Cooking School Vacations and Cooking Classes: Who We Are
The leading provider of cooking vacations since 1994

Meet the Team

Richard Davis – President, Co-Owner

Richard started at The International Kitchen as our Group and Incentive Travel Specialist, and took on the role of President and co-owner in October of 2015. He brings many years of experience to the position, in sales for Alitalia Airlines, with a large Midwest tour operator specializing in Italy and Europe, and working for The International Kitchen. He discovered his love for Europe and travel with his first French class in high school. This blossomed into a love of French and Italian history, about which he is very knowledgeable, along with an associate degree in the liberal arts. Over the years, Richard has also developed an interest in cooking, and particularly baking which he claims to be extremely therapeutic! He has an easy and open manner, a quick sense of humor and is always on hand to give any assistance. We are delighted to have him at the helm!

"After 28 years in the airline and travel industry I had the opportunity to come to The International Kitchen, and I was thrilled to make the move. I am proud to work at The International Kitchen. I have a product I am proud to sell supported by stellar customer service unrivaled – in my opinion – in the travel industry. I’m one of those lucky people who enjoy coming to work every day!"

Richard's Favorite Travel Memory: Driving through the Loire with my parents & stopping in a small town on market day. My mother picked up a celery that was 2-3 feet long – almost half as tall as she was!

Richard's Favorite Trip: A Food Lover's Paradise in Norcia

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Peg Kern – Vice President, Co-Owner

Margaret (Peg) Kern is a native of Ohio who received her BA in Italian from Columbia University and her MA and Ph.D. in Italian Literature from the University of Chicago. She joined TIK in 2004, took some time off to raise her two sons, and took on the office of Vice President and co-owner of the company in 2015. She enjoys an obvious love for Italy, especially Rome, but enjoys traveling pretty much anywhere and has loved infecting her young children with the travel bug. She is a passionate foodie and bread baker as well, and would be happy to help you plan your trip!

"When I decided to leave academia I knew my ideal job would be something combining my love for Italy, food, and travel. I didn't know culinary travel existed back then, and it was a wonderful surprise when I discovered a job posting by The International Kitchen. I was so excited I called my husband at work and told him I had to have that job!"

Peg's Favorite Travel Memory: Diving for sea urchin in the sea off the Sardinian coast, and eating them there on the rocks accompanied by some white wine, bread, and the salt spray of the waves.

Peg's Favorite Trip: Delectable Portugal in Historic Evora

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Adrian Hall –  Director of Business Development

A St. Louis native and Washington University in St. Louis alum, Adrian moved to Chicago in 2005 to pursue graduate studies in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. After completing his MA, he began a stint as a Writing Instructor to University of Chicago freshman and as a Mentor to graduate students in the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities. A 2007 trip to Thailand, however, inspired Adrian to leave academia for the wide world of travel. He has since had the good fortune to travel extensively in Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America. In fact, Adrian liked South America so much on his first visit there in 2009 that he decided to move there the following year. From late 2010 to 2012, he lived and worked in Buenos Aires, using the cosmopolitan Argentine capital as a base to discover more of South America.

Back home in Chicago, Adrian enjoys exploring the city's diverse neighborhoods, its many vintage shops, and of course its incredible food scene. He has a particular fondness for Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian, and Japanese food, along with a newfound interest in Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine -- especially Mediterranean seafood, with its emphasis on simple ingredients and fresh, seasonal catches.

Adrian has a genuine love of travel and appreciation for the unique experiences that only immersion in foreign countries and cultures can provide. He also has plenty of first-hand knowledge of what makes for a truly memorable trip. He would be happy to speak with you about your travel plans and help ensure that your culinary vacation with The International Kitchen exceeds your wildest imagination.

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Darlene Pereda –  Marketing and Communications

Darlene has a master’s degree in International Public Service with a concentration in nonprofit management from DePaul University. Building on her undergraduate work, her graduate degree has helped her acquire a deeper understanding of international development and global humanitarian affairs, as well as taught her essential competencies and skills for managing international projects.

Beyond her professional interests, she is also very passionate about animal welfare and animal rights both in the US and abroad. She is also an avid traveler who, so far, has visited Turkey, Greece, Italy, Croatia, France, Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Colombia, Peru, the UK, Netherlands and Czech Republic. She believes travel helps broaden the mind and make us more empathetic, understanding world citizens.

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Karen Herbst – Founder

Karen Herbst was for many years a research editor for Playboy Magazine, followed by a stint as a producer and director for five talk shows at CBS radio. She then left the full-time work force to raise her family of three sons. Upon her return in 1983, she chose to enter the travel industry, where she specialized in small group travel to Italy and France. In 1994 she decided to combine her travel experience with her lifelong passion for food and wine to create the The International Kitchen. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Italian Travel Promotional Council, a non-profit organization working in conjunction with the Italian Government Tourist Office, as well as a member of the Slow Food Organization and the James Beard Foundation. In 2004 Karen was the honored recipient of the La Medaille d'Argent du Tourisme, the French Silver Medal of Tourism awarded by the French government. In 2008 The International Kitchen was given the coveted award of "Best Special Interest Product" by the French Government Tourist Office. Karen retired in 2015, but still leads the occasional group for TIK!

Sharon Kurth – Financial Manager

Sharon brings extensive financial expertise that she has gathered through over 30 years of her accounting career. She is delighted to be a part of The International Kitchen, as it reflects her love of travel, art, multi-cultural interests, and did we mention the wonderful food? Sharon's upbeat spirit and contagious laughter is greatly appreciated by the rest of the office. Currently her favorite cities are Florence and Sant' Agata sui Due Golfi, where she toured with The International Kitchen staff. But what does Sharon love more than art, travel and food? Her beautiful granddaughter, with whom she spends as much time as possible! And if being a grandmother didn't keep her busy enough, Sharon is also the Oak Park/Near West Suburbs Chapter Coordinator for Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides blankets and afghans to comfort children in need.

Leonardo Balli

An avid traveller, Leonardo Balli has explored countries across the globe but always returns happily to his hometown of Florence, Italy. Leonardo has been involved in different aspects of the travel industry since attending a special Italian High School for Tourism. He lived in London for a number of his formative years and has worked in all aspects of hotel and resort management – from porter, part of a summer animation team, to Director. For an Italian tour operator he has led small and large groups abroad and even managed summer operations on the island of Crete. He has been owner and director of this own tour company since 1995 and is proud to be a close collaborator with The International Kitchen since its inception. Leonardo works to ensure top quality, control, service and of course cuisine (!) for all International Kitchen programming in Tuscany. When not traveling Leonardo enjoys spending time with his daughter Olympia, going to the movies and listening to music from his wonderful terrace overlooking the Tuscan hills. His favorite city (other than Florence)? London. A destination he still has yet to visit ? Chile.

Eleonora Bugetti

Ele was born and raised in the countryside outside of Florence, where she still lives with her family. Her passion for local traditions and interest in tracing her ancestors' biographies are part of her everyday life: she is currently working on a special degree on the History of Tuscany at Florence University. As well, she works for the Essence of Italy office (The International Kitchen's local representative and office in Florence), where she takes an active part in creating our cooking packages. Ele is also an accomplished singer and songwriter! She hopes to have the opportunity to help people understand that Tuscany is something more than a tourist destination: each town has an own story to tell through its art, its food, its inhabitants. Through her work she hopes to provide you with the essential instruments to be a good listener to these stories: you don't need anything more!!