For food-obsessed travelers, these immersive experiences offer a thorough look into culinary arts, from smoking wild game in Sussex, England, to pickling vegetables in Vermont.
The pandemic transformed many home cooks into dynamos. At my house, we kneaded, glazed, and julienned our way through long months stuck inside, funneling frustration into dishes that served up bold flavors — and created fodder for our Instagram feeds.
With travel now on everyone’s mind, the quest for advanced cooking know-how has become a focal point for those booking trips. These expert-led culinary experiences offer participants the chance to get down and dirty with ingredients while acquiring skills for butchering, cheese making, fermentation, and more.
Foraging in the Hudson Valley
Longtime chef turned forager James O’Neill leads three-hour excursions through New York’s Hudson Valley with his company, Deep Forest Wild Edible. The tours gather seasonal plants, including watercress, wild carrots, and multiple kinds of mushrooms, as well as edible flowers such as dandelions. O’Neill explains how to identify medicinal or poisonous species, and how to best prepare edibles for the table. Some workshops culminate in a picnic prepared by O’Neill using foraged ingredients.
Scottish Culinary Adventures
Tour operator Away from the Ordinary crafts artisanal food (and whisky) experiences in rural pockets of Scotland. On tap: craft butchery at the 650-acre family-run Peelham Farm, close to the coast of Berwickshire, where guests help break down a whole lamb and pig, then learn to air-dry and cure the meat. In southwestern Scotland at the Ethical Dairy, travelers can sign on for a full-day cheese-making course (one soft cheese, one hard), which includes a farm tour and lunch. Crannach Bakery, at the edge of Cairngorms National Park, offers a full-day class in bread making. Participants work through the various steps — fermenting, shaping, and proofing — to bake classic loaves, sweet breads, and buns.
Pizza and Pasta Making in Southern California
Set on 220 acres in the foothills of the Topatopa Mountains, Ojai Valley Inn is known for its serene atmosphere. But the sage-scented enclave is also a destination for epicureans, thanks to culinary workshops and collaborations with star chefs like Nancy Silverton and Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini. Neapolitan-style pizza classes involve making herbed ricotta and making dough from scratch using protein-rich Caputo 00 flour; for pasta classes, students craft the dough, shape it, and sauce it with pesto made with a mortar and pestle.
Wild Game in Sussex
The idea of skinning and preparing wild game in pastoral Sussex, about two hours south of London, piques the sense of adventure in many travelers. Now they can book an all-day session with Hunter Gather Cook. This is a rustic, mostly outdoor undertaking: guests forage through the forest; learn how to butcher deer, game birds, or rabbit; then try various smoking and wood-fired-cooking techniques. The group can celebrate a job well done with a “wild” cocktail crafted with found herbs like nettles and pineapple weed.
Crafting Sausages in the Blue Ridge Mountains
From heritage-breed pork sourced within 12 miles of the premises to the neighborhood craft beer sampled before class, the Chop Shop Butchery, in Asheville, North Carolina, celebrates homegrown flavor in all its forms. The experience kicks off with a sampling of house-made charcuterie and beers. Next, participants head to the “cut room,” where they learn to season and grind the meat and stuff fresh casings. The end result is 2 1/2 pounds of links to take home.
Canning in Vermont
At the women-run Green Mountain Girls Farm, a two-hour course on the art of canning and preserving involves making vinegar brine, prepping the produce and spices, sterilizing jars, and monitoring temperatures. Participants go home with jars of dilly beans, giardiniera, and Mexican-style pickled carrots.
Smoking Meat in Kansas City
Champion pitmaster Richard McPeake’s four-hour “smokology” class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City shows barbecue enthusiasts how to pair meat with the right variety of wood — oak, hickory, or maple. The classes tackle timing and temperature, trimming ribs, shredding pork, and understanding the “four stages of flavor.”
Cheese Making in the Rockies
From her sun-dappled Briar Gate Farm in Longmont, Colorado, Kate Johnson, founder of the Art of Cheese, hosts tastings, teaches workshops, and leads tours to introduce students to her herd of Nubian goats. One class on the property, which is about 30 minutes from Boulder, focuses on making mozzarella, stracciatella, and burrata; another looks at crafting and waxing hard cheeses; a third is all about farm-to-table milking and ricotta making.