F&W's executive food editor Tina Ujlaki spotlights three of the best food tours led by experts around the world.
I’ve managed to turn every trip I’ve ever taken into a culinary adventure of sorts, but for the most part, they have always been unguided and catch-as-catch can—I’ll stop at a great shop, visit a winemaker or a food artisan and have a meal at a legendary restaurant. Sometimes I’m able to coerce my companions into coming along; otherwise, they generally agree to busy themselves while I indulge. It’s a great way to travel, but I’ve always longed for a more immersive experience with a seasoned expert, someone who’s at least as passionate as I am about culinary culture but so much smarter and deeper in—someone’s who’s actually living the life. These are the first three programs at the top of my list; going on any one of them would get you a long way toward having one of the most unforgettable food experiences of your life.
Naomi Duguid: Immersethrough in Chiang Mai, Thailand
For my first trip to Thailand, I would sign up for Naomi Duguid’s weeklong class in Chiang Mai. You may be familiar with Duguid as the prolific cookbook author (and photographer) of such remarkable books as Flatbreads & Flavors, Hot Sour Salty Sweet and, most recently, Burma. Duguid’s curiosity is expansive and her knowledge of Thai culture and foodways runs exceedingly deep. She’s as much of an anthropologist/sociologist/historian as she is a cook. The better part of the week is spent in Chiang Mai visiting open-air markets, shopping for ingredients and learning classic Thai techniques—cooking over charcoal braziers, chopping and grinding seasonings and aromatics, cutting vegetables for salads—and each day’s class ends with a shared meal. There’s also an overnight trip to the north, near the Burmese border, to shop at a huge multi-ethnic market and learn about Shan cooking on a lychee farm owned by Duguid’s friend and collaborator. With an intimate class size of six or seven, and a food as-a-window-to-culture navigator and interpreter who’s practically a local, this would be the class for me. immersethrough.com
Kate Hill: Kitchen at Camont
If you’ve ever thought of learning how to make duck confit, rillettes, pâté or any other porky delights; or you’re just falling in love with French food for the first time; or if you're falling in love with it all over again, I suggest you head to the source. American expat Kate Hill has recently refurbished her spectacular 1724 farm on the Canal de Garonne in Gascony to include a new teaching space called the Charcuterie Kitchen, where she’s offering everything from one-day classes to a four-week butchery and charcuterie intensive that begins in the barnyard. Hill is joined by local farmers and food producers; she’s practically a local herself by now, having captained a culinary barge in the region for many years before settling at the farm. There’s also a new “Keeping Kitchen” program, where you can learn how to prepare French regional classics, like cassoulet, garbure and terrines of foie gras. kitchen-at-camont.com
Peggy Markel: Peggy Markel Culinary Adventures
Peggy Markel was a maverick when she first started leading culinary tours. She opened a cooking school in Tuscany in the early ’90s, and she’s been trailblazing adventure food travel ever since. She does trips all over—India, Italy, Morocco and Spain—but I’ve always wanted to go with her to India. Like Thailand, it’s a region that fascinates, but I’d be so happy not to explore it on my own for the first time. Travel through India with Peggy and you'll learn how to make samosas, pickles and parathas at their sources; you'll visit markets with knowledgeable cooks; and you'll walk through fields of cumin and fennel. I'd jump at the opportunity to have Markel’s seasoned insidery perspective and her access to all of the people and places she’s gotten to know over the years, plus all of the food, lodging and cultural experiences I couldn’t design on my own. peggymarkel.com
F&W's new series reveals the best ways to maximize your food year through travel, wine, cooking, tech, style, events and experiences. Use #BESTFOODYEAR on Twitter and Instagram to tell us about the ones you want to try. We'll continue to share more tips with the hashtag throughout the year and want to hear about how you celebrate food every day, too.