4TH ANNUAL TOURS FOR THE THINKING PERSON : Booked to Cook : And eat! For those who love food, a cooking school vacation or food tour is a trip to savor

TIMES STAFF WRITER; Virbila is The Times' restaurant critic

At one time, attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris was every aspiring cook’s dream: to stand before the hallowed stoves and learn to make a proper stock, a perfect hollandaise, a flawless genoise. But also to awe your friends by producing a towering croquembouche or letting the names of wines such as Echezeaux and Chassagne-Montrachet roll effortlessly off the tongue. When my friend Ellen came back every year after her courses at Le Cordon Bleu, she cooked us elegant pates, intricate fish soups, astonishing pastries. And we all went to cooking school--secondhand.

I was just as envious when she went off to Italy for two summers straight to study cooking with Giuliano Bugialli in Florence. She came home captivated with Tuscan cooking. While she recounted snippets of food history and lore, she rolled dough through her pasta machine with confidence, unfurling impossibly long streamers of fine yellow pasta. Who knew making pasta could be this much fun? We all benefited from her schooling, in rapturous meals we enjoyed at her house, in tips and recipes she would pass on in the kitchen.

Twenty years later, cooking schools have become a popular way to spend your vacation. Now there’s not only Le Cordon Bleu, but also Marcella Hazan, Lorenza de’ Medici, Marchesa Anna Tasca Lanza and countless others vying to teach Americans to cook Tuscan, Venetian, Sicilian, or the cuisines of Gascony, Provence or Burgundy.


You can study not only French or Italian cooking, but Moroccan, Thai, Chinese or Japanese. You can spend a week focusing just on French pastries or three weeks (and a considerable chunk of your bank account) in an intensive professional program. You can spend a long weekend in Oaxaca learning the secrets of the city’s famous mole sauces.

The choice is vast. This year’s ShawGuide (see accompanying box), the bible of cooking school guides, is 339 pages thick. Of course, classes taught by bona fide stars such as Hazan, Bugialli, Patricia Wells or Diana Kennedy fill up fast and may have considerable waiting lists.

And schools with solid track records, such as La Varenne or Lorenza de’ Medici’s program at Badia a Coltibuono, are also at the top end of the price scale. As one cooking instructor in France confided, “the people who take my courses are not poor.”

Fortunately, however, there is a cooking school vacation for more modest budgets. Some offer single classes or two- or three-day programs. And Asian cooking programs, compared to those in France or Italy, are still very much a bargain, even at luxury hotels such as the Oriental in Bangkok or Raffles in Singapore.

Attending cooking school is not all sweat and tears. It can be completely exhilarating to spend time with people who are just as impassioned as you are about food. You’ll not only come home with a slew of techniques and recipes, you’ll bring back memories of the aromas of open-air markets, the expertise of the cheese makers, butchers and bakers that you’ll meet. What you take home is much more than a recipe; it’s an insight into the way the French or Italians eat, how a meal goes together, and why certain dishes come from certain places. And dining in local restaurants or in private homes, you’ll be privy to something that can’t be found in a book, no matter how many cookbooks you read.

How much cooking you actually do is determined by the class format. Some are so intensive, there’s not much time or energy left for sightseeing. (If this is the case, you might want to plan to stay a few days after in order to see the sights.) Most schools have adopted a similar format: cooking class in the morning, either demonstration or hands-on or a combination of the two, lunch (eating the results of the morning’s work), followed by organized excursions. And then dinner at a restaurant. When considering a cooking school vacation, make sure you understand clearly how much time will be spent in the kitchen, the level of skill involved and just what is included in the cost.

Many courses are set up so that you can bring along a non-cooking companion (often at a discount), ideally someone who loves to eat but would rather sit in the garden and read or meander off on long walks. Try to find out something about the other people signed up for the course, and how serious they are about cooking. If you’re lucky, the group could be very international with students from Australia, South America or Asia too.

Here follows a sampling of good bets for 1996, culled from the vast selection available. Be aware that few of our choices are based on firsthand experience, but based on track record, word of mouth, the instructor’s reputation and whatever seemed to be a unique or rewarding experience.

