La Villa Cucina



La Villa Cucina offers two full participation culinary travel programs at two elegantly appointed villas, Tenuta la Bandita, a 17th century property in Tuscany, and Villa di Monte Solare, in Umbria, a restored agricultural complex dating back to the seventeenth century. The programs at both villas provide visitors with a unique full participation culinary travel program, which includes four full participation culinary classes as well as visits to local wineries, restaurants, and food markets. All culinary classes take place in the villas’ professional kitchens. Class size is limited to twelve guests to ensure personalized attention and optimum comfort. Full and half-day excursions to important local towns and cities are included in the program. For more information, visit:


Touring Bordeaux with two Bordelais

For the past 25 years, Jean Pierre and Denise Moullé have been providing gourmands with an insider’s tour of the Bordeaux. Guests of these two very prominent Bordelais are served an elegant French experience few outsiders are privileged to enjoy. Each year small groups of visitors will be given hands-on cooking lessons under the guidance of Chef Jean Pierre who will teach them to prepare such local specialties as duck, seafood, fresh river fish and garden vegetables. In the evening, they will attend private dinners and parties at the Lurton chateau. And tossed in to complete the gourmet getaway, during the day, they will visit local markets, where they will meet and talk with artisan cheese makers, chocolate makers, and wine producers in private homes and businesses.

 Jean Pierre is the executive chef at Chez Panisse (Berkeley, California) and Denise is a member of the Lurton family. (Her family currently owns seven prominent Bordeaux chateaux). For other tours and more information:

Photo copyright by Two Bordelais

Gourmet on Tour

Taste the flavors of the world (and learn how to prepare them) while experiencing a romantic journey into history. With Gourmet on Tour, the culinary world is available to you – and presented in a way to be remembered always. Breathe in the earthy aroma of Pu’er tea while discovering the lengthy process for creating the intoxicating brew (Shanghai); dine in the Medina near the gathering place of snake charmers, thieves, traders and carnival figures at Jemaa el Fna (Marrakech); and surround yourself with 2000 years of history at the world’s most famous indoor-outdoor museum, where everywhere you turn you will find famous monuments, art treasures and unforgettable meals (Rome).

At each of these three popular destinations you will be able to roll up your sleeves and cook with local chefs who will teach you the nuances of creating some of their countries finest regional foods. For more information about these and other culinary trips – and how to design them to suit your taste – visit

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A culinary class Down Under

Since 1989, Sydney Seafood School at Sydney Fish Market has been a magnet for attracting seafood lovers Down Under. Students interested in mastering the art of preparing sashimi (raw fish), pipis (edible clams), squid, crabs, mussel, or octopus will find the instruction and the facility at the school as good as or better than any elsewhere.

 Although seafood is the school’s raison d’être, it isn’t the only subject taught at this well-respected Australian cooking school. The school also teaches students techniques for preparing a huge variety of cuisine, including sizzling BBQs. Leading chefs (like Matthew Moran, Christine Manfield and Giovanni Pilu, to name a few) offer weekend workshops.

 All classes begin with a demonstration and are followed by a hands-on cooking lesson, taught to students in groups of four-six with the presenter and the school’s assistants on hand to help. Each lesson ends with guests eating what they have prepared. (See posted recipe: Barbecued Octopus, Zucchini and Marinated Fennel Salad)

Photo copyright by Sydney Fish Market 

A cooking school with a personal touch

The Chopping Block offers Chicagoans a large choice of demonstration and hands-on classes, as well as wine classes, private cooking parties, and corporate team-building events. Its week-long, intensive Culinary Boot Camp has been designed to lift its recreational cooking program to its highest level by providing students with a taste of professional culinary school style instruction.

 At the Chopping Block, each student receives the needed mentoring to achieve mastery of his lesson. Therefore, all lessons are planned around the unique and diverse needs of the students. Founded in 1997 by Shelly Young, the culinary school provides students with a broad choice of classes, aimed at teaching essential cooking skills, with a personal touch. The schools are located in two trendy areas of the city, downtown at the Merchandise Mart and northwest at Lincoln Square.

 Photo copyright by the Chopping Block

Fresh is best at the Savory Spoon

Each summer, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin, and its neighboring communities (in Door County) overflow with visitors. From June to October this pristine paradise near the tip of Wisconsin becomes one of the Midwest’s favorite summer places. In this popular (and relatively unspoiled) playground on the shores of Green Bay, just an arm’s reach from Lake Michigan,  Michael and Janice Thomas have cooking classes in their renovated 1879 one-room school house..

Janice who studied the culinary arts in France and Mexico brings to each class an international flair and a commitment to creating memorable meals using mostly local ingredients. Such special foods as hand-selected, artisan cheeses, fresh whitefish from Lake Michigan, Door County’s cherries, and her own home-grown squash are among the many ingredients she uses to thrill the taste buds of her cooking school students. Students taking a class in her smartly renovated, state-of-the-art kitchen will have the pleasure of not only learning to cook, using local ingredients, but also the opportunity to meet with local cheese-makers and organic farmers.

