June 20, 2024

Adventure Awaits Journeyers

Discovering the World Anew

Amazing chef-led food tours that will whet your appetite for travel

6 min read

Chef-led food tours to whet your appetiteChef-led food tours to whet your appetite — Photo courtesy of ilkermetinkursova / E+ Via Getty Images

More than 10 years later, I still fondly recall one of the best travel experiences of my life: a food tour that wended its way through Kraków and charming towns tucked in the Tatra Mountains of Poland.

In between field trips to places like the 14th century Wawel Royal Castle and Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, our small group learned how to make a proper pierogi and plump golumpki under the guidance of Polish chef Marek Widomski. We indulged in morning snorts of homemade cherry vodka before taking lessons in cooking potato pancakes and just-caught trout.

Beyond the historic architecture, open-air markets, and mountainous countryside, the Krakow to Zakopane food tour offered me an almost spiritual reconnection to my beloved late mother and aunt — one hunk of oscypek (smoked sheep’s cheese) at a time.

Whether you’re exploring your cultural heritage or fascinated by the other cultures’ culinary traditions, these six travel companies are serving up chef-led food tours that will have you coming back for seconds.

A recipe for adventure with Poland Culinary Vacations

A traditional holiday supper cooking class with chef Gieno Mientkiewicz in Warsaw, PolandA traditional holiday supper cooking class with chef Gieno Mientkiewicz in Warsaw, Poland — Photo courtesy of Poland Culinary Vacations

Poland Culinary Vacations offers a robust menu of food tours for every kind of foodie. On the Poland Christmas Market Tour, you’ll cook and bake with two professional chefs — one of whom is a Polish artisan cheese expert — while also exploring the country’s legendary holiday markets. The Culinary Tour of Greater Poland and Poznan will have you preparing roast duck with red cabbage and dumplings, as well as making stops at the Croissant Museum and the Emperor’s Castle in Poznan.

In Polish Cooking with Chef Anna Hurning in Szczecin in Western Pomerania, Hurning teaches guests how to make traditional Polish dishes, including paczki, a Lent delight.

Mexican Culinary Traditions with Austin chef Iliana de la Vega

Oaxaca's culinary artistry, as showcased by Mexican Culinary Traditions' food toursOaxaca’s culinary artistry, as showcased by Mexican Culinary Traditions’ food tours — Photo courtesy of Isabel Torrealba

James Beard Award-winning chef Iliana de la Vega of Austin and her daughter, Isabel Torrealba — a food writer and Mexican cultural anthropologist — take you on immersive vacations focused on Mexico’s food culture and history. Their travel company, Mexican Culinary Traditions, offers food tours for those who appreciate arts and crafts and luxe lodging.

Oaxaca City: Ancient Traditions Alive is the pair’s most popular tour, as guests explore the deep roots of this complex cuisine amid vividly colored colonial buildings, lively markets, and indigenous arts and textiles.

You may also want to dig into the cuisine of Mexico City; Morelia, Michoacán; or Mérida, the capital of Yucatán — all of which are food tours that Mexican Culinary Traditions offers.

Cooking and food tours with Philadelphia chef Aliza Green

Preparing a Cyclades salad on a food tour in SantoriniPreparing a Cyclades salad on a food tour in Santorini — Photo courtesy of Trigas Christos

Aliza Green is a Philadelphia-based chef and author (“The Bean Bible” and “The Butcher’s Apprentice,” to name two titles) who whisks foodies to all corners of the culinary planet. Food tours include explorations of places like France’s Bordeaux and Basque Country and Bilbao, Spain, as well as Greece, Morocco, and Italy.

Her Portuguese Delights tour introduces food enthusiasts to the culture and cuisine of the Iberian Peninsula. A pioneering female chef, Green takes you to centuries-old bakeries to try pastel de nata and introduces you to the Douro Valley wine region, a UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll even attend a cooking class in the ancestral home of one of Portugal’s oldest families.

Along the way, you’ll hear traditional Fado music, traverse winding streets to visit Gothic churches, and get to know Lisbon’s neighborhoods, including the medieval district of Alfama. Have the exclamation, “Legal!” — pronounced lay-gow — in your back pocket, which means “cool.”

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Bog & Thunder’s food tours through Ireland

Seaweed foraging at low tide on Derrynane Beach, County KerrySeaweed foraging at low tide on Derrynane Beach, County Kerry — Photo courtesy of Max Sussman / Bog & Thunder

Bog & Thunder’s food tours aim to prove why Ireland should be the next hot food destination. The company is led by award-winning chef, cookbook author, and restaurateur Max Sussman and writer and environmentalist Kate McCabe. Deeply committed to ecotourism, Bog & Thunder’s trips are ideal for the environmentally conscious food enthusiast who likes wandering off the beaten path.

In 2023, chef Natasha Pickowicz co-led a “More Than Cork” food tour, which included culinary activities like foraging for seaweed, fileting and smoking wild fish, and dining al fresco at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Legendary Irish chef Darina Allen also joined the group for dinner on the last evening of the tour.

Consider booking a Bog and Thunder tour led by chef Nick Curtola, who helms the kitchen at one of Brooklyn’s most popular restaurants and wine bars, The Four Horsemen. The tour was designed in collaboration with The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, a five-star property marking its 200th anniversary in 2024. It pairs a luxury hotel experience with the best food that Ireland’s capital city has to offer. You’ll also get behind-the-scenes access to local chefs and writers and take day trips to the surrounding countryside.

Black Tomato’s Tasting Notes

An Earth Tribute Ceremony in Peru with Black TomatoAn Earth Tribute Ceremony in Peru with Black Tomato — Photo courtesy of Black Tomato

For immersive, luxurious culinary journeys, take a gander at Black Tomato’s Tasting Notes, co-created and designed with Michelin-starred chefs and personalities granting access to their kitchens and processes. You’ll visit emerging gourmand destinations that inspired the chefs and the places where they source product. You’ll also taste sample their most creative meals.

Each itinerary is designed and piloted by chefs. Take a food tour through Peru’s Sacred Valley with Virgilio Martinez, whose Central restaurant in Lima is ranked the fifth best restaurant in the world. This tour may include piranha fishing in the Amazon and dining in the rainforest. Or peek behind the closed doors of Basque Country’s secret culinary social club, Txokos, with chef Dani Lopez. You can also sample dishes from the 24 gastronomic regions of Slovenia with the country’s father of modern fine dining, Janez Bratovz, while truffle hunting and cheese making along the way.

Central Holidays’ Umbria food tour with Chef Lorenzo Polegri

Shopping for fresh produce on a food tour in OrvietoShopping for fresh produce on a food tour in Orvieto — Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Polegri / Farmer Chef’s Casale Polegri

Central Holidays has a roster of wine and food tours. Whether Spain, Italy, or Croatia, you’ll be busy during cooking classes with acclaimed chefs.

For an extra special experience, consider reserving your spot on the Live and Eat Like a Local in Umbria with Chef Lorenzo food tour, where you’ll learn the secrets of Italian cookery in Umbria’s Orvieto region. You’ll go truffle hunting and pick fresh ingredients at farmer’s markets, as well as attend butchery workshops and cooking classes led by farmer and chef Lorenzo Polegri of Casale Polegri in the Umbrian countryside.

Other experiences on this tour include sampling artisanal cheeses at a goat farm and stopping at a family olive oil mill that has been producing the luscious liquid for more than a century from trees that are thousands of years old. You’ll also visit 13th century Montegiove Castle and storybook Medieval towns surrounded by vineyards. It’s a pretty dreamy getaway for Italian food and culture fans.

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