Unless otherwise noted, prices quoted presume double occupancy (singles staying alone usually pay more) and include classes, lodging, most meals and excursions but do not include air fare.


La Varenne, Burgundy

In the late ‘70s and ‘80s, foodies headed to Paris to study the basics of French cooking at Anne Willan’s La Varenne. She later added a program of classes at her summer home, Cha^teau du Fey, in northern Burgundy, and in 1991 moved the entire school there. Classes are held in the chateau’s grand country kitchen with an ancient woodburning oven and a walled vegetable and herb garden outside. Students stay in cozy upstairs rooms in one wing of the house. In summer, weeklong hands-on classes range from the fundamentals of French cuisine to the cooking of Burgundy and Provence, and are taught by French chefs with a translator at their side. For very serious cooks, the school also offers intensive three- and four-week classes. New this year is a more relaxed fall series, Stars of Burgundy, which combines cooking demonstrations and wine tastings with dining at Michelin-starred restaurants in Burgundy.

Contact: La Varenne, Cha^teau du Fey, 89300 Villecien; telephone 011-33-8663-1834; fax 011-33-8663-0133 or in the U.S., Janice McLean, Box 25574, Washington, DC 20007; tel. (202) 337-0073 or (800) 537-6486; fax (703) 823-5438. One-week summer programs are $2,850 per person; the weeklong fall course is $3,656 per person, ; single supplement $400. The cost of the intensive four-week Orientation Program is $9,690 (three weeks, $7,795).

Patricia Wells’ Cooking in Provence

For the third consecutive year, Patricia Wells, restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune and author of “Bistro Cooking” (as well as all those well-thumbed copies of “The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris”), opens up her country house in Provence (just outside Vaison-la-Romaine, 30 miles northeast of Avignon), for six cooking classes, held from late spring to fall. The five-day classes are limited to just eight students (and four “tasters” or non-cooking companions) and are held in the kitchen of her restored 18th century mas (farmhouse) with its own wood-fired bread oven, vineyard, orchard and kitchen garden. Each day there’s a class and an excursion to an olive oil mill, local market, winery or food artisan such as a master butcher or fromager (cheese shop chefs and winemakers may drop in for a meal around the garden table; the class dines out at local restaurants too. Students arrange for their own lodging, choosing from a list of local inns and hotels. Next year, Wells is planning a special January truffle class that includes a truffle hunt. (Classes are already fully booked for 1996, but you can put your name on the waiting list or plan ahead for 1997.)

Contact: Judith Jones, 708 Sandown Place, Raleigh, NC 27615; fax (919) 846-2081; e-mail: Cost of the five-day cooking class is $2,750 ($2,500 for tasters), including most lunches/dinners, but not lodging.

Two Bordelais

For nearly 10 years, Jean-Pierre Moulle, head chef at the famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley and his wife, Denise Lurton-Moulle, member of a prominent Bordeaux wine family, have offered weeks in Bordeaux devoted to exploring the local gastronomy, wines, historic cha^teaux and food artisans. This year they’ve planned three weeklong tours devoted to leisurely walks exploring the different wine appellations of Bordeaux (Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers, Sauternes, St. Emilion, Pomerol) along small side roads with visits to vineyards and producers, ancient cellars, Romanesque churches, medieval villages and local markets. Each week (two in June, one in September) includes a tasting at renowned Cheval Blanc, dinner at the couple’s farmhouse, a wine-tasting at her father’s farmhouse, La Louvie re in Graves, a private tasting and lunch in the underground cellars of master cheese merchant Jean d’Alos, a visit to the Arcachon oyster beds and picnic on a local boat. Guests stay at the 17th century Cha^teau de Mouchac with its romantic gardens.

Just once a year in July the couple also offers an extraordinary walking tour of Bordeaux and the Pyrenees, which includes a stay at a country inn and dinner at the farm of three-star chef Michel Guerard. But the highlight is actually arriving in the Pyrenees, with a picnic in the mountains and a climb to meet the shepherds who make sheep’s-milk cheese in their summer grazing pasture, dinner under the stars cooked by Jean-Pierre and accompanied by the shepherd’s singing, and a night in tents under the stars.

