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Guide to Cooking Vacations in France

French Schools Where Food is Studied and Enjoyed as an Art Form

A class at a cooking school in France.
A cooking class enjoying the fruits of their labor at a castle in France.
Photo courtesy of La Vie Du Château.

Few places on earth are better places to learn to cook than France. The nation has elevated cooking and eating to an art form that is practiced as a daily ritual. Immersing yourself in French culture through a cooking or wine class is a great way to travel, learn, and enjoy some of the many pleasures offered by a culture rightfully proud of its long culinary heritage.

There are also various ways to learn to cook and enjoy wine, from short classes to tours to intensive weeklong immersion cooking schools.

Booking a Cooking Vacation in France

There are a few things to consider and investigate before booking a cooking vacation in France.
Be sure to ask yourself:
  • Do you want to take a couple of classes but spend the rest of your time sightseeing, or do you want to spend your entire vacation immersed in cooking? Would you prefer an organized French cooking tour to experience various tastes and sights?

  • What is your budget?

  • Do you prefer a class taught by someone famous (such as a Michelin-starred chef or French cookbook author)?

  • Do you prefer a city or rural setting?

  • What is your current cooking skill level?

  • Do you have a particular region of France you'd like to see during your cooking vacation?

  • Do you prefer to learn popular French classics or to become well-versed in one region’s cuisine?

  • Do you prefer to learn cooking, pastry making, baking, chocolate making, or wine tasting/selection skills?

  • Is the school you are interested in attending reputable?

  • Do you want to learn more about the French language and culture during your cooking vacation?
This may seem like a lot of questions. Yet, there are many variations and even subtle nuances to the cooking vacation options in France. Cooking vacations are, in fact, one major form of tourism in France, and that means the selection can be so vast as to be overwhelming.

What Are the Types of French Cooking Vacations?

Considering your skill and interest level when booking a cooking vacation is crucial. You can do everything from a quick 1-hour course to sessions that last several days, teach you chef-level techniques, and immerse you in the French language.

Particularly in big cities like Paris or Nice, it is easy to find quick, short courses on everything from cooking to baking to pastries. There are also often organized tours focusing on food if your real passion is tasting it. Or you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the culinary process rather than make the food yourself.

There are also more intensive courses that last 2-3 days, or others offering cooking instruction yet do not have overnight accommodations. You can often find those courses in mid-sized to larger cities, and this can be a more affordable way to take a cooking vacation since you can save money on your lodging.

The more intensive cooking vacation is the more extended immersion-style cooking instruction package. You typically stay on-site and sometimes use ingredients grown right on the property. Sometimes, language immersion is part of the learning experience. Such courses may be found in France's regions and even rural settings. Sometimes, they include food-related outings to tour wineries and/or shop at the local produce market. Such cooking classes can be quite expensive but can also provide an amazing experience for a serious foodie.

Where to Attend a French Cooking School?

The location of your cooking vacation can tremendously impact your experience, and it is essential to determine which destination makes the most sense for you.

Cooking vacations in France are often in lovely settings, sometimes castle grounds in the Loire.
Some cooking schools and vacations in France occur in lovely settings, such as the private Château de La Barbée in the Loire.
Photo courtesy of La Vie Du Château.

There is no question that the choices for cooking vacations in Paris are downright dizzying. You can find classes for almost any interest, budget, or taste. In fact, Paris is home to one of the most famous cooking schools in the world, Le Cordon Bleu. The school is not just for aspiring chefs anymore but also features programs for amateurs, such as demonstrations, children's cooking classes, cooking and pastry workshops, and tours of Paris markets.

Imagine you are a locavore who is interested in regional and seasonal cuisine. In that case, you can enjoy a cooking school in an urban setting, but you might prefer a rural one for a more local, authentic vacation. Consider beforehand which regional cuisines you prefer, as there are dramatic differences between neighboring regions. Some great regions for cooking experiences include Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Provence, and the Languedoc.

Why Take a Cooking Vacation in France?

Anyone can go on vacation. Some people can return home with a unique sense of the country they visited, a better understanding of its cuisine, and the ability to recreate memories of the visit in their own kitchen. Whether you take one class or immerse yourself in the French language and culture (closely tied to the food), you will walk away with a strong sense of the French people and tastes.

For More Information on Cooking Schools in France

There are dozens of cooking schools in France, but here is one short list:

  • Le Cordon Bleu is one of the world's best-known cooking schools. It features a variety of cooking demonstrations, workshops, and tours for both amateurs and aspiring professionals.

  • One Cooking School in France ("Ecole des 3 Ponts") is located near Rouanne and offers various courses that combine French language immersion with cooking techniques. Pastry and chocolate making are also taught.

  • On Rue Tatin is a cooking school based in Normandy that travels to spots like Paris and even the U.S. It is a must-do for fans of the book On Rue Tatin and other cookbooks by author Susan Herrmann Loomis.

  • Patricia Wells is a well-known French cookbook author who offers classes in Paris and Provence and features a regular truffle course.

  • La Vie du Château offers French cooking courses, vacations, and classes conducted in English, with accommodations in a family’s 18th Century château in the Pays de La Loire. The cooking school includes meals and cultural excursions with visits to open markets, vineyards, distilleries, and other chateaux.

More resources on cooking schools in France:

Related Topics
Culinary Travel

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