Le Calabash Cooking School: A Culinary Experience Unlike Any Other
With over 30 cooking vacations to France, there's plenty to choose from when visiting the land of wine, cheese, art, and so much more. Yet, time and time again, our trip with Le Calabash cooking school is the top-requested program. One of the biggest reasons for that are the chefs, Sidney and Alison. This husband and wife team have won awards for their delicious cuisine, but still manage to make their cooking techniques accessible to all of their class participants, no matter what their skill level in the kitchen when they arrive.
From the moment you arrive, you'll be treated like family. As Richard Davis, The International Kitchen's Group and Incentive Travel Specialist, recounts from his first meeting with Sidney and Alison, "I was in France for the Rendez Vous trade show and decided it was the perfect opportunity to visit Le Calabash and meet Chefs Sidney and Alison. We had enjoyed much contact already via email and telephone calls but I had yet to meet them and visit the cooking school. As I arrived by train at St Pierre des Corps train station and walked to the end of the platform there was Sidney with a big smile and warm handshake. I felt immediately comfortable with him and his easy manner. I am sure all our clients feel the same!
"After the short transfer we arrived and I met Sidney’s lovely wife and partner, Alison. Again, it was like being with family. Over the next 2 days we cooked and ate and drank, just as lucky clients get to do when they are with Sidney and Alison. They took me around the area to see some of the excursions included in our cooking program and I could not have been more pleased. A lovely area, a great itinerary and delightful hosts make our program at Le Calabash a must for everyone’s bucket list!"
While the chefs are a key part of this trip, so too is the food. Chefs Sidney and Alison don't always make your traditional French dishes. In fact, their philosophy is 'Balade Gormande sans Frontière' -- or 'cooking without boundaries.' It's with this philosophy in mind that they don't just offer one itinerary for our clients. Here, in no particular order, are just some of the different trips that Le Calabash currently offers:
A Chateau Culinary Adventure at Le Calabash
While this six-night program may be considered our "general" program, there's nothing "general" about this special trip. Stay in either a luxurious chateau or a charming relais in the heart of the Loire Valley, a region in France known for its bread, chateaux, goat cheese, and wine. When not cooking in their recently renovated kitchen, you'll explore the area, picnic next to a local river, and visit the infamous Chateau Chenonceau, among other activities.
When it comes to desserts and pastries, Chef Alison is in charge. She trained both at a college in London as well as the kitchens of Harrods of London and Selsdon Park Hotel. In her classes, she starts with the basics of pastry -- as that's a must with any dessert cooking class -- and teaches students how to master a wide variety of desserts, from macarons and parfaits to Tanzanian chocolate tartes and so much more. If you have a sweet tooth, this is the culinary vacation for you. Currently available weeks: November 23-29, 2014; March 15-21, 2015.
Christmas Cookery Adventure
Le Calabash offers our only Christmas itinerary. The trip begins in the Loire Valley with classes focusing on holiday dishes, such as guinea fowl with seasonal stuffing and Christmas berry ice cream. Guests will also do some sightseeing, including a visit to the Chateau Chenonceau, where, during the holiday season, there’s a Christmas tree in every room. Next, it's on to Paris for some time to explore the city's holiday markets and "snow villages." Currently available weeks: December 13-20, 2014; December 6-15, 2015.
South Africa: Cape Town and Namibia
Stay in luxury accommodations and cross an African safari off your bucket list with this very special trip. Not only did Chef Sidney grow up on the plans of Zululand, but both him and Alison worked in South Africa for a time, including at the famed Zevenwacht wine estate. In addition to a mini safari at Daan Viljoen, you'll go on a game drive and wildlife safaris at Etosha National Park, one of the finest game reserves in the world. 2014 dates are sold out. Currently available weeks: February 24 - March 5 (5 spots left), October 20-29, and November 1-10, 2015.
Women Only Weeks
The International Kitchen offers just a few women only week (WOW) options, and Le Calabash is one of those locations. Bring old friends, and make some new ones, as you explore the Loire Valley with Chefs Sidney and Alison. Of course, a women-only vacation wouldn't be complete without a trip to the spa! Currently available weeks: September 21-27, 2014 (1 spot left); October 4-10, 2015.
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For updates on Le Calabash Cooking School's available tour dates, along with new itineraries -- such as a truffle week and a trip to Israel -- be sure to visit their program page.
By Liz Hall