Contact: Jean-Pierre Moulle, P.O. Box 8191, Berkeley, CA 94707; tel. (510) 848-8741. Six-day walking tours are $2,900 per person; Pyrennees tour is $3,200,; single supplement $300. .

Country Kitchens of Gascony

Kate Ratliffe takes small groups on leisurely sojourns through the canals of southwest France on her 85-foot barge (where meals are prepared in the tiny galley) and teaches cooking classes at her 18th century farmhouse. (For full story, see page L13.)


The World of Regaleali

For the past six years, Marchesa Anna Tasca Lanza, daughter of Conte Giuseppe Tasca d’Almerita and author of “Heart of Sicily, Recipes and Reminiscences of Regaleali,” has held five-day demonstration classes in traditional Sicilian cuisine at the family’s ancestral home, Regaleali. The sprawling mountain estate, an hour or so outside Palermo, produces not only one of Sicily’s most important wines, but also poultry and lamb, cheese, wheat and extra-virgin olive oil. The family’s chef, Mario Lo Menzo, who trained in a tradition that goes back centuries, teaches classes in the 18th century farmhouse kitchen with the help of the estates’ bread baker, cheese maker and the occasional guest chef. Subjects covered in the spring and fall classes range from simple recipes for local dishes and typical street food, to dishes of the grand families of Sicily. In between are visits to the winery, markets and Greek ruins. The week concludes with a final gala dinner at the big house.

Contact: Judy Ebrey, Cuisine International, P.O. Box 25228, Dallas, TX 75225; tel. (214) 373-1161, fax (214) 373-1162. Two-day classes (April-May, October-November) are $1,200, five-day $2,200; price includes lodging at Regaleali.

Colors and Flavors of the Mediterranean with Diane Seed

British-born Diane Seed, author of “Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces” and several other cookbooks, has lived in Rome for more than 30 years. When she goes on vacation, she heads south to Apulia, the little-known region on the southeast Adriatic coast. Last year for the first time, she taught a cooking class there at a favorite hotel, Il Melagrano. A converted 16th century fortified farmhouse that is now a luxurious Relais & Chateaux, the inn has a health spa, outdoor pool, tennis courts and private beach. The little-known cuisine of Apulia is based largely on seafood and vegetables. Classes in May and September, taught in English, are limited to 14 to 20, and include visits to local cheese, wine and olive oil producers, to a farmhouse where a mother and daughter teach students how to make Puglia’s famous orecchiette pasta, plus afternoon excursions to medieval hill towns.

Contact: Judy Ebrey, Cuisine International, P.O. Box 25228, Dallas, TX 75225; tel. (214) 373-1161, fax (214) 373-1162. Cost: $2,500 for the six nights; single supplement $300.

The International Cooking School of Italian Food & Wine

For the past nine years, students of Mary Beth Clark’s school have explored the culinary delights of Bologna, gastronomic capital of Emilia-Romagna, the region famous for its exquisite handmade pasta, Parma prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and pork products--in other words, Fat City and great eating. Summer and fall, the weeklong Basics of Great Italian Cooking class covers everything from simple home dishes to trattoria fare to more elaborate restaurant dishes and lighter, updated versions of Bolognese classics. Sfoglina Marta, a master pasta maker, teaches the secrets of handmade pasta and the class includes visits to a traditional aceto balsamico producer, a Parmigiano-Reggiano maker, wineries and country restaurants. In October, Clark organizes a weeklong truffle festival, which combines cooking classes in Bologna with a four-day excursion to the Lombardy and Piedmont regions.

Contact: Mary Beth Clark, The International Cooking School of Italian Food and Wine, 201 E. 28th St., Suite 15B, New York, NY 10016; tel. (212) 779-1921, fax (212) 779-3248. Cost: From $3,000-$3,450 (discount for tasters; $275 single supplement).