Photo copyright by Savory Spoon Cooking School

A big school with an intimate learning program

Peter Kump revolutionized the teaching of the culinary arts when he opened a cooking school in his Upper West Side apartment in 1975. Within five years, what began as a dream grew to become a successful cooking program with a firm commitment to culinary excellence. Kump’s success is attributed to two factors: hiring notable names in the culinary arts (like Simone Beck, James Beard and Marcella Hazan) to teach classes, and introducing students to principles and techniques that will always be useful to them in the kitchen.

 After Kump’s untimely death, the school was acquired by Elm View Culinary Enterprises in 1995, and it was renamed in 2001 The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). The new owner, Rick Smilow, following in the Kump tradition, has been running the school ever since the acquisition with the same dedication to excellence that made Kump’s school so successfull. Today ICE is considered one of the oldest and most prestigious culinary training schools in the United States with an international reputation for excellence. To the world, it is known as a big school with an incredibly huge choice of subjects, taught in an intimate learning environment.(See posted recipes: Pizzeria-Style Pizza Dough)

Photo copyright by ICE

Learning to cook by reaching beyond the recipes

Chateau Chantal is located on Old Mission Peninsula, 12 miles north of the trendy summer resort town of Traverse City (Michigan). It sits prominently near the tip of the peninsula like a contemporary Loire Valley chateau. The emphasis at this first-class bed and breakfast is on providing students with hands-on, immersion classes that will advance their knowledge of food and wine.

Wine expert Mark Johnson teaches the classes in wine, wine-making, grape-growing and wine-tasting. From him, students will learn how to pair wine and food successfully.

Chef-educator Nancy Kreck Allen teaches the classes in the culinary arts. Her program is designed to build student confidence by freeing them of their dependency on recipes. She achieves this goal by focusing heavily on the appropriate culinary skills and techniques needed by them in order to experiment and reach beyond the recipes for culinary success.

Photo copyright by Chateau Chantal

Savoring Brazil in colonial splendor

Three and a half hours from Rio by car, lodged securely between mountain and sea, is the exotic colonial town Paraty (pronounced pada-chee). During the gold and diamond rush in the 18th century, the town was a wealthy and important port for shipping gold and precious stones to Portugal. Today, it is a beautifully preserved coastal village with narrow, irregularly rounded cobblestone streets that lead to hidden surprises – charming pousadas (inns), colonial houses, trendy restaurants and art galleries. For swimmers, it offers spectacular island beaches and for hikers, mountain trails leading through an environmentally protected jungle to waterfalls and natural pools.

A dot on the map, too small to be noticed by most travelers, Paraty is one of those secrets of the rich and privileged that the world is just beginning to discover. For food lovers, interested in Brazilian cuisine, this colonial paradise offers visitors something very special, The Academy of Cooking and Other Pleasures.

Cooking classes at the Academy are run by the internationally renowned chef Yara Castro Roberts and her husband, Richard. Trained in culinary arts (Boston University), art history (École du Louvre) and education (the Sorbonne), Yara brings to her teaching the best of three worlds – French savoir-faire, Latin warmth, and American sensibility. Dubbed by The New York Times as an inexhaustible ambassador for food and other things Brazilian, she has lectured at leading American universities and has appeared on the PBS series Gourmet Adventures with Ruth. Yara’s husband, a former multinational business executive, is currently a professional photographer. Together, Richard and Yara have authored a cookbook, The Brazilian Table, and have conducted culinary tours, Savoring Brazil with Yara and Richard, which National Geographic Traveller (UK) has chronicled.  (See posted recipe: Fish Paupiette with Crabmeat, Brazilian-Style)

Photo copyright by Richard Roberts

The chef to globe-trotting celebrities

To many globe-trotting celebrities, she is Italy’s darling. She is the one person in the world that they all agree should cook for them. Her name is Mamma Agata, and she has probably fed more stars than MGM studio has ever contracted during its heyday. Celebrities like Gore Vidal, Pierce Brosnon, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and even Jacqueline Kennedy have all visited her in Italy for dinner. Her food, as Jacqueline Kennedy once said, is “eleganza molto simplice.”  

She achieves this elegant simplicity by selectively choosing fresh, organic ingredients, which she grows mostly in her garden. The results are unforgettable meals fragrantly scented by the intense, clean flavors of lovingly produced ingredients.

To acquaint visitors with authentic regional Italian cooking, Mamma Agata invites them into her home, which sits 1000 feet above the picturesque Amalfi Coastline in the charming town of Ravello, Italy. There, in this private setting, surrounded by spacious gardens with fruit trees, flowers, herbs, vegetables and poultry, she demonstrates to them the art of preparing traditional southern Italian cuisine.

 Photo copyright by Mamma Agata Cooking School