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L’Ecole de la Maison at the Osthoff Resort

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

At the Osthoff Resort on picturesque Elkhart Lake, the L’Ecole de la Maison offers hands-on culinary classes. Besides an excellent culinary experience, the resort’s shoreline setting boasts meticulously maintained gardens, lake-view porches and plenty of water sports. German entrepreneur Otto Osthoff and his wife, Paulina, first welcomed guests who traveled north by rail to this spring-fed lake, still one of the purest in Wisconsin.

“Groups will find that our interactive culinary classes challenge them both individually and to work together,” said Jamie Skelton, marketing manager at the Osthoff. “Chef Benjamin Sommerfeldt, who is the chef de cuisine and sous chef of our premier restaurant, Lola’s on the Lake, is very entertaining as he leads each class and interacts with the participants.”

Gathering in the banquet room, groups of 17 to 100 can prepare European small-plate appetizers or a four-course dinner and then feast on the fruits of their effort. Smaller groups of eight to 16 head to the state-of-the-art kitchen, where the focus is on themes such as egg dishes, Wisconsin-focused cookery, wellness, an introduction to homemade pasta and European culinary techniques. Much of the produce and many of the herbs supplied to the classes come from the resort’s large garden. Meats and cheeses are locally sourced. Each participant receives a packet of the recipes to take home.

Two team-building competitions are offered for groups of 20 to 200 guests: the Osthoff Food Truck Challenge and Dec-A-Cake. During the food truck challenge, teams create a food theme, a logo and a slogan before preparing a signature soup and sandwich. Similarly, Dec-A-Cake asks groups to design a logo and a slogan for their “bakery” before each team decorates a prebaked cake.

New York Wine and Culinary Center

Canandaigua, New York

Upstate New York Wine and Culinary Center isn’t merely a restaurant, a purveyor of wines or a place to take learn new culinary skills; it’s all three rolled into one. The setting itself is worth the visit. On Canandaigua Lake, the center features an outdoor deck that overlooks the rolling countryside, and the menu at its Upstairs Bistro pairs New York vintages with innovative cuisine.

Reinforced by wood beams recycled from former wineries and local barns, the soaring entry leads to a publike tasting room where wine, beer and spirit flights change seasonally and state-of-the-art culinary classrooms promise tantalizing menus. The center features more than 250 state wineries, and the surrounding Finger Lakes region is a wine enthusiast’s mecca.

Led by the executive chef, classes range from basic knife skills to the Chef’s Table, where 24 participants prepare and dine on a complete menu. Next door, the Wine Spectator Theater seats 55 guests and focuses on beverage education led by a certified sommelier. Classes are often paired with food with the demonstration-style presentation. Participants leave with all the recipes, plus inspiration for their own kitchen.

“Smaller groups can take a two-and-a-half-hour, hands-on class, while larger groups will be accommodated in the Wine Spectator Theater,” said Mandy Hagadorn, public events coordinator and sponsorship director for the center. “Our Finger Lakes package starts out with a New York wine flight tasting led by a certified sommelier followed by a lunch or dinner. For dessert, typically the apple tart tatin, the chef comes out and demos the recipe before it’s served.”

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.