Master Classes in Venice with Marcella and Victor Hazan

Marcella Hazan, who is to Italian cooking what Julia Child is to French cooking, hardly needs an introduction. Three or four times a year she and her wine-authority husband open their home, atop a 16th century palace in a quiet neighborhood of Venice, to a maximum of six students. On the first day the class visits the fabulous Rialto vegetable and fish market along the Grand Canal followed by a mid-day banquet of seafood dishes at one of Venice’s top restaurants. The next consecutive five days are devoted to five-hour cooking classes in which students work hand-in-hand with Marcella in her kitchen (which has a view of tiled rooftops) to prepare a multi-course Italian meal. Victor conducts tastings of Italian wines and other Italian products. Hazan’s classes are often booked a year in advance, so you may be put on a waiting list. Note that you’re on your own in the evenings.

Contact: Susan Cox, Hazan Classics, P.O. Box 285, Circleville, NY 10919; tel. (914) 692-7104, fax (914) 692-2659. Cost: $2,500, which does not include accommodations or all meals.

The Villa Table

Lorenza de’ Medici, who stars in the PBS series “La Villa Table,” teaches eight to 10 weeklong classes May to October at her family’s spectacular Chianti wine estate, the 11th century Badia a Coltibuono (“abbey of good harvest”) halfway between Florence and Siena. Each day combines a three- to four-hour hands-on cooking class with Lorenza de’ Medici in the Renaissance villa’s kitchen, followed by lunch. Afternoons, longtime Chianti resident and food scholar John Meis takes the small group on excursions in the Chianti countryside, visiting cheese producers, sausage makers, country churches and hilltop towns. Dinner is usually at a different private villa or castle each night; the week concludes with a gala dinner at the abbey. In off hours, there is a lot to explore since this vast estate produces not only wine, but also olive oil, their own balsamic vinegars and honeys. Students stay upstairs in the villa’s guest rooms along a grand 15th century corridor where monks once slept.

New this year: a separate wine program led by Master of Wine Nicolas Belfrage. There is one cooking class, but most of the three-hour daily classes are devoted to wine, with wine-oriented excursions in the afternoon.

Contact: The Villa Table, Badia a Coltibuono, 53013 Gaiole in Chianti (SI), Italy; tel. 011-39-577-749-498, fax 011-39-577-749-235. In U.S.: Judy Ebrey, Cuisine International, P.O. Box 25228, Dallas, TX 75225; tel. (214) 373-1161, fax (214) 373-1162. Cost: $3,900 per person, double occupancy, all inclusive other than air fare; $600 single supplement.

Giuliano Bugialli’s Cooking in Florence

Ebulliant cooking teacher Giuliano Bugialli will resume teaching after a year’s sabbatical with his annual special Christmas-week class, Dec. 20-27. Known for his action-packed classes, this time he gives students an afternoon off for shopping. But in the days before Christmas he and 15 to 18 students work to prepare all the dishes for a traditional Christmas dinner. On Christmas Eve they go to midnight Mass in a lovely church in the countryside and then dinner at a nearby restaurant, returning to Florence in the wee hours. And like everyone in Tuscany, on the day after Christmas the class goes for a promenade along the sea.

Contact: Giuliano Bugialli’s Cooking in Florence, P.O. Box 1650, Canal St. Station, New York, NY 10013; tel. (212) 966-5325, fax (212) 226-0601. Cost: $3,400 including hotel, meals and wines; single supplement $500; $2,600 for tasters.


Le Petit Blanc Ecole de Cuisine

Raymond Blanc’s renowned Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, a two-star Michelin restaurant in the Cotswold countryside outside Oxford, is also a cooking school from October to mid-April. The 15th century stone manor house is a remarkable 10-room luxury hotel--with a staff of 100. Le Manoir’s Ecole de Cuisine, founded in 1991, offers students an opportunity to hone their cooking skills by learning some of Raymond Blanc’s contemporary French cooking in five-day courses offered at three levels. Limited to eight students, classes are taught by head chef Clive Fretwell. Dinner is in the restaurant each night. Partners of participants are welcome to stay throughout the course free of charge, although their meals and drinks are charged separately.

Contact: Le Petit Blanc, Ecole de Cuisine, Church Road., Great Milton, Oxford, OX44 7PD England; tel. 011-44-1-844-278-881; fax 011-44-1-844-278-847. In the U.S., contact Judy Ebrey, P.O. Box 25228, Dallas, TX 75225; tel. (214) 373-1161, fax (214) 373-1162. Cost: about $1,900, includes 5 nights’ accommodations, classes and most meals (including an eight-course Menu Gourmand with wines, service and VAT).


