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A pick of the globe's best cooking schools

Head to France, India, Mexico and more to update your culinary skills

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Julia Child described her first Parisian meal to theNew York Times as ‘an opening up of the soul and spirit’.
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le Cordon Bleu, Paris, France

Legendary American cook, Julia Child (you may best know her through Meryl Streep's portrayal in Julie & Julia), developed her love for French food at this world-famous school when she moved to Paris in 1949. Describing her first Parisian meal to the New York Times as "an opening up of the soul and spirit", it was here that she learnt the tools of the trade. And you too can learn the rudiments of the cuisine, as Le Cordon Bleu offers a host of classes which range from a few hours to a few days (as well as diplomas), covering everything from the secrets of a good macaroon to how to make the all-important range of French sauces. Top of our list is the day-long market tour, where you pick your own ingredients, and then head back to the school to cook. We're also taken with the French regional cuisine course, which, over two days, teaches you how to distinguish, work with and blend the flavours of Provence, Normandy, Alsace and Burgundy.
Details The full-day market tour and class costs Dh650 and the two-day French regional cuisine course costs Dh2,400 - both run throughout the year | www.cordonbleu.edu

Lahcen's Moroccan Cooking, Fes, Morocco

Tagines, couscous and the comforting, warm, meat and lentil soup called harira, Moroccan food, with its history of stews and use of sweet, sticky fruit for flavour, has developed - with Arab, African and Mediterranean influences - into a distinct and diverse entity. Head to Fes, which is home to the largest medieval Islamic city in the world, and is, as many Moroccans will tell you, the country's heartbeat, and learn about the food from Lahcen, a Berber from the Atlas mountains who's a fantastic chef and an excellent teacher who speaks both English and Arabic. Go for a one-day course and he will take you to the overwhelming Fes Medina open-air market to pick up your ingredients, before heading back to Dar El-Hana, a restored traditional home, to cook up a feast (his fish tagine is legendary) before you sit down to enjoy the flavours. You'll also be encouraged to eat à la Marocaine and use your right hand and bread instead of a knife and fork.
Details The full-day course costs Dh240 for one person. They also offer a seven-day all-inclusive culinary tour with accommodation in a gorgeous riad for Dh6,500 | +212 615 866 144 | www.fescooking.com  

Red Bridge Cooking School, Hoi An, Vietnam

With a focus on herbs such as mint, coriander and lemongrass, and a distinct lack of oil or anything bad for you in fact, Vietnamese cooking is widely considered to be among the healthiest and most aromatic in the world. Anyone who's ever bitten into a soft, fresh rice roll will know what we're talking about, so, if you want to learn more about the cuisine, Red Bridge cooking school in Hoi An should be your first port of call. To begin with, the riverside heritage city of Hoi An oozes with history, and the artfully crumbling Old Town is closed to cars, making this a gorgeous place to meander. The full-day cooking class starts with a visit to some small organic farms where you'll pick fresh coriander and Vietnamese mint, before you hit a market to buy ingredients like star anise and banana flower. Once at the open-air restaurant the talented chef will help you to whip up four classic dishes - including Lemongrass shrimp in banana leaves and Pho, or aromatic and moreish Beef noodle soup (don't worry, vegetarians are catered for too). After you've sampled your new cooking style you can lounge by the restaurant's gorgeous 20-metre pool before catching a boat along the river back to Hoi An town.
Details 8am-3pm course from Dh147 | +84 510 3933 222 | www.visithoian.com/redbridge

Seasons of My Heart, Oaxaca, Mexico

This colourful city is as close to a brightly coloured Frida Kahlo painting as you'll find in real life - with a tree-shaded central square, beautiful crafts and an easy, southern pace, it's one of the hottest spots to visit in Mexico. Latin American food is a major trend this year, and the cuisine of Oaxaca is characterised by its use of corn and chocolate as staples (yum!), and for the seven common chilli pepper sauces or ‘moles'. Firey! Chef, author and TV host Susana Trilling, who was born in the USA but has lived in Mexico for over a decade, runs a successful cooking school from her beautiful ranch that's one of the best in town. Try the Wednesday market course and you'll begin by exploring the Etla market and then heading to the traditional ranch for a presentation on Oaxaca cuisine and the chance to cook, and eat, a five-course meal in her colourful Mexican kitchen. You'll leave being able to tell your tamale from your tortilla, and you may even get to try the Oaxacan delicacy of fried grasshopper. Erm...

Details 9am-6pm course Dh275, week-long courses are also on offer from Dh4,500 including accommodation, tours and three meals a day | +52 1 951 508 0469 | www.seasonsofmyheart.com

Nimmy Paul's Cooking School, Kochi, Kerala, India

Southern Indian cuisine is characterised by its use of seafood, coconut milk and chillies - and despite boasting some of the most delectable dishes on the subcontinent, good courses on how to cook the food are hard to come by. That's where Nimmy Paul and her Kochi school come in - she takes food seriously and will teach you the techniques that have been passed down to her from her grandmother. With Kochi being a coastal town, seafood abounds and you'll most certainly cook with it when visiting Mrs Paul - her famous Coconut curry fish molee is lip-smacking. Her home kitchen and outdoor cooking annex are more homely than slick and sleek, but her passion is infectious and her curries truly aromatic.

Details There's no formal schedule, contact them to work out a time that suits you, full-day courses start from around Dh400 | +91 484 231 4293 | www.nimmypaul.com

Secret Garden, Positano, Italy

The pastel houses perched precariously on the cliffs, sea the colour of Kate Middleton's sapphire engagement ring and gorgeous restaurants dotted along the waterfront make this seaside town something to be savoured. The regional cuisine is among the best in a country famous for the quality of its food, focusing on fresh, vibrant vegetables, homemade pastas, buffalo mozzarella and touches of Greek and Arabic influence. Head here with reputable company, Cooking Vacations, and get seven nights accommodation (sea views guaranteed) and a whole week of activities, including three hands-on cooking courses, one chef's tasting menu, a mozzarella-making demonstration and private trips to Amalfi and Ravello.

Details The eight-day, seven- night all-inclusive course costs from Dh11,000; they also offer single-day courses, including one that focuses on fish for Dh975 | + 617 247 4112 | www.cooking-vacations.com

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