Look for Vacation Rentals with Chefs, But Cook Your Own Food

by Sarah G on August 31, 2010

in Destinations,Advice,Inside Inhabit,Living Like a Local,Inhabitant Travel,Mexico

I’ve stayed in quite a few vacation rentals in my day, but my two greatest vacation rental experiences EVER have been in homes that provide chefs. And it’s not because of the cooking. It’s because of the chefs themselves. Passionate about their towns, both sought to make me love them as much as they did. And they succeeded.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if you stay at a vacation rental with a chef, you’ll have a very different experience than you would have otherwise. So I urge you to investigate: once you find a worthy vacation rental, see if you have access to a private chef — at least once during your stay. (Almost) guaranteed: they’ll let you in on a few local tips and secret spots. I offer my two stories below as solid proof that this is true.

Akumal vacation rental, Mexico

The Taj Kumal pool. I want to jump in there!

Chef experience #1: the “Taj Kumal” beach vacation home in Akumal, Mexico (a tiny, road-less diving town south of Cancun). The Taj Kumal is owned by a woman whose daughter, Gina, is a professional chef. A true lover of her roots, Gina’s ultimate life goal is to introduce traditional Mayan fare to the American mainstream, a task you wouldn’t think difficult once you taste her pollo pibil or chayotes rellenos.

She was also eager to show us the real, off-the-beaten-track side of the Mayan Riviera. One day, she took us out to go snorkeling in the cenotes — freshwater sinkholes. Normally, you would have to wake up at the crack of dawn to wait your turn to play bumper-snorkel in the bigger, more crowded cenotes. But Gina took us to some smaller ones, which actually had more fish and rock formations to see. We went to one cenote that ran almost right into the sea, and didn’t see a single other person while we were there!

Cenote, Akumal, Mexico, Cancun

A cenote. Notice the lack of tourists!

She also took us to an uber-local cafe that was basically someone’s front yard that they furnished with two plastic tables and some folding chairs. (My mom was very skeptical upon arrival). But we ended up having the BEST chicken tacos I’ve ever had! Totally worth it.

Corrense, France, Provence, vacation rental

The quaint little town of Correns, France

Chef experience #2: the Barons Villa* in Correns, France (a quaint wine-producing town in Provence.)  This luxury vacation home came with a full-time charismatic chef named Reshard. Reshard had two fantastic dishes: fresh fish he caught that day, and his quiche. His quiche was close to godly, and contained some special ingredient that has made it impossible to replicate to this day.

But, once again, Reshard was more than just a chef. He loved to have a good time, and often drank wine with my family and I, and told stories that always got us laughing. He also told us how to get to the best locals-only hiking trails around Correns. (I actually found an incredibly old coin on a hike one day. Just waiting ’til Antiques Roadshow rolls through town…)

Reshard even took us out to the best spot on the river where he fished every morning. The cool thing was that he didn’t have to do this. He could have done whatever he wanted all day long! But he wanted to show us all the small wonders Correns had to offer, and it made our trip so much more meaningful.

So, by now you’ve hopefully realized that my title wasn’t serious. If you stay at a vacation rental with a chef, by all means let them cook for you! You’d have to be plain crazy not to! But also get to know your chef, pick his or her brain for local tips and secrets. Seeing your genuine interest in their town will delight them.

Have you ever stayed at a vacation rental with a chef? We’d love to hear about it! Comment below.

Correns photo by Jose Nicolas. *Unfortunately, this great villa is no longer up for rent, which is why I didn’t link to it.

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