How would you go about selecting a Thailand cooking class?
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1) You should Ignore pretty, glossy websites and their related professional posed fake student pictures and check travel websites that provide reviews from students having taken a class. Then look at the number of and frequency of reviews and check out the negative reviews. Then visit website that interest you and confirm all the information you need is on the related website: the class options, the cost, the recipes of the class, how to get there instructions, nearby after class activities, reservations on line.
2) Do not ask a travel agent for recommendations as they will send you to the school paying them the highest commission not according to class quality.
3) Printed guide books are excellent to research static structures like churches or museums. But they are not current for attractions whose quality is not determined by the staff and the owners business practices as the information in printed material is often 2 years old at the time of print and cooking schools fit this second description.
Personally I would use the backpacker grapevine. Simply ask around at hostels/backpacker bars or anywhere else backpackers congregate. These people will be the ones who have probably just taken the same courses before they move on and the info will be accurate, honest, unbiased and up to date.
The grapevine may provide you with one persons view or several persons views on a one time experience then would you check a reputed travel site to see what other students have to say over a longer period of time?
Maybe. There’s nothing wrong with online review sites etc but they aren’t always the best source. Many have fake reviews, have more expensive fees to pay for advertising etc. Also remember that many of the best cooking courses are small operations run by guesthouses or restaurants that may not be online or have online reviews.
Mike, I totally agree with your statement that you have to know your on-line travel site sources. For example Happy Cow will not grant business memberships to those not retailing vegetarian/vegan foods which prevents their vegetarian/vegan following from knowing of stand alone cooking schools like Chef LeeZ who teach gourmet Thai cuisine (vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians and omnivores are in every group class) but do not retail vegetarian foods. Nor will you find Chef LeeZ on the Lonely Planet website as they do not allow reference to a competitors website and Chef LeeZ is proud of their over 260 student reviews on Trip Advisor Thailand (#1 culinary arts cooking school since 2011) and includes same in all their social network descriptions in over 200 social network memberships.
Are you aware of the controls Trip Advisor exercises on reviews to prevent owners from arranging friends reviews and preventing competitors from blasting each other?