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Head on an overseas culinary tour with chefs

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More and more local chefs are making like Anthony Bourdain and stepping away from the stove in search of overseas adventure and good food.

And like the former New York chef turned TV tour guide, they are joining organized food tours as expert guests, teachers and guides.

Culinary tourism is an exploding segment of the travel market, with more than 39 million leisure travelers deliberately setting out on trips designed around food-related experiences, according to the World Food Travel Association.

Culinary travel can range from cooking classes and dining to insider street food and visits to artisan producers.

"For me, travel is all about the food," said John McReynolds, executive chef at Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma. "The most complete expression of a culture is through its food."

McReynolds is guest host for a Moroccan Cooking Tour in September organized by Access Trips in the U.K. He will be not so much a guide as a fellow traveler bringing his enthusiasm and expertise to the discovery experience. In January, he taught cooking classes on a tour of the Caribbean aboard a ship equipped with a state of the art culinary center sponsored by Bon Appetit Magazine.

Donna del Rey, owner of Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg, is down for a foodies tour of Umbria in April and of the Terra Madre Slow Food conference in Torino this fall.

And in June, Sonoma County restaurateurs Mark and Terry Stark and vintners Adam and Dianne Lee of Siduri Wines headline an Oceania Cruise of the Mediterranean area organized by Larry Martin's Food and Wine Trails Epicurean Tours, based in Santa Rosa.

Martin, who Conde Nast Traveler crowned the "World's Best Wine Travel Specialist" in 2009-11, has a whole stable of local chefs, winemakers and restaurateurs to tap for tours to top food and wine destinations in Europe and Down Under.


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