About Kathy

Chef Kathy Ayer Food Lover's Odyssey

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 before offering my own cooking classes in Provence and culinary vacations in Italy and France in 2012. I’ve cooked with other chefs, wine and cheese makers, food purveyors and even a few famous Italian mammas throughout my culinary travels.

Food Lover’s Odyssey Vacations is a small company with me at the helm. I’m with you the entire time during our small-group culinary vacations. The rest of the team includes local chefs & cooking instructors, local cultural & historic guides, Italian mammas and their families, professional drivers, a great group of small wine, cheese and olive oil makers, and our small boutique hoteliers. All of them are eager to meet you and share their small part of Italy, its food, wine and culture with you.  Since 2012 I’ve had the privilege of welcoming over 250 guests, many returning for 2 and even 3 trips with us. I hope to meet all of you soon one day in Italy or France!

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. 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. 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. I returned on and off for both research and to work at cooking schools in both countries between 2009 and 2011. 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’ve called home for the last five years. Each year, we’ve added a new vacation to the list of week-long offerings that now include Venice, 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.

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.