Ballymaloe Cookery School

Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe is often called the Alice Waters of Ireland. In the late ‘60s she turned the family farm in County Cork into a showcase country restaurant and inn. Today, she’s the president of the European Union of Chefs and works to preserve quality small food producers in Europe. Ballymaloe’s kitchen is now run by Myrtle Allen’s protege, Rory O’Connell, and Myrtle’s son Tim and daughter-in-law Darina run the Ballymaloe Cookery School on their farm two miles away. In September and January, students arrive for the 12-week certificate courses aimed more toward those who want to make a living cooking. Between Easter and July, the school offers a series of one-, 2 1/2- and five-day classes in subjects ranging from “irresistible breakfasts” and bread making, to cooking with fresh herbs and edible flowers, or a mushroom hunt. Classes, which are mostly hands-on and, at 44 students, larger than most, are taught by Darina and Tim Allen. Students stay for a modest rate in converted cottages around a courtyard.

Contact: Tim Allen, The Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Midleton, County Cork, Ireland; tel. 011-353-21-646-785, fax 011-353-21-646-909. One-day classes are about $119-164; 2 1/2-day classes $389 to $458. Double rooms for short courses are about $20 per night; $25 per single.


Cooking in Paradise, St. Barts

Just one week a year, cookbook author and syndicated food columnist Steven Raichlen and his wife Barbara hold cooking classes on the tiny--and tony--French West Indies island of St. Barts. The 6-year-old program is a total immersion course in Caribbean cooking from the author of “Miami Spice.” “I like to joke that it’s summer camp for adults who like to cook,” Raichlen says. “We work our way around the Caribbean in the five hands-on cooking courses. One day, it’s the French islands, the next the Spanish or English islands. I try to cover all the major techniques and famous dishes.” The group stays at a small inn with ocean views; classes are held each morning in the open-air kitchen with lunch following on the poolside terrace. The week (April 14-20) also includes a picnic at a secluded beach, a catamaran sailing cruise and dining at three of the island’s top restaurants.

Contact: Steven Raichlen, Cooking in Paradise, 1746 Espanola Drive, Coconut Grove, FL 33133; tel. (305) 854-9717, fax (305) 854-2232. Cost: $2,995 per person, $2,495 for tasters.


Seasons of My Heart, Oaxaca

Susana Trilling, a former New York restaurateur who has lived on a ranch outside Oaxaca for almost a decade, offers classes in Oaxacan cooking and Mexican culture year-round at her Seasons of My Heart Cooking School. Guests can either stay at Trilling’s Rancho Aurora or at a bed and breakfast in town. She’ll pick you up at the airport, and then take you to visit cheese producers, corn and chocolate mills, local markets and archeological sites. Classes in the ranch kitchen sometimes feature local cooks who demonstrate techniques. Options range from one-day classes to long weekends. Twice a year, she also leads a weeklong Seven Days for Seven Moles tour. “You’ll learn the history of Mexico’s most famous dish and the many ways it is presented. We’ll grind our chocolate for the black mole . . . tour the markets, a mezcal factory, visit cheese and bread makers and my neighbors’ kitchens,” her brochure says.

Contact: Seasons of My Heart, Rancho Aurora, A.P. Postal 42, Admon. 3, Oaxaca 68101; tel./fax 011-52-951-65280. Day classes Wednesdays and Fridays, $65; individual (private) day classes, $100. Long weekend (Thursday night arrival, Tuesday morning departure) classes $150 per day to stay at Rancho Aurora or at Casa Colonial in Oaxaca City. Weeklong “mole” tours offered twice a year, $1,295 per person.

The Flavors of Mexico

Marilyn Tausend, co-author of “Mexico the Beautiful Cookbook,” has been leading tours exploring the distinct regional cuisines of Mexico for nine years. Each year she visits at least one region, such as Yucatan, Michoacan, Veracruz or Puebla. July 21-27, Tausend offers cooking classes with Mexican food authority Diana Kennedy at the Kennedy home of 15 years, outside of Zitacuaro. Limited to seven students, this hands-on class includes a food tour through old Mexico City on the last day, as well as a class taught by Maria Dolores Torres Yzabal, co-author of the newly published “The Mexican Gourmet,” in her Mexico City kitchen. Aug. 5-12, Kennedy will also teach classes, limited to 12 to 15, in Oaxaca. The week includes Zapotec Indian cooking, cheese making demonstrations and visits to markets and private kitchens.

