DC Chefs Are Doubling as Vacation Tour Guides

Do you plan travel around food? These toques will take you to Lake Como, Marrakesh, and beyond.

Centrolina chef Amy Brandwein presides over dinner at a private palazzo in Umbria. Photograph courtesy of Amy Brandwein.

Traveling with a chef is like getting a backstage pass to the culinary world. While it’s not cheap, having a toque as your tour guide can grant access to hard-to-get gastronomic experiences, introduce you to other big-name chefs, and of course, feature unforgettable meals. Want a taste? Here are three forthcoming expeditions.

Culinary guide: Amy Brandwein of CityCenterDC Italian restaurants Centrolina and Piccolina.

Where you’ll go : Calabria in southwestern Italy—a.k.a. the “toe of the boot,” where rugged coastlines punctuated by sunny beaches contrast with the Apennine mountain backdrop.

What you’ll get: The cuisine is rich with fresh-caught seafood, locally grown bergamot, and fiery Calabrian chilies. Brandwein’s itinerary features behind-the-scenes visits to some of the purveyors and vineyards she showcases at her restaurants; cooking classes; and meals at Michelin-star restaurants as well as hidden gems.

When: May 1 to 8.

Cost: $7,500 per person, $13,000 per couple (airfare not included). Sign up for the restaurant’s mailing list at to receive details.

Culinary guides: Matteo Venini and Antonio Matarazzo of Stellina, the neo-Neapolitan pizza shops in DC and Virginia.

Where you’ll go: They’re hosting two separate trips to Italy. Venini will lead one to his native Lake Como, while Matarazzo is bringing guests to the Amalfi Coast, where he grew up.

What you’ll get: With Venini, guests will take boat rides on Lake Como, sip aperitivi at a family chalet with breath-taking views, and visit the Moto Guzzi motorcycle factory. Matarazzo’s trip includes a catamaran ride to the island of Capri, a buffalo-mozzarella-­making class, and a visit to the famed Fiorentino vineyard.

When: Lake Como, July 13 to 20. Amalfi Coast, July 27 to August 3.

Cost: About $6,000 per person per trip (airfare not included). Email ciao@­ to reserve a space.

Culinary guide: Jon Krinn, former chef/owner of Clarity in Vienna—now an independent chef-consultant—and his wife, yoga instructor Antonia Le.

Where you’ll go: Marrakesh, Morocco—Krinn hopes the trip will help bolster the local economy in the aftermath of this year’s earthquake.

What you’ll get: Market visits, cooking classes, and sumptuous meals—prepared by Krinn, former Bad Saint chef Tom Cunanan, and a regional chef—plus twice-­daily yoga sessions. Between noshing and tree poses, there will be an outing to the High Atlas Mountains and a desert camel ride.

When: September 22 to 29.

Cost: $6,000 a person (airfare not included). Go to to book.

This article appears in the November 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

Parenting writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Saveur, Men’s Journal, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Runner’s World, and many other publications. He is author of eight books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery, and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with his wife and their six-year-old son, who already runs faster than he does.