I've known Arlene Feltman for 20 or so years, from back when she owned and ran Degustibus Cooking School at Macy's in New York. All the top chefs taught there--it was foodie central. Arlene sold the school a few years ago and then quickly hung out her new shingle, leading food and wine trips to some the best culinary destinations in the world. Traveling with Arlene you get the benefit not only of her vast culinary experience but also her amazing network of contacts, which includes some of the biggest names in the biz.
But wait, there's more: Arlene's husband (and frequent travel companion) is the adorable French chef Alain Sailhac, executive VP and dean emeritus of the French Culinary Institute in New York. He's a Maitre Cuisinier de France and the first chef to ever earn a four-star review from the New York Times. He was, at various times, the chef at Le Cirque, The 21 Club and The Plaza.
Arlene and Alain are foodie royalty. So when Arlene tells me about an upcoming trip, I'm all ears. But the one she wrote me about the other day really caught my attention, because not only is it a total food- and wine-drenched, creme de la creme, insiders escapade in one of my favorite cities, it's designed to let you go behind the scenes at one of the world's top culinary events: the Bocuse d'Or. This prestigious international competition, with participants from 24 countries, was created by the legendary chef Paul Bocuse and is regarded as the Olympics of cooking. It takes place every other year in Lyon, a city known as paradise for foodies.
The trip dates are January 19 to 27th, 2011. Your home for the eight-night stay, including breakfast, will be the Villa Florentine, a Relais & Châteaux hotel with stunning views over the city of Lyon.
The program begins with an insiders' tour of the city, stopping in at some of Lyon’s greatest cultural, historic, artistic and culinary spots. Also included will be private tours of the wineries of lower Burgundy, Beaujolais and Tain L’Hermitage, just beyond the city.
The last two days will focus on the Bocuse d’Or, held within the context of SIRHA, Lyon’s well-known culinary trade fair. The group will have VIP stadium access to cheer on Team USA, comprised of chefs James Kent and Tom Allan (of restaurant Eleven Madison Park in New York). For more info on the team and their activities, click here.
The itinerary includes a variety of meals including dinner at the Michelin two-star La Mere Brazier, visits to some of the best bouchons (as Lyonnais bistros are known) and dinner at the Michelin three-star Paul Bocuse.
One day the group will journey to meet selected artisans, all members Comité Bellecour. You'll have a rare opportunity to meet the makers of fine silk fabrics, furniture, lighting and iron work and tour their ateliers. Lunch that day will be at the famous patisserie, café and restaurant, Bernachon. Paul Bocuse’s daughter is married to the owner's son and she'll greet the group and lead a tour of the chocolate-making facilities--with tasting of course.
Other trip highlights include a visit to the Valrhona Chocolate School and factory (for an in depth tasting), the Les Halles Market (second only to Paris), a cooking class, and a private lunch and tasting with Guillaume de Castenau, proprietor of the winery Louis Jadot. Over cocktails, you'll have the chance to mingle with Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Jerome Bocuse and other top U.S.-based chefs involved with the Bocuse d'Or.
The fee for the trip is $7,000 per person, which includes all meals, wine, local transport, admissions, fees and tips. It does not include travel to and from Lyon. A portion of the fee goes to the Bocuse d'Or Foundation Scholarship Fund and is therefore tax deductible.
If I could afford it, I'd sign up for this one quicker than you can say choucroute.
For more info, contact Arlene in New York at email@example.com or 212-439-1714.
Photos: Where you’ll go; who you’ll go there with.