COSTA MESA — With the rise in popularity of reality-TV cooking shows and a growing demand for culinary education, chef Mark McDonald saw an opportunity to expand a small neighborhood café into something outside the traditional food-service model.
In January, McDonald — chef and co-owner of the Old Vine Café in Costa Mesa — will partner with the Italian Institute for Advanced Culinary and Pastry Arts to take a group of about 25 people on a 10-day culinary adventure through southern Italy.
"The average consumer's food knowledge has grown," McDonald said. "People are interested in knowing where their food comes from and how it is prepared."
The trip will take "culinary adventurists" on a journey through parts of Sicily and Calabria. The group will visit wineries and farms. They'll also cook with chefs from the Italian Culinary Institute, in order to experience Italy like a true Italian, McDonald said.
"What this trip offers is an exclusive experience in a region not commonly visited by tourists," he said.