Excerpt from the Atlanta Journal Constitution...
Vacation with a global(and tasty)twist
Growing gourmand market creates travel niche
By ELSA K. SIMCIK
For the Journal-Constitution
Culinary travels take off
Kim Tymchuk from Dacula participates in Chateau Elan's cooking class in Braselton. The resort has hosted classes for years, but now with a culinary studio, guests can book an overnight package that includes a cooking class.
Apparently lots of travelers are eating up the idea. In the past three years, 27 million travelers participated in culinary or wine-related activities while traveling, according to a survey conducted this year by the Travel Industry Association (TIA), in partnership with Gourmet and International Culinary Tourism Association.
And those are just the people who've actually walked the walk. There are plenty more — 60 percent of U.S. leisure travelers — who are interested in taking a culinary trip in the near future, the survey revealed. So it's not surprising that many travel companies have added culinary tours and more resorts are offering cooking classes or packages.
The TIA also found that the travelers were younger, more affluent and better educated than non-culinary travelers.
The Worlds of Flavor Travel Program gives food enthusiasts a chance to experience cuisines that are somewhat lesser known.
"We're also trying to preserve some of the culinary heritage that's being lost or fusioned out there," says Michael Coon, the program's travel director.
Run by the Culinary Institute of America, Worlds of Flavor is sponsored by Viking, which handles all the marketing and promotion. Since the institute is a nonprofit school, any money made from the program goes into a scholarship fund for chefs to go on the trips.
The program takes travelers to places such as Morocco, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, as well as more traditional locales like Spain, Italy and even San Francisco.
Closer to home
If you're not quite ready to travel to Paris, Venice or Thailand for your food lessons, here's an option less than an hour's drive from Atlanta.
The Chateau Elan Winery and Resort recently opened a state-of-the-art culinary studio where guests can study under top-notch chefs.
Executive Chef Marc Suennemann says of the culinary studio, "This is my new toy."
Its purpose, he says, is to make sure guests have a great experience when they come to Chateau Elan. The resort has hosted cooking classes for years, but Suennemann says they always had to improvise, holding classes in the corners of one of their seven restaurants.
Now guests can book an overnight package that includes a cooking class or simply add cooking classes to their stay.
Suennemann says, "We have a lot more equipment. We can do more intense stuff for the ones who have been to cooking classes before, but also for the ones who just started doing it, we have a little bit easier [dishes] for them to cook as well."
In the classes, guests have their own station where they prep the food they're going to cook. Suennemann says the reactions have been favorable — and not just because they each receive their very own Chateau Elan chef's hat and apron. Classes go a little bit over the allotted time because they have so much fun together, he says.
Suennemann will sometimes treat guests to cuisine from his home of Hamburg, Germany. Other international chefs showcase their talents at Chateau Elan, also teaching ethnic cooking from their home countries. It's a convenient way to get a taste of foreign flavors and cuisines without hunting down your passport.
Visit www.chateauelan.com for details.