What if you could eat at Skillet, but it was in Provence?
Josh Henderson, founder and executive chef of the Huxley Wallace Collective, is teaming up with his partner, Kim Johnson, to launch travel a new company K + J Retreats. The goal: blur the line between taking a vacation and taking cooking classes.
Henderson and Johnson will lead trips for 10 to 12 guests to places like Provence, Denmark, or Japan. At private accommodations (think villas), guests can choose whether to, say, sit by the pool and be served roasted lamb or put on an apron and learn how to cook it themselves. The goal is always relaxation.
“We’ve been on trips like this before and it felt very regimented and almost tiring because the schedule was so rigorous,” Henderson says. “By the end of the trip, most people felt like they needed a vacation and that’s not the point of it. It’s supposed to be about enjoying food in an incredible location.”
Trips will also include picnics in the surrounding countryside or walks through local marketplaces. Henderson knows that he and his crew aren't always experts at traditional dishes, so he plans to turn to “local grandmas” for guidance. Collaborations with local winemakers, cheese makers, or nearby chefs will also be on the itinerary. And dining out? Obviously restaurants will highlight the regional cuisine.
“For me, personally, I’d rather go to some small bistro that serves local, country-style peasant food than tweezer food at Michelin Star restaurants,” Henderson says. “It should be about cooking and the food in the region and I’m not sure that’s always going to be represented by going to a two-or three-star Michelin restaurant.”
The company’s first retreat is in May: a five-day getaway to a villa in the Luberon region of Provence, France, a two-hour drive to the Mediterranean Sea. Next Henderson will head to Morocco and Argentina, then possibly Southeast Asia, Denmark, Japan, Croatia, and even somewhere in the United States.
“Everybody travels with different expectations in their minds and what it is that they’re looking forward to,” Henderson says. “Someone might be looking forward to learning how to cook and walk the markets and dive deep into cooking, but someone else might want to eat and relax and have amazing food in a new culture.”
Update 3/29/17: Josh Henderson's representative reports that he'll no longer be a part of the travel endeavor, renamed KJ Retreats and run solely by Kim Johnson.