Since the 1930s, when the Instituto Allende art school was founded by Stirling Dickinson, San Miguel de Allende has been a popular retreat for artists, poets, writers, and American ex-pats. As you wander the cobblestone streets, you’ll hear as much English spoken here as Spanish. In fact, the Spanish you hear may be coming from Americans in San Miguel to learn Spanish.
The mile-high city is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains, and it enjoys a wonderful climate all year long. Much of the city’s architecture dates from the 18th century, and many of the old buildings now house charming galleries, restaurants, and boutiques.
In addition to art and language lessons, San Miguel is noted for its cooking classes. This is one of the best places in Mexico to learn Mexican cooking. And if you’ll be in town for more than a couple days, plan to spend at least half a day learning the secrets of charring chilies, grinding spices, and mixing up a mole.
The best Mexican cooking schools.
La Cocina Cooking School was opened by Kris Rudolph, who owns the popular El Buen Café. She is also the author of Mexican Light: Healthy Cuisine for Today’s Cook. La Cocina offers a variety of classes at their facility in Colonia San Antonio. Kris teaches several times a week and also brings in guest chefs who teach their specialty.
The Thursday afternoon class focuses on traditional Mexican cooking. Students learn to make enchiladas, chile rellenos, pork loin, beef tips, several salsas and sauces include mole, and desserts like tres leches and flan. Dinner — with margaritas — is served at the end of the class.
On Friday mornings, the group travels to a colorful local market to select vegetables and spices for making fresh salsas. The three-hour class includes lunch. Natural Healthy Mexican Cuisine and Modern Mexican Fusion are available on alternating Tuesdays. The Art of Chiles Rellenos, Fine Mexican Dining, and Moles and Adobados are available on Wednesdays.
Classes at La Cocina cost between $45 and $55 and include lunch or dinner.
Marilau Ricaud teaches recipes that have been handed down in her family for generations at the CociMari Cooking School. She offers everything from four-day workshops to half-day classes, and she’ll customize lessons for individuals or groups. So if you want to learn to cook something special, just let her know in advance.
Classes — which have a maximum of 5 to 10 students — are available for salsas, adobos or marinades, pumpkin seed pipianes, moles, tamales, Yucatan cooking, techniques, and more. Demonstration classes are $65 per person. Hand-on classes, which are limited to five participants, are $99. Non-cooking family and friends can enjoy the group meal for a small fee.
Patsy Dubois first came to San Miguel 40 years ago to study art. After coming to get her Masters Degree, she never returned. She teaches one to three-day classes in the hacienda-style kitchen of her home in the country outside of San Miguel where she grows most of the vegetables used in her classes. On Sundays, she creates a multiple-course Mexican feast that’s served in her kitchen or on the veranda surrounded by her beautiful gardens.
Casa de Sierra Nevada is an Orient Express hotel in San Miguel. Their Sazon Cookery School is in an 18th-century home in the heart of San Miguel. Classes are taught by the chefs from their award-winning restaurants. They cover Mexican specialties, regional cuisines, and seasonal ingredients. And some include a tour of the San Miguel market.