About Kathy

About Chef Kathy

Hi, I’m Chef Kathy, the owner of Food Lover’s Odyssey Vacations.

A Little about me…
I received formal training as a chef in both pastry and savory arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. From there I worked in patisseries, pastry kitchens and cooking schools in Paris, Napa Valley, San Francisco, Southern France and Italy. I’ve cooked with other chefs, wine and cheese makers, food purveyors and even a few famous Italian mammas throughout my culinary travels and even before starting Food Lover’s Odyssey Vacations in 2009 and offering my own daily cooking classes in Provence in 2012.

Food Lover’s Odyssey Vacations is a small company. I am the owner and your group leader on all vacations. In every destination, we partner with locals and professionals in each field – food, wine, cheese, pastries, olive oil, historic & architectural guides, drivers, boutique hoteliers, etc. who make up your vacation team.  All of us are eager to meet you and share Italy or France, its food, wine and culture with you. We want to make sure you have the time of your life and  a most authentic and memorable vacation experience.

Between 2009 and 2011, I traveled extensively in Italy and France and worked at cooking schools in both countries. In 2012, working with colleagues in Puglia, I launched the first Food Lover’s Culinary Vacation to Puglia and, started offering daily cooking classes in Provence, where I now call home from April to November when I’m not leading a group vacation.

Each year, we’ve added a new vacation to the list of week-long offerings that now include SicilyVenice, The Amalfi Coast, Provence, Tuscany,  a French Pastry week, and a “Classic Italy” vacation.  All these vacations are very small-group (never more than 12 and usually even smaller), friendly trips. Hotels, accommodations, and activities are all first-class with a family-feel. We do see the main sights in each area – they wouldn’t be main sights if they weren’t worth the visit – but most of your vacation has you immersed in the food, wine and culture of the place with locals.  I’ve had the privilege of welcoming hundreds of guests, many returning for 2 and even 3 trips with us. I hope to meet all of you soon in Italy or France!


About Chef Kathy Ayer Food Lover's Odyssey


Before My “Formal” Food & Travel Life:

Even before starting this company, I had been eating my way around Italy and France for most of my life, well the last 20 years of it at least. Through my food travels, I’ve made friends and cultivated partnerships with food and wine experts in the culinary travel business from almost every region in Italy and France. I’ve spent a lot of time, sometimes  months at a time, in professional kitchens and also cooking with Italian mammas, the heart and soul of the Italian kitchen.

Although I received my formal training as an adult, I’ve been cooking since before I was 8 years old. It started in my mom’s Italian-American kitchen, and my Italian grandmother’s Calfornia kitchen. The first food memories I have are of making chocolate chip cookies, watching my Sicilian grandmother roll pasta dough out the length of a table, and gazing from a kitchen stool as my mom worked magic with flour, sugar, eggs and butter. Even back then, I would constantly change recipes until I got them to taste exactly how I wanted. At that time, this meant adding my favorite food, chocolate, to everything and taking out walnuts. My mom indulged me except when I wanted to add chocolate to the ravioli and take the walnuts out of rocky road.

Cooking, and especially baking, have always been my passions. I would gawk at pastry shop windows like most other girls do outside Tiffany’s. I was dazed and amazed at those edible jewels in the window, and always wanted to be the one to create them. So, after a few years as an English teacher, I followed my childhood pastry dreams and went to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris where I received a “Grande Diplome” in both savory cooking and pastry arts. I chose Le Cordon Bleu Paris because I was, and still am, head over heels in love with the city and its pastry shops. I interned at a patisserie in Paris. After Paris, I returned to California and worked in the pastry department at Julia’s Kitchen in Napa, as a culinary instructor for COPIA and as a private chef and private culinary instructor. Italy and France kept calling me back, though.

If you have any questions about me or our vacations, please send me a message. You can learn more about us on our Food and Travel Philosophy page.

To find your next vacation, please see all our Food Lover’s Odyssey vacations.