For something different on your next visit and an activity you can share with the whole family, why not spend the day with a local chef to learn the secrets of the Mexican kitchen? Thomas More Travel offers a culinary experience that gives you the opportunity to take a class, learn about the rich flavors and fascinating history of Mexican cuisine and then dine on the fruits of your labor. You’ll soon see why UNESCO declared Mexican cuisine World Heritage in the category reserved for culture and traditions in November 2010.

Chef Claudia Garcia and her husband run Can Cook in Cancun Mi Cocina es Tu Cocina Cooking School (My Kitchen is Your Kitchen) in the Alamos neighborhood on the outskirts of Cancun. With over 25 years of experience as a chef, Claudia is a fine teacher, sharing her passion for Mexico and her knowledge of its diverse regional cuisines with pupils.

After a getting to know you session on the terrace over coffee and homemade pastries, the class begins with an explanation of the staple ingredients in the Mexican kitchen: corn, beans, tomatoes, avocados and the ubiquitous chili.

The first part of the lesson is to prepare three different sauces ranging from mildly spicy to medium hot and fiery in flavor. The secret of traditional sauce making is the volcanic stone molcajete or mortar and pestle, which is used to grind the chilies and other ingredients.

Then it’s down to the serious business of making tortillas and watching Claudia as she cooks and reveals the secrets of Mexican cuisine. The dishes prepared during the morning include antojitos or traditional snacks, guacamole, refreshing fruit drinks, soup, the main course, side dishes and a dessert from one of the five gastronomic regions into which Claudia divides the country: the North, Mexico City, Central Mexico, the Coasts and the Southeast.

Finally, when everything is ready, it’s time to sit down on the terrace with Claudia and Lorenzo, enjoy the meal and chat about Mexico.

Another popular option is the Little Mexican Cooking School in Puerto Morelos, where your hosts Australian-born Catriona Brown and Mexican Chef Cristobal Tamariz will welcome you for a fun-filled hands-on cooking class in the kitchen that will have you preparing between seven and eight dishes during the morning followed by a delicious lunch and traditional Mexican drinks.

Chef Cristobal goes even further to explain the sheer diversity of Mexican cuisine. He divides Mexico into seven gastronomic regions and showcases a selection of dishes from each area, giving students a wealth of information about traditions in the area.

Also in the Puerto Morelos area is Mexico Lindo Cooking School, located in a bright yellow casita at km 6.2 on the Ruta de los Cenotes highway. The house is surrounded by an organic garden and continental breakfast and lunch after the class are served on the Mayan terrace overlooking the jungle.

If you are planning a trip to Merida, you may want to consider classes at Los Dos Cooking School, where chef David Sterling will introduce you to the complex flavors of Yucatecan cuisine.

Chef Sterling’s classes include an overview of the staple ingredients, herbs and spices, a visit to the local market to shop for recados or spice mixes used to marinate pork, poultry and fish, and fresh fruit and vegetables that you’ll be preparing during the session in the Talavera-tiled kitchen. After the class, lunch is served in the dining room of Chef Sterling’s beautifully restored colonial home.

Chef Sterling is an expert on Yucatecan cuisine and traditional Mayan cooking techniques and won the 2015 James Beard Foundation award for his book Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition.

Los Dos offers several one-day class options and three-day and one-week culinary experiences that include excursions to archaeological sites, colonial towns and Mayan communities, all from a food angle. There’s even a chocolate workshop to introduce you to the fascinating world of cacao and its place in ancient Mayan culture. This day trip includes a visit to a cacao plantation and chocolate museum, a tour of Uxmal archaeological site and a traditional lunch.

For more information on all these trip options contact Cooking school “graduates” typically receive a CD or printed booklet with the recipes and a souvenir apron at the end of the class. All three cooking schools have small shops stocking Mexican spices, sauces, preserves, organic honey and coffee.