Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘chefs

In this final installment in Princess Cruises‘ Grand Princess drydock video diary, the passengers have boarded.  Martyn proudly showcases the new Piazza-style atrium’s many features, as well as the Crown Grill.  On hand to help celebrate the ship’s Grand Opening are many Princess Cruises executives and crew members, including Executive Chef Alfredo Marzi (for whom the new Alfredo’s Pizzaria is named), the Grand Princess’s Sommelier, Maitre d’ and others.

The pastries and coffee in the International Cafe look very tempting, the Sommelier mentions a few exquisite wines available onboard, Chef Marzi serves Martyn the first pizza made in his new namesake restaurant, and the ambience in the new Crown Grill is superb.

And if you’ve been following my posts about the Grand Princess’s renovations, you know that’s just a few of the new features onboard.  What a magnificent new ship the Grand Princess has become!

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Whether you are an aspiring chef or simply an epicure, culinary travel promises the opportunity to truly savor your vacation. This growing trend of experiencing authentic cooking and dining around the world allows you to broaden your education and your palate at the same time. What a decadent way to travel!

The genre of culinary travel includes trips that focus on learning to create local dishes, those that emphasize tasting and wine pairing, and everything in between. As you can see, there are many options available. Let this TRO report assist in your planning, as it will provide you with the basic recipe for culinary travel. With it, you and your travel consultant are sure to cook up the perfect culinary adventure!

The most important consideration in planning your culinary vacation is whether you want to learn traditional recipes and cooking techniques, or if you’re more interested in enjoying the end result. Those wanting a strictly educational experience might enjoy cooking alongside famous chefs in renowned cooking schools. If dining inspires you, perhaps you would prefer the company of a learned chef as your guide. Or maybe you would like just a taste of culinary arts in your trip, as you explore other cultural aspects of your destination. The more consideration given to these issues before contacting a tour operator, the more efficient the planning process will be and the quicker you’ll be on your way.

If cooking is your passion, think about attending a cooking school, many of which boast award-winning chefs as instructors. If you go, you will have to consider your level of expertise to ensure pairing with courses that suit your abilities. The less experienced might learn more through hands-on instruction, while advanced students may feel confident in attending cooking demonstrations. You can even choose to learn a particular specialty such as pastry making. Wine schools are also a popular choice, offering classes on wine making, history, appreciation and pairing with foods.

For those interested in learning to cook according a country’s customs but want to spend a little less time in the kitchen, a cooking tour may be the best bet. Along with culinary classes, these tours are peppered with visits to wineries, vineyards, superior restaurants, and local markets and food producers. With some tours, you will travel to different cooking schools to take classes. Others offer the more intimate experience of attending the kitchens of various celebrated chefs.

Culinary tour guides, many of whom have backgrounds in history and/or cultural anthropology, will tell you the history of indigenous dishes, offer guidance while dining with you, and even provide cooking instruction. Your tour may be guided by an actual chef, or may enlist the services of two guides: one culinary and one cultural. Your guide should be bilingual, even if those providing the cooking demonstrations are not. And of course, if you would like to design your own culinary dream vacation, chef guides and cultural guides can be hired on an individual basis – the possibilities are endless!

Most cooking tours will accommodate travelers with every level of experience. However, general kitchen knowledge is expected. Before you go, ask your travel consultant if class participation is mandatory, or if you may merely observe. You will also want to inquire about attire. Cooking classes are generally casual, but more sophisticated dress may be necessary when dining out. You may also want to find out whether recipes will be provided after the demonstration.

Your tour operator should be able to accommodate any dietary needs regarding meals. However, the meals prepared during cooking classes, unless the class is designed and taken on an individual basis, are usually determined by the instructor and cannot be changed upon request. There are tours designed for vegetarians, which usually take place in Asian countries. Thailand, for example, boasts an annual vegetarian festival.

If you are more of a gastronome, you will want to take or design a tour that focuses on the pleasures of dining. Many culinary travelers maintain that there is no better way to learn about a culture than by sampling its traditional dishes. Such tours often include the excursions mentioned above, as well as more standard tourist attractions such as museums and art galleries. Certain tours allow more time for exploring the towns in which you stay. There are also more active tours, which incorporate such activities as hiking, painting and language instruction. These tours also provide a good option for those wanting to dine independently.

Not surprisingly, the most popular destinations for gourmet vacationing are Italy and France. Tasting tapas in Spain is also en vogue. When visiting these popular regions, the earlier you make your reservation, the better. But Europe isn’t your only option. You may enjoy a culinary cruise to the Caribbean, or take a chef-guided tour of Mexico. For the more adventurous, culinary tours are offered in such exotic locales as Morocco, India and Vietnam. For those looking for an experience closer to home, consider becoming a barbecue connoisseur in West Virginia or cook up some Creole in Louisiana.

Travelers may also take a culinary vacation by means of a food festival. The Netherlands boasts an international food-tasting festival every August, and Georgia is home to the annual Vidalia Festival. If you appreciate good beer as much as good food, Oktoberfest is certain to leave you hoppy.

The cost of a culinary vacation varies widely. The biggest factor in determining the price of your trip is whether you opt for a package tour, which generally means sharing your travel experience with other culinary enthusiasts. Most culinary tours are packaged at a fixed price that includes daily classes, meals, excursions, accommodations and ground transportation. You will be responsible for making your own travel arrangements to the school or destination, a task with which your travel consultant can greatly assist. The cost of your trip is further determined by the country visited, the extent of teaching provided, the quality of restaurants enjoyed, and the number and nature of excursions taken.

Accommodation is also a factor. Luxury and high-end hotels are a more expensive option. Staying in a countryside villa may not be as posh an experience, but the relaxation granted by fresh air and lush landscapes could prove to be priceless. Work through the options with your travel consultant. The more clearly you state your own preferences, the better your travel consultant can work with the tour operator to properly accommodate you and your traveling companions.

When pricing your stay, remember to take into consideration any Value Added Tax (VAT) levied by many countries in Europe and elsewhere. Because VAT is often as high as 20% of the cost of an accommodation or good purchased, the amount is often not insignificant! Many travelers assume that VAT is refundable. However, this is typically not the case for services such as transportation, accommodation, food, gas or any other goods or services consumed within the country itself. Ensure that the price you are quoted includes all taxes and other fees.

Sound too good to be true? It’s all for real and with a little planning a culinary vacation can be an absolutely wonderful way to garnish your next trip away from home.

Content courtesy and with the express permission of Travel Research Online.

For a sample of Celebrations International’s culinary tours please visit our Culinary tours homepage. Please note that all our tours are fully customized!

I just came across an interesting article on chefs and street foods:

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=8611845

We always stress to our clients how important it is to be careful when eating from street vendors in what are often less-than-optimal environments for food preparation.

However, this article serves as a reminder that the influence of so-called “street foods” and other “on-the-go” meals is undeniable:   What today is $1.00 snack from a cart on a street corner halfway around the world may very well be a different version of something you order for dinner at a 5-star hotel next week, thanks to the many talented and creative chefs around the world.  Similarly, some of these same chefs are doing their best to “dress up” street foods.

From street foods to gourmet cuisine, all are great means of Celebrating Life Through Travel (even if you only travel around the corner to your favorite snack cart)!

For some tasty travel ideas, visit our Culinary Travel Homepage.

This title tweet caught my attention this afternoon.  Read this interesting Food Network article.

I am amused by this article in a variety of different ways.  I think it would be fun to see how my fellow foodies might react to this.  Be sure to post your comments!

Here are my thoughts:

Chefs are pickier than you think: Partly true, partly not, based on my own experience in restaurant management.   Personally, I would hope any chef who cooks for me is pickier than average when it comes to food; an indication that he or she knows what they’re talking about, and knows good stuff when they see it!

The other way to look at it is that chefs are around foods all day that the average person may or may not be.   Would you find the same food you stare at all day long appealing enough to enjoy it on your day off?  I don’t know about that one.

Still, chefs hate picky eaters: Picky eaters annoy me too, and I’m not even a chef.

When eating out in other restaurants, chefs say they avoid pasta and chicken: The “over-priced” notion may be true in many cases from a chef’s perspective, but the notion that chefs in general avoid those foods, I’d beg to differ, especially if it’s an ethnic cuisine chef who doesn’t get a lot of pasta, or maybe is a sushi chef!

Chefs have expensive taste: Many chefs don’t, and I think “No Reservations” proves that Anthony Bourdain definitely doesn’t!  Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean chefs, including Bourdain, don’t enjoy and appreciate fine dining!

.…and yet they like fast food: Yes, I’ll agree with that, as long as street foods count as fast food.

Critics trump movie stars in the VIP pecking order: No arguments there; It’s the chef’s call because it’s his food and his restaurant that’s on the line.

Chefs work hard for low pay: Chefs definitely work long, hard hours, and it’s not pleasant to stand over a steaming station for hours, be it in the heat of summer or the dead of winter.  Either way, it’s intense, physically-demanding work.  Kudos to all those who aspire every day to be the best chefs they can be.

“Vegetarian” is open to interpretation: Just remember the difference between “vegan” and “vegetarian,” and the fact that not everyone practices vegetarianism in the same way.

Restaurants mark up wine by a lot more than you’d expect: I suppose that depends on the restaurant, but wine and wine packages onboard oceanliner cruise ships are often a great deal.  Even better, wine aboard many river cruise ships is included with dinner each night!

What are your thoughts?  Please post your comments….we want to hear from you!


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This is blog based on the experiences and interests of travel agency owners Adrienne and Agni Mitra. Through our blog entries, we will share our travel experience and expertise. We will also have other entries of interest to inspire your travels.

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