There is an extraordinary new adventure in Santa Barbara wine country in celebration of America’s grand dame chef of fine cuisine, Julia Child. The Santa Barbara Culinary Experience event (SBCE) has partnered with the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, in creating a calendar of citywide fine dining events on the three day weekend of March 13-15, 2020.
Although this news comes close to that weekend, there are still events available that you can get tickets for, but act soon. This amazing opportunity includes the Santa Barbara culinary scene’s best chefs, restaurateurs, mixologists, winemakers, and the local community, along with celebrity chefs.
I must say, this touched my heart as I have had three very fortunate opportunities to meet Julia Child. I call her a grand dame, but she nothing close to the ego of some celebrity chefs I’ve met in my 40-year history in the food and wine industry. Not only was Julia kind, but quite interested in supporting anyone with a passion for the culinary arts. The first time we crossed paths was at a cooking demo in San Francisco Macy’s at Union Square. I snaked my way in among the large crowd to see her up close, eager for an opportunity to speak to her. When she finished speaking and asked for questions, she couldn’t miss my swing my frantic wave to catch her attention. I had just finished my culinary education at San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy. She callout to me and I asked, what advice do you have for an aspiring chef like me. She kindly replied: “Don’t just learn from cooking recipes. Dine out in fine restaurants to learn how the classic dishes should taste.”
I never forgot her important message, and followed her advice. When I met her the second time at Edna Valley Vineyards, my career had already turned from cooking professionally to writing a food and wine column. Following the luncheon, I told her of our history, and she sweetly asked, “How did that turn out?” I was pleased to tell her, I finally realized a childhood dream and became a writer. Now I dedicate myself to writing about food and wine, and always remain grateful for my blessings. I met her a third time at Firestone Vineyard, and she never failed to impress me with her with her gentle spirit and kindness. She has always been my inspiration.
Although Julia has passed in 2004, her mission remains vividly alive through her nonprofit Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. Not only do they honor her legacy, they provide grants to support research in culinary history, scholarships for food writing, professional programs, and food literacy programs to help people understand the importance of good food and the value of good cooking.
You will find all of the information about the tastings, special dinners, luncheons, documentaries, brunch events and more at www. Sbce .com. Prices start at as little as $15 per person, and higher for dining adventures, which can be purchased through the SBCE webpage. But I will share with you some of the most exciting dining experiences taking place next weekend. Plus the site offers a complimentary Julia Child map of all of her favorite dining spots from Buellton to Montecito.
Here is one main event happening from March 12 through 15 that doesn’t require a ticket purchase. You simply dine-out and order the Julia Child inspired prix fixe menu, or a la carte food specials and beverages you choose. This list of great choices includes Bob’s Well Breads and Bell’s in Los Alamos, Hitching Post II in Buellton, among several other restaurants in Santa Barbara County.
You may wish to choose the Chef’s Potluck — the Ultimate Potluck Party at the Alisal in Solvang on Sunday, March 15 at 5 p.m. From pizzas to open flame BBQ, you can feast on various foods from many chefs working with winemakers and brewmasters. It was without a doubt my idea of a great dinner choice. Among the many talented chefs will be Anthony Endy from the Alisal, Frank Ostini from Hitching Post II, Bob Oswaks from Bob’s Well Bread, Valerie Gordon of Valerie’s Confections, Rick Manson of Chef Rick’s Ultimately Fine Foods, First and Oak Kitchen, Michael Cherney of Peasant’s Feast, Amy Dixon of the Baker’s Table, and Josh Martin the butcher for California Fresh Market. Ticket are $100 per person for this event.
Don’t overlook the Alisal in Solvang, as they added some extra events on Monday, March 16. These educational events include a spice blending workshop with the Solvang Spice Merchant ($50 per person), a wine pairing with a panel discussion and lunch, and a butchery demo ($75 per person), and ends with a demo and dinner party by celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre at the Alisal’s historic Adobe from 4 until 8 p.m. ($300 per person), including a hay wagon ride to the Adobe.