A popular feature of Lake Austin Spa is the weeklong Culinary Experience. “We’re the most food-focused spa going,” says executive chef Terry Conlan (seen here). He and other amiable staffers entertain 20 to 30 guests during each Culinary Experience week’s 20-plus activities, which include a tour of an organic garden, classes on entertaining or remaking recipes, a cowboy-style breakfast on the shore of Lake Austin, a wine seminar, a cheese-tasting, and a private tour of the Whole Foods Market flagship store in Austin. Also included during the week are six two-hour cooking classes; two of them feature one or two guest chefs. Outside of Culinary Experience week, cooking classes (45-minute sessions taught by Conlan and others) are scheduled at various times each week.
“Spa cuisine doesn’t have to mean sparse cuisine, you know,” Conlan says. “I’m not into diets or gimmicky foods. I’m just into clean, bright food. Good food, period.” Conlan’s classes are always a draw (he teaches regular cooking classes at the resort both during and outside of Culinary Experience week), but so now are visiting guest chefs—think Ted Allen (Top Chef/Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), Patricia Yeo (author of Everyday Asian) and Frank Stitt (Frank Stitt’s Southern Table)—each featured one day a month during Culinary Experience. The chefs aren’t there to preach on losing weight or eating light, Conlan says. “They’re there to help us embrace the finer foods in life, which can be prepared and served sensibly and in a low-pressure setting.”
Recipes from Lake Austin Spa:
Poached Pears with Blue Cheese and Brandy
Candy-Striped Beet and Goat Cheese Napoleons
Grilled Tuna and Green Tomatoes with Creamy Bacon Vinaigrette
Grilled Tuna with White Bean Salad and Black Olive Tapenade
Photograph: Courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort