Are you in need of a vacation, not to mention some help with the daily grind in the kitchen? Take care of both needs with a cooking school getaway. Many of the nation's most exciting schools for amateur chefs offer delicious vacation possibilities. Some have programs allowing for a quick weekend escape. Others have more leisurely schedules stretching to a week. And yet others offer attractive all-inclusive packages. Here is a tasty sampling to whet your appetite.
PHILO, CALIFORNIA (about 135 miles north of San Francisco)
The Apple Farm strives to simplify everyday cooking, and to get you back in your kitchen preparing daily meals and enjoying it. On Farm Weekends participants get hands-on experience, preparing and consuming Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and dinner, and Sunday brunch. According to owner Sally Schmitt, former owner of the legendary French Laundry restaurant in California's Wine Country, it is "like a house party with some cooking lessons thrown in." Schmitt teaches you to work with what you already have in your garden and panty and encourages using the best ingredients and doing the least possible to them. Participants get three hours off on Saturday afternoon to hike, bike, or visit local wineries on their own. Weekends run $300 per person and are limited to eight participants. Lodging choices are "a room with a view" or one of three new cottages in the orchard and cost an additional $200 per unit per night.
Cooking School of the Rockies has something for everyone. Nestled in a scenic location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, this professional culinary school also offers hands-on avocational classes. Beginners learn the fundamentals in a five-day Basic Cooking Techniques Vacation (May through October). Those interested in baking and pastry can explore the magic of meringue, the delight of baking with chocolate, and plenty more in a five-day Pastry Techniques Baking Vacation (June through September). Lunches are included. Each series costs $575 (discount available for two people). Lodging is discounted 10% at the nearby Inn on Mapleton Hill.
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
Jane Butel's Southwestern Cooking School teaches the tips and techniques of preparing tasty Southwestern and traditional New Mexican cuisine. Owner Jane Butel hosts a cooking show on PBS and is the author of 16 cookbooks on Southwestern cooking. Her school features instruction in the history of the cuisine, a professional demonstration of each dish, and then hands-on student preparation at six cooking stations equipped with the latest home--not commercial--appliances and equipment. In both weekend and week-long packages, you'll learn how to prepare traditional tamales and chiles rellenos, contemporary fajitas and innovative salsas, and several styles of sopaipillas. Weekend sessions include three classes, two lunches, and one dinner for $995. Five-day sessions include five classes, five lunches, and two dinners at outside restaurants for $1,995. A shared room at the landmark La Posada Hotel is included (private lodging is additional).
HUDSON VALLEY AREA, NEW YORK
Vintage Hudson Valley Inn to Inn Cooking Vacations operates in the upstate area offering three-day programs conducted in the kitchens of historically and architecturally significant inns. Morning classes run Tuesday through Thursday or Wednesday through Friday and include three lunches prepared by students with the help of each inn's instructor-chef, plus time to visit the region's sights--the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and the area's great mansions, which include the Vanderbilt Mansion and the Roosevelt Estate. Cost is $380. Lodging is additional, but students receive a significant discount at most of the participating inns.
(Images courtesy of the cooking schools)