Contact: The Flavors of Mexico, Culinary Adventures, 6023 Reid Drive NW, Gig Harbor, WA 98335; tel. (206) 851-7676, fax (206) 851-9532. Weeklong classes and tours $2,350 to $2,750, excluding air fare; single supplement $150.


Cooking at the Kasbah

Californian Kitty Morse, author of “Come with Me to the Kasbah: A Cook’s Tour of Morocco,” leads a two-week (April 30-May 15) tour of Morocco, where she was born, for the ninth year. Limited to 14 people, the tour includes three half-day cooking seminars led by Morse and the Moroccan food journalist Abderrahim Bargache with the assistance of local chefs. Also on the itinerary are visits to the cities of Rabat, Mohammedia, Meknes, Fez, Marrakesh, Essaouira and Casablanca, plus Roman ruins, private palaces and medinas.

Contact: Natalie Tuomi, Carlsbad Travel, 4901 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, CA 92008; (800) 533-2779, or (619) 729-9282. Cost: $3,995 per person, includes air fare from New York to Casablanca; single supplement $595.


Oriental Hotel

Bangkok’s famed Oriental Hotel offers a deluxe five-day cooking course year-round in a Thai-style house across the river from the hotel. After breakfast, students cross via riverboat, then have tea or coffee and a lecture by Sarnsern Gajaseni, who has been with the school since it opened in 1987. Gajaseni then demonstrates the day’s dishes, explaining unfamiliar Thai ingredients and inviting students to watch the food fry and simmer in handcrafted brass woks in the kitchen next door. Although the sessions emphasize demonstration, students get to try their hands at the intricate Thai art of fruit and vegetable carving. Limited to 20 students, classes cover different phases of Thai cooking each day, starting with hors d’oeuvres and salads on Monday and concluding with desserts on Friday.

Contact: Oriental Hotel, 48 Oriental Ave., Bangkok, Thailand 10500; tel. 011-66-2-236-0400. Cost: about $437 for the five-day course; a single day’s class is about $100. A package that includes the classes, five nights accommodations, airport transfers and some meals is available at $2,070 per person.

Thai House

A traditional Thai-style teak house that operates as a bed and breakfast, the Thai House offers cooking classes ranging from one to four days. Students learn dishes such as larb, beef panang and green curry from Pip, wife of Paiboone Fargrajang, who operates a tour agency in Bangkok and built the house. The emphasis is on traditional, home-style cooking, even to pounding out curry pastes in stone mortars. Located on a klong (canal) in a country-like setting, the Thai House seems miles away from Bangkok’s frenetic streets, but it’s only a 45-minute ride from the heart of town via hotel van.

Contact: Reserve through Asian Overland Adventures, 22 Pra-Athit Road, Bangkok, Thailand 10200; tel. 011-662-280-0740, fax 011-662-280-0741. The four-day cooking program costs $500, which includes room and board; a one-day class is $75.


Martin Yan’s Tour

Martin Yan, star of the PBS series “Yan Can Cook,” and author of numerous Chinese cookbooks, will lead a culinary tour of Hong Kong March 6-15 sponsored by his home station, San Francisco’s KQED. The tour is large--as many as 60 people may participate--and will include cooking classes, a visit to a street market, a dim sum breakfast, high tea at Repulse Bay and a 10-course banquet of dishes from the imperial dynasties. Participants will travel to Lantau Island for a vegetarian lunch, and to Macao for a taste of Portuguese cuisine and a Sichuan banquet. Sightseeing and shopping tours are also planned.

Contact: Orient USA Tours, 600 Airport Blvd, Suite 333, Burlingame, CA 94010; tel. (800) 292-1238, fax (415) 340-7184. Cost: $2,899 per person, including air fare from San Francisco.

Hong Kong at Home

A series of classes on home-style Chinese cooking will give participants a chance to cook as well as watch leading Hong Kong food personalities prepare their specialties. The curriculum includes stir-fried beef fillet with satay sauce Chiu-Chow style, steamed chicken with Yunnan ham, pan-fried eggplant sandwiches stuffed with assorted mushrooms and deep-fried bean curd pancake. Classes, limited to 24, will take place on selected days in March at Town Gas Cooking Centre.

Contact: Agnes Chan, tel. 011-852-2807-6104, fax 011-852-2807-6586. The Town Gas Cooking Centre is located in the basement of Leighton Centre, 77 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay. Cost: $45 per class. Reservations must be made two days in advance.


Culinary Splendors of India

Julie Sahni, a noted writer on Indian cuisine who also runs a cooking school in New York, leads a food tour that explores India’s culinary heritage. Visiting western, southern and northern India Oct. 11-27, participants might dine on Parsi seafood in Bombay; eat dosas and idli in Madurai; try appe in Cochin; sample vindaloo and sarpotel in Goa; picnic on vegetarian food at Fatehpur Sikri, the fort-city built by Emperor Akbar, or feast on royal Rajput dishes in Jaipur. The trip includes stops at spice and tea plantations, markets and bazaars, villages, farm kitchens, palaces and temples.

Contact: Julie Sahni’s School of Indian Cooking, 101 Clark St., No. 13A, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201; tel./fax (718) 625-3958. Cost: $4,975 per person for the 17-day tour, not including air fare; single supplement is $1,175.


The Raffles Culinary Academy

The historic Raffles Hotel has been remodeled into an upscale, boutique-lined hostelry. But if it’s lost its colonial charm, it’s also added something new: cooking classes. The brand new Raffles Culinary Academy teaches the cuisines of Singapore’s leading ethnic groups--Chinese, Indian, Malay and Peranakan. A complex and distinctive blend of Malay and Chinese cooking styles, Peranakan food is found only in Singapore and Malaysia. Each cuisine is covered in a morning class that concludes with lunch. Participants study the origins of the food, the local ingredients required and how to prepare a variety of dishes. The classes can be taken individually or as a package of five. Each day features a different cuisine, and the final class on Friday covers the signature dishes of the Raffles Hotel.

Contact: Raffles Hotel, 1 Beach Road, Singapore 189673; tel. 011-65-337-1886, fax 011-65-339-7650. Cost: About $107 for a single class, or $464 for the five-day program.


Konishi Japanese Home


Kiyoko Konishi, author of “Japanese Cooking for Health and Fitness” and “Entertaining with a Japanese Flavor,” runs this Tokyo school that emphasizes healthy, economical and seasonal Japanese cuisine. Classes are in English and include shopping tours to supermarkets, wholesale markets and specialty stores. The sessions last 2 1/2 hours and take place mornings and evenings three times a week, year round. Classes are limited to eight and include a meal. Students can enroll at any time, and can also sign up for a 10-lesson course.

Konishi has about 20 years experience teaching Japanese cooking to foreigners, and her students represent more than 50 nationalities. In addition to her books, she has produced bilingual cooking videos and written cooking columns for the Asahi Evening News.

Contact: Konishi Japanese Home Cooking School, Room 1405 Nissei Meguro Mansion, 3-1-7, Meguro, Meguro-ku Tokyo; tel./fax 011-81-3-3714-0085. Cost: a one-day class is about $36, including ingredients and a full meal. A full 10-class program is about $355.


Barbara Hansen of The Times’ Food Section contributed the Asian listings.


Guide to Courses

For an exhaustive listing of cooking schools around the world, check out the eighth annual edition of “The Guide to Cooking Schools: Cooking Schools, Courses, Vacations, Apprenticeships and Wine Instruction Throughout the World” (ShawGuides Publishers, New York; $19.95 paper). This year’s is the largest ever, with more than 750 programs.

Available at the Cook’s Library (8373 3rd St., Los Angeles; tel. 213-655-3141), or through the publisher; tel. 800-247-6553) for $22.95 (includes $3 shipping).

Internet users can also check the publisher’s Web site at for a description of any school listed in the guide. The site also includes a news page with updates of culinary travel programs.