My latest obsession while travelling is cooking classes. Here's why. Beyond sight-seeing, meeting new people, shamelessly taking free walking tours, and endless amounts of Instagram posts, one of the best parts about travel has always been the food. At the core of it, experiential travel is the fundamental shift that we're seeing which is only for the better. Don't just see, actually do! Here are my top five reasons you should don an apron and roll up your sleeves on your next trip.
Learn history and culture
At multiple levels, food is representative of a country's history and culture. The finished product is one thing but you truly get an appreciation of a certain type of cuisine when you see where the ingredients come from and how the food is prepared.
The ingredients used is indicative of how agriculture and trade has developed through the course of time. Most cooking classes, including this private cooking class in Bangkok, include a trip to the local market. This is where locals come to interact, where the freshest local produce is put on display, and also gives a true sense of how people live.
Food preparation is so different from cuisine to cuisine. In Peru, we learned that early Chinese immigrants had a major influence which is why there's the heavy use of stir fry and soy sauce. It's this type of thing that I wouldn't have made the connection if I were just eating in a Peruvian restaurant.
Learn how to eat
How to properly eat local food may not be as obvious as it sounds. How many times have you been in a restaurant in a new country and when the dish arrives, you're completely bamboozled about what to do. You start looking around and try your best to imitate what the locals are doing or you embarrassingly ask the waiter whether you're doing it right.
Something I always recommend is to take a cooking class at the beginning of your trip because it sets you up to truly appreciate all the food you'll have in the country. Through cooking classes, you'll be taught the proper way of eating the food. It could be as simple as how to use the fish sauce in Thai dishes, the fact that you're supposed to put a bit of everything in your mouth before chewing in Peruvian dishes, or
Make new friends
One of the best parts about travel is meeting new people. Let's say you're in Thailand and looking for something to do in Bangkok, I go straight to the cooking based experiences because I know that it always brings together likeminded travellers. Whether you're travelling solo or with a group, I always have a ton of fun getting to know people from all walks of life.
In a hands-on environment, there's always great conversation and laughter which creates a lasting memory. Even though the class may only be for a couple of hours, you'll make a lasting connection to last a lifetime.
Be able to ask a local
This is your chance to ask all the questions you have about food or even non-food things. Take advantage of all that knowledge from someone native to the area. Your instructor is always awesome to ask where hidden gems are in the city, local markets to check out, top restaurants, or a good place for coffee.
Be inspired to cook
Cooking isn't a lot of people's jams but even for a throw-it-on-the-grill kind of guy that I am, I always leave cooking classes incredibly excited about making your own food. Most cooking classes will give you a recipe book at the end of it which gives you everything you need to recreate the dishes at home.
The biggest part that these classes teach you is that it isn't as hard as you think it is. You get thrown into it while being guided all the way through. It's the kind of thing that spurs you to want to learn other dishes.
The best part of it all is that you take home the best souvenir you could get. It doesn't take up space like another useless t-shirt and allows you to bring it home for use for many years to come. Friends and family can get a true taste of your travels too!
There’s nothing like being thrown behind the counter to get your culinary juices flowing (even if you didn’t think you had any). Trying anything new is inspiring and can go a long way toward spurring you on to want to continue learning (or at least cooking) once you get home. You’ll feel more excited about food and the possibilities for creating dishes that remind you of your travels.
Food is the universal language a true force for creating authentic connections with a local culture and other travellers. Give cooking classes a shot on your next trip!