Italy
Located in the hills overlooking Florence in the town of Fiesole, Italy, Villa San Michele has long been a favorite luxury retreat with its manicured gardens and restaurant boasting pristine city views. The hotel's renowned cookery courses also have earned a reputation as some of the best in the region. Popular morning courses taught by the villa's chef Attilio Di Fabrizio provide instruction on Tuscan gastronomy, while host chefs from the area also teach you about traditional Italian cooking methods, ingredients and seasonal tastes in Tuscany. Pasta lovers should book the special four-day, three-night package that includes three cooking lessons from various local chefs.
Fearrington House Inn, photo by Fitch Creations
The Fearrington House Inn, Pittsboro, N.C.
Pittsboro, N.C. is home to the charming Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Fearrington House Inn. The Inn's Four-Star restaurant serves upscale American cuisine, and executive chef Colin Bedford hosts a series of popular culinary retreats in the restaurant's dedicated teaching kitchen. The overnight experience begins with a welcome reception in the Garden House, followed by dinner at the restaurant. You'll be given a tour of the wine cellar, as well as the restaurant kitchen and teaching kitchen, and the next day you'll start your cooking instruction. Here chef Bedford teaches important culinary techniques including knife skills, as well as various cooking methods and concepts such as how to properly grill meat, prepare hors d'oeuvres and cook with herbs.