While on holiday in Thailand, why not take the opportunity to learn how to cook Thai food from the experts? The Thai cookery courses can be relatively cheap and often includes trips to the local market and a free recipe book. There are now many Thai Cooking Schools all around Thailand, though must of them are centered around tourist destinations.
The following is a list of Thai Cooking Schools in Chiang Mai. We are planning on visiting this city in late March 2006. If you run Thai cooking lessons and would like us to visit and take pictures, then please send us an email: . We will then feature your school on its own page.
* The ratings will go up and down as we research each of the schools. Five stars is the maximum. The first star means they have a website. The second star is if they send us an email. The third star is if we attend a course or want to attend. The fourth star means that we have found at least two good reviews on the internet. The fifth star means this cooking class is excellent value for money. Please note, these stars cannot be bought!
TRYING TO FIND A COOKING SCHOOL
When we reach Chiang Mai, we will be enrolling in one or two courses to test them out. At the moment we don't know which school because there are so many and they all advertise much the same course. Like other people, we will be doing our intitial research on the internet. We will visit their websites and also do searches to see if we can find reviews. Many of them encourage internet booking. Like anyone we are nervous about this as there is no saying the school has already closed down. So, we will be contacting all of the schools under a fictional name to see what kind of reply we will get. We will report all of our findings here.
UPDATES & NOTES:
10th March 2006: Today we had a letter from Keng who is the cook at My Mom's Kitchen. She apologized for the lateness of her reply which was due to the fact that she is abroad until May. She said that family members are running the school at the moment. This is a shame as I really wanted to visit Keng at her school. I liked her website.
7th March 2006: Last week we sent 15 emails to all the Chiang Mai schools listed on this page. So far we have had five quick replies and one bounce back. We will try to send them another email later this week. But honestly, if they have a website and cannot be bothered to reply then that doesn't give us much confidence in their ability to run a school. We have been impressed with the five schools that have replied to us so far. We are looking forward to visiting them later this month.
4th March 2006: Today we had two email replies from cooking schools. The first was from Air's Thai Culinary Kitchen. Air wrote the letter himself and gave us some good advice and tips for reviewing cookery schools. He said that members of the public shouldn't just look at the price of a course but also the quality and location. Some schools and cooks have unique characteristics that have been passed down from generation to generation. He has invited me to visit his school and to discuss this further. I look forward to that as the pictures in his website show that he has a beautiful herb garden.
The second letter was from Thai Farm Cooking School. The letter was written by Nathalie who is the wife of Suwat who is the main teacher at the school. I am very interested in this school as their approach seems to be different. I like the idea of having a cookery school on a farm. It is nice that it is outside the city too so that you can go there as a day trip. Nathalie has invited us to visit their farm to take pictures and gather more information.
I found this excellent advice on the Internet today written by Daniel in his UK blog. He did a course with A Lot of Thai. "Yui told us a story about how a man had booked a day's lesson with her when he
was in Bangkok. He got to Chiang Mai, asked his guesthouse if they had her phone
number around. They called Yui and informed her they expected commission for
this "connection". She pointed out she had already booked this guy, she had no intention of paying them commission... "Since then, that guesthouse has never sent anyone to me". It is a comprehensive racket. The guesthouses extract a commission from every bit of advice and help they offer, even if a traveller asks for the address of a hospital. If a product supplier (like Yui) argued against this, they could be cut off from further business and referrals.
Yui preferred to give people a discount and work directly with them, rather than both parties paying a middle man. So, if you are thinking of doing a cooking course in Chiang Mai, book direct."
This is very interesting. I am wondering that if I ask my guesthouse or a travel agent what cooking lessons they recommend, would they point me towards the one that gives the most commission? I wonder if A Lot of Thai is blacklisted for not accepting middlemen? Maybe I should try an experiment? "Excuse me, I hear wonderful things about a Lot of Thai cookery course. Can you give me their phone number please?" Will the reply be: "Oh, I am sorry, they went out of business years ago. Try this school instead, it is excellent!" Let's see.
3rd March 2006: We sent an email to all of the listed schools this morning at 9.30 a.m. We asked them to check the information on the page we had done about them and we asked if we could visit their school to take some pictures. Three of them replied before lunchtime: Gap's Thai Culinary Art, Thai Cookery School and A Lot of Thai. The letter for The Chili Club bounced back.
The person who wrote a letter to us from Gap's Thai Culinary Art was Eddie. He is the chef and also owner of the popular Gap's Guesthouse. His letter was understandably brief as I am sure he must be a busy man. He gave us a phone number to contact him when we arrive in Chiang Mai. We are pretty sure we will do that.
The second letter was from Pom who is the assistant to the owner of the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. Pom said we would be welcome to come and visit them. Pom then gave us some more information for our page on them. Apparently this is the first and most established cooking school in Chiang Mai. However, their popularity might be working against them now. What started as a family business seems to have grown into an empire. Do all cooks have personal assistants? I am intrigued to find out more about this cooking school. Maybe people would prefer to go to a cooking school that is more professionally run rather than a "family affair" in their back kitchen. Not sure. Jury is out.
The third (long) letter came from Kwan whose wife is the cook at A Lot of Thai. I liked his friendly and chatty email. He gave me a good insight into the cooking school business in Chiang Mai. He invited me again to visit his home. I will definitely be visiting their cooking school.
23rd February 2006: We have already had an email from Kwan whose wife runs the A Lot of Thai cooking school. He saw our page on his school. We were impressed with his letter and will most likely attend a cooking course at his school.
More updates soon as we try to choose which cooking school to attend.
Don't forget to visit the forums to discuss Thai food!
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