IT'S POSSIBLE to have your cake and eat it when you sign up for a cooking school vacation. According to satisfied students, that's a tasty way to travel because you learn by doing but don't spend all your time in the kitchen.
There are dozens of cooking schools and wine academies around the world, with many located in France and Italy. They may be held in chateaus, first-class hotels, small inns or private homes. Instructors are usually experienced teachers, often award-winning chefs, and sometimes cookbook authors, and their classes are generally small. Some packages clearly emphasize cultural opportunities and nearby tourist sights. A few examples:
* The Culinary and Fine Arts Club is organizing a series of savory trips to the French Riviera this year. One program, Art et Cuisine, will be offered in March, April, October and November by Dominique Ferriere at the Chateau du Domaine Saint Martin, which sits on a hill above the Co te d'Azur.
English-speaking Ferriere, who supervises the inn's one-star kitchen, will translate for his pastry chef and conduct classes for eight to 12 "tourists/cooks." An art tour is included. The brochure notes that "if your mate hates art museums and couldn't care less about what happens in the kitchen," the hotel has a heated swimming pool and good tennis courts--and there is always the Riviera and topless sunbathers.
The club has also arranged for the doyenne of French cooking school teachers, Simone Beck, to give classes in her home above Cannes to 10 of its travelers the first week of October (Beck limits her teaching to one month a year). Students will study cuisine in the morning and have mid-day dinner on Beck's terrace. They will be housed in nearby villas.
Art et Cuisine will cost about $850 per person, double occupancy. The Simone Beck classes will be about $1,200 per person, double occupancy (prices depend on exchange rates). Both programs include six nights accommodation, one major meal daily, and instruction. Air fare is extra. See address below.
* Marcella Hazan, author of "The Classic Cook Book" and "More Classic Italian Cooking," will conduct another series of her highly rated classes in Italy. Six one-week cooking packages in Bologna, beginning April 28, will give students a hands-on knowledge of Italian gastronomy, including workshops, visits to restaurants, trips to the seashore (to watch the catch being brought in) and a vineyard tour which is part of instruction by Hazan's husband, Victor, an author and authority on Italian wine. The course offers most meals, notes Hazan, but no accommodations. Cost: $1,250 ($550 for those not attending class).
In Venice, she will give two one-week "demonstration-only" courses at the luxurious Cipriani Hotel on April 14 and Oct. 20, including a welcoming banquet, visits to markets, restaurants and vineyard. Price: $1,850 with hotel ($1,350 for trips and accommodations but no instruction). Air fare to both cities is extra. Hazan says "there are still openings."
For further information, write Hazan, P.O. Box 285, Circleville, N.Y. 10919 (914-361-3503).
* Another interesting package is "Gourmet Adventure Rome," a 9-night, 8-day tour that will feature four half-day lessons at Lo Scaldavivande (The Covered Dish) and sightseeing tours.
This school, located in a residential area on the outskirts of Rome, is owned and operated by Georgia-born Jo Bettoja and Anna Maria Cornetto, who studied under chef Ada Parsiti. Both are former models and authors of the new cookbook "Italian Cooking in the Grand Tradition" (Dial Press).
The wine notes in the book are by Angelo Bettoja, Jo Bettoja's husband and the fourth generation president of the five Bettoja Hotels of Rome. He is also a cook and gourmet restaurateur. His wine cellar in the family villa, Monte Venere, at Barbarano about 1 1/2 hours from the capital, has about 3,000 bottles. The cooking tour is booked at Bettoja's Hotel Mediterraneo and includes a wine tasting; its class graduation luncheon takes place at Monte Venere.
There are nine tours, with the first departure set for Feb. 13. Price per person, double occupancy, is $880. Air fare from New York is extra. (Pan Am package No. IT2PA1J00105.) See your travel agent.
An excellent source of information on cooking schools, wine academies and art tours is the new publication "Culinary & Fine Arts News," edited by Camille J. Cook, founder of the club. It gives a comprehensive listing of courses by countries, and features members' evaluations of classes they have attended. Cook, formerly a director of the film center at the Art Institute of Chicago, has traveled extensively.
For a sample copy of the quarterly publication ($2 postpaid--annual club membership costs $25 and includes a year's subscription), or for information on the club's own tours, write to Culinary & Fine Arts News, P.O. Box 153, Western Springs, Ill. 60558 (312-246-5845).
The International Association of Cooking Schools, 1001 Connecticut Ave. NW., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20036, will provide a list of schools in a specific U.S. or overseas area upon written request. Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
ROAD TO ADVENTURE: Whether you take the high road or the low road, adventure travel is an exciting, growing segment of the vacation business. For those intrigued by prospects like rafting a wild river, walking in the African bush on a tented safari, rediscovering the Galapagos Islands, or trekking in the Himalayas, the problem is not motivation but information. How to know which outfitters/operators offer what trips, and how to judge quality.
Certainly consulting a friend, or a good travel agent, who can recommend an outfitter from personal experience, is the best way to pick a package. But there is another route to finding the right vacation adventure. A number of publications are now available that list adventure trips. Here are three worth special mention:
* "The Adventure Book" was published last month by Simon and Schuster for Sobek's International Explorers Society. The 90-page, large paperback volume is printed on high-quality glossy white stock that permits excellent reproduction of the color illustrations.
This is an attractive worldwide directory of more than 200 "outstanding adventure travel experiences" divided by major geographic areas and arranged according to months. The book is basically a catalogue (an earlier concept had also envisioned the inclusion of travel articles about actual journeys) with brief descriptions of each trip, including the name and logo of the outfitter. It is not all-inclusive: "Only top quality, experienced outfitters specializing in the area" appear.
Since the Society is operated by Sobek's Expeditions Inc., a well-known specialist in outdoor river adventures, the book's editors have selected only those suppliers they have worked with and with whom "we are comfortable." Thus some operators' offerings have been omitted--including those designed by a major competitor, Mountain Travel, which also packages more than 200 adventures using its own outfitters. Officials of the two firms are on friendly terms, however, and Mountain Travel (which specializes in trekking) has recommended Sobek for river rafting.
Intended to sell in bookstores for $14.95, the volume seems somewhat expensive for a catalogue--perhaps in recognition of that, Sobek is now selling it by mail at $5 each. It also should be available for free perusal by clients at many travel agencies, which will find it a useful booking tool. A copy is free with Society membership, which costs $30 a year and offers a newsletter, equipment discounts and 5 percent off listed trips.
For more information, write Sobek Expeditions, Angel's Camp, Calif. 95222, or phone toll-free 800-344-3284 (except in California, Hawaii or Alaska). Mountain Travel, 1398 Solano Ave., Albany, Calif. 94706 (800-227-2384) publishes a series of five informative, full-color illustrated catalogs for which it charges $1 each to cover mailing expense. Send first for their free, eight-page schedule of trips to help you select the catalogues you want.
* Specialty Travel Index is a twice-yearly directory of special-interest travel intended primarily as a source book for travel agents. It has been sent free to agents in the past, but is now priced at $2 each. The latest edition, just published, contains more than 300 listings around the world indexed according to activity and area. Operators must pay to be included.
For a copy send $2 to Specialty Travel Index, 9 Mono Ave., Fairfax, Calif. 94930.
* "Adventure Travel," which was only a small pamphlet when Pat Dickerman began listing North American adventures more than 10 years ago, has expanded along with the industry. The 1983 edition, a 256-page illustrated paperback, will be off the press later this month and will include a selection of foreign trips for the first time.
Along with covered wagon jaunts, wilderness treks, nature explorations and other journeys in this country and Canada, the new edition will include camel touring in Australia and biking in Sri Lanka.
Dickerman, president of Adventure Guides Inc., is also the author of "Farm, Ranch & Country Vacations." Her organization will make reservations for any adventure trip listed in her book and has begun to market its own packages.
The guidebook is $8.95 in bookstores, or $10.50 by mail from Adventure Guides Inc., 36 E. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10022.
CHOCOLATE TOWN: Dieters beware! Hotel Hershey and Hershey's Chocolate World are stirring up four fattening chocolate-filled days at their first annual "Great American Chocolate Festival," Feb. 13 to 17. At Hershey, Pa., of course.
From chocolate cocktails and gala buffet with chocolate deserts next Sunday evening, to a "Candlelight and Hearts" Valentine's Day dinner Monday, to "Chocolate Breakfast Delights" on Tuesday (to give a few examples), there will be terrible temptations for chocolate lovers. They will "feast on it, smell it and learn about it." And probably dream about it.
But there will also be an opportunity to enjoy Hotel Hershey's heated indoor pool, sauna, dancing and cross-country skiing and riding.
For information on three overnight plans and one day package, contact Don Pierson, managing director, or Millie Graham, executive secretary, at the hotel, weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (717-533-2171).