Unique and exotic dishes from local restaurants and chefs served up dreams for more than 300 guests of the Family Service Agency’s recent “Cooking Up Dreams” event, which brought together supporters of the oldest nonprofit organization in Santa Barbara.
Proceeds from the delectable fare funded programs for at-risk youth in Santa Barbara County with counseling and mentor support. Founded in 1899, the Family Service Agency strives to strengthen families and individuals of all ages and diversities as an advocate to preserve a healthy community.
The agency services Santa Barbara County through offices in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and two in Lompoc, facilities that ensure access to food, shelter and other basic needs.
FSA executive director Lisa Brabo addressed the crowd at Montecito Country Club, emphasizing the organization’s goals of providing hope, strength and stability. She elaborated on the benefits of the evening’s success.
“The idea is to raise funds for our youth enrichment programs, including our Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program for at-risk youth, as well as our school counseling programs for youth,” she said, adding that “we have counselors in many of the schools.”
A presentation on the Big Brothers Big Sisters program also enlightened the audience on the mission of “changing lives for the better, forever.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters became a program of FSA in 1998, and the program experienced a decade of growth expanding from serving 70 at-risk youth ages 7 to 17 in Santa Barbara to 250 countywide.
A live auction with KEYT News personalities John Palminteri and Meredith Garofalo, the event committee chairwoman, offered a chance at a custom Taylor acoustic guitar autographed by Santa Barbara’s own Katy Perry and an opportunity for a youth to join Garofalo as a junior weather associate, tour the KEYT station and participate in an on-air weather report with the meteorologist. Also up for bid was a South African photo safari, a dinner for 10 catered by New West, and a vacation for six at a Grand Mayan resort in Mexico.
The first-ever Cooking Up Dreams event proved to be a success, and Brabo elaborated on the theme of the evening for Noozhawk.
“We have many celebrity chefs here and the judges are helping to judge the food that was offered for people to taste,” she said. “So they will be voting on their favorite dishes and favorite chefs.”
Celebrity judges Thom Barry, Vanessa Craig, Krista Harris, Matthew Jain, Graham Shiels and Tama Takahasi joined satisfied diners, who also were offered the opportunity to vote for their favorite dish from among 18 selections served during the scrumptious event. The choices included lobster and black truffle mac and cheese, local rockfish ceviche, and Jamaica jerk chicken lollipops.
Barry was a series-long star of Cold Case playing Detective Will Jeffries, and was invited to the event by Melinda Johansson, a friend, event committee member and FSA’s own development and marketing manager.
The Fast and the Furious actor revealed to Noozhawk his favorite dish of the evening.
“What stood out for me — and I probably won’t get called back next year for this — was the pizza (meat and vegetarian gourmet pizza from Paxti’s Pizza),” Barry said. “Those boys hit it out of the park.”
And he shared what participating in the event meant to him and to the community at large.
“If you are doing something for the children you are doing the greatest thing you can do,” he explained. “Because this is the greatest calling we have as adults is to try and get kids to adulthood and to get them to adulthood in good shape, hopefully.
“This is an organization that’s reaching out to help do that and we need that.”
For more than 116 years, delivering positive change, growing healthy families and building vibrant communities has been the goal of the Family Service Agency.
“We really appreciate everyone’s support for these programs that are so important for at-risk youth,” Brabo said.
The Family Service Agency graciously thanks the generous chefs who supported the cause, including Vincent Lesage, Bacara Resort & Spa; Julian Martinez, Barbareño; Ron True, The Boathouse; Daniel Ibarra, Casa Blanca; Kurt Steeber, Cielito; Katie Belanger, Cinnies; Pete Clements, Funk Zone Patio; James Siao, Finch & Fork; Jean Paul Luvanvi, LuVanVi Foods; Grant MacNaughton, Mac’s Fish & Chip Shop; Josefine Ramirez, Montecito Village Grocery; Nimita Dhirajia, Nimita’s Cuisine; Juanito Martinez, Pane e Vino; Jon-Michael Becerra, Paxti’s Pizza; Laurence Hauben, Roblar Winery; Jesus Charco, Santa Barbara FisHouse; Avery Hardin, Scarlett Begonia; and Harold Welch, World Cuisine Express.
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.