Asked about having moved to Santa Barbara years ago from Hollister, California, Stephen Goularte says, “I came for the milk and I stayed for the cookies.” When you speak with this very entertaining and warmhearted fellow, he continuously produces puns and funny phrases like this one to illustrate his points. Stephen is captain of Whisper, the only all-electric commercial boat in Santa Barbara that can be privately chartered. Whisper holds six people and takes you on a quiet ride from the pier. Steve is also a trained chef who went to SBCC’s culinary school in 1991, and he sets up the food service for various other boats run by Celebration Cruises, including the Azure Seas. Celebration Cruises is owned by his father-in-law, and working there has enabled him to combine his two loves, sailing and cooking.
“It’s not about the destination; it’s the journey,” he tells me about his long, varied, and serpentine career in our city. From 1994 to 1997, Stephen worked at Downey’s, and it was owner/chef John Downey who introduced him to sailing. Eventually he started working for Truth Aquatics, which owns three diving boats. “I would do theme nights,” he says. “I was a combination chef and a cruise director.” That’s how he met Chad Stevens, and in 2000 he became the general manager for Chad’s, the now-defunct but legendary restaurant and bar on lower Chapala Street. Goularte also worked at Rocks and was a managing partner at Couchez for a year. Then Stephen Clark asked him to manage EOS. “The nightclub biz is tough,” Goularte admits. “It’s hard on the body.” He also has been a server at both Tre Lune and El Encanto. I’ve known him throughout most of these incarnations, and Steven has always been full of optimism and armed with a big smile. “There’s a directness about my soul,” he shares. “Always doing the right thing.”
All the while he was sailing. He’d always try to get Wednesday nights off. “I’m not necessarily a racer,” he admits. “I’m more about sailing the boat.”
A few years back I noticed that Stephen seemed happier than usual. He’d married Rebecca Hershman. He tells me they went to the opera, and during the second act of Falstaff they became inseparable. “We make a family,” he says about their son, Nicco, and her three kids.
Stephen answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your greatest fear?
We ran out of Pinot Grigio! I try not to spend much time in fear of things. When I was a kid I used to be afraid of the ocean and that fear bothered me. As a young adult, I knew I needed to face that fear head-on, so I took up snorkeling. After taking a look at the scary unknown beneath the water, I realized that I had nothing to worry about. The unknown isn’t scary anymore, and I realized that fear is something I can conquer. Don’t let fear rule your world.
What do you like most about your job?
Definitely the people. It’s great to see expressions change once they get on the boat and leave the dock. It’s a bit like therapy. Once our guests settle in and relax they really open up and it becomes personal. Sometimes we end up hugging it out as they leave. The ocean has healing powers and we tap right into that.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Kids playing on the beach, wife by my side, bottle of Pinot Grigio, and warm summer evening. Knowing my family is safe and well is my happy zone.
Who do you most admire?
There are many I am fond of but nobody as much as my wife. To see her work her mommy magic, maintain a full-time job and handle me — it’s impressive. The love and friendship we have in many ways has saved my life.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Time is the most valuable thing we have, and I spend some 3-4 hours of it weekly to race sailboats. It’s my window to unhinge my burdens and focus on working with my teammates to make a boat go fast. It’s exhilarating. We also get to drink beer and laugh a lot.
What is your current state of mind?
Vigilant always. Years of being in the hospitality business has trained be to expect the unexpected.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Kindness. Life is a struggle enough, so be nice. You get more bees with honey then you do with vinegar.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Hypocrisy; