Our knife skills may have needed some work, but the backdrop for the first bowl of ahi poke my husband and I ever prepared was flawless: a villa at Montage Kapalua Bay on Maui, with Molokai playing peek-a-boo through swaying palm trees. And we had help: A Montage chef was there to talk us through the steps to making poke, while also “talking story” about the raw fish dish’s ancient origins among Polynesian ocean voyagers.
“A lot of people say, ‘I want to learn something Hawaiian,’” Bartolome notes. “They get a little bit nervous that it’s going to be so difficult, and then they’re really excited to realize how simple it is. And it helps that we’re here in this beautiful setting — it adds to the experience.”
Cooking classes that teach you how to concoct local flavors can not only sharpen culinary skills but also offer a more meaningful alternative to souvenir shopping. Here are five more of our favorite destinations for educational feasting.
Nobu Hotel Palo Alto, Palo Alto, California
One of a baker’s dozen of hotels cofounded by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, this Silicon Valley outpost offers ryokan-style rooms and suites on its seventh and eighth floors overlooking downtown Palo Alto, as well as a Nobu restaurant.
In sessions designed for eight to 10 guests, executive sushi chef Kihyun Seol teaches students how to roll sushi and prepare Nobu’s signature yellowtail jalapeño and black cod miso.
$175 per person; includes keepsake, Nobu-branded chef’s apron, prepared dishes, hot tea and small sake; lodging is additional.
The Apple Farm, Philo, California
An apple farm with four guest rooms in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, The Apple Farm was purchased by the creators of the French Laundry in 1982 and is now operated by their children.
Under chef and co-owner Karen Bates’ “stay to cook” program, guests join the staff in preparing multicourse California farm-to-table meals inspired by the local bounty, served with local wines and ciders. A sample entrée: braised shoulder of goat with Meyer lemon and mint and roasted baby bok choy on orzo.
A midweek dinner with one night’s lodging is $580 for a couple; a weekend stay with three cooking sessions and two nights’ lodging is $1,466. Both require a minimum of four people and are currently limited to private groups; email [email protected].
Rancho Valencia, Rancho Santa Fe, California
This residential-style luxury resort is perched in the sunny hills of northern San Diego County.
Rancho Valencia’s master gardener Norah Mitchell teams up with executive chef Joshua Holt once a month for Green Is Gold classes in the resort’s culinary garden and greenhouse. Guests learn how to grow herbs and make salsa with freshly harvested ingredients, and also have the opportunity to sample tequila and mezcal.
The class is complimentary for overnight guests.
Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, Los Cabos, Mexico
The airy, 268-room beachfront compound is located on the Los Cabos corridor.
Executive chef Mauricio Lopez concocts a two-hour cooking class and private dinner including dishes such as fish and clam ceviche, octopus grilled over a bonfire, guacamole, tacos and carne asada. Guests receive recipes, plus a follow-up Zoom class with Lopez to try them out at home.
The class is available with a three-night minimum stay in a deluxe ocean view room, from $398 a night; use plan code P4 to book online or send an email.
Calamigos Guest Ranch, Malibu, California
The 250-acre ranch features 56 cottages and bungalows nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains, and a beach club in Malibu.
A garden with two wood-burning pizza ovens, bar and seating provides the venue for executive chef Ricardo Morales’ hands-on class on making pizza from scratch, including tips on choosing locally sourced vegetables, the right wood and best temperature for the oven.
The class costs $600 for a family of four, including beer and Calamigos wine for adults and chefs’ hats and personal pizzas for kids.
For more on Better:
- Nostalgia, Intrigue, and a Glass of Wine: See Wine Country in Style on Napa Valley Wine Train’s Murder Mystery Tour
- Let the Sun Shine! Tropical Getaways for the End of Summer
- Santa Barbara’s Unexpected Hospitality History — Plus, Where to Stay on America’s Riviera
Travel writer and guidebook author Jeanne Cooper lives in Hawaii, where she volunteers with the Hawaii Island Humane Society and St. James’ Community Meal.