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Upgrade your culinary skills while on vacation.

Try taking a cooking class with a regional chef.

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Cost: from $35 to $150.

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Class frequency: weekly in the summer; private classes available in the winter.

Class length: Two to three hours.

For more information, contact The Washington Hotel Restaurant and Culinary School, 354 Range Line Road, Washington Island, WI 54246; (920) 847-2169, www.thewashingtonhotel.com.

St. Regis, Monarch Beach, Calif.

The St. Regis Monarch Beach is an Italian Revival palazzo of polished stone with multilevel gushing fountains, located on the coast of southern California. It offers a memorable setting and European-style service and food.

Responsible for overseeing all food preparation is Frédéric Castan, the resort's executive chef. His impeccable training in well-respected kitchens enables him to bring to the St. Regis the refinement of culinary flavors that discriminating guests expect.

Chef Castan was born in Avignon, France, and received his early training in Marseille at the École Supérieure Hôtelière de Marseille. His most influential mentor was France's renowned Pierre Hiély of Hiély Lucullus in Avignon. Working closely with this very strict and passionate chef, Castan learned commitment to detail.

This, along with his natural affinity for artistic shapes and colors, is the main reason he's won many awards, including France's most prestigious culinary award, the Maître Cuisinier de France.

St. Regis guests interested in learning to cook with flair have from eight to 12 culinary experiences to choose from yearly. Ten are for adults. Each focuses on a different theme (they change yearly), and all are overseen by Castan. The classes provide guests with the opportunity to interact freely with the chef while enjoying an elegant meal at the end.

Some of the classes offered include: a Springtime Spa Cooking class in which the freshest available ingredients are combined to create a light but elegant meal; a grilling class in which such favorites as Malaysian chicken satay or steak bavette are prepared over an open fire; and a Cooking with the Chefs Series, in which chefs from the St. Regis Monarch Beach share their skills and special dishes with the students.

Sometimes these classes are hands-on, depending on the chef and the menu, but usually they are demonstration classes.

A children's program, offered during the summer for ages 5 to 12, is especially popular, because it is designed to provide kids with an irresistible opportunity to apply their ingenuity to creating their own meal. The simple-to-prepare menu is conceived to appeal to youngsters' tastes and skill levels.

Cost: Adult dinner classes range from $50 to $125 per person; children's classes, $50 per child. Lodging is extra.

Class length: adult demonstration dinner classes, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; children's classes, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, contact St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, CA, 92629; (949) 234-3200; www.stregismb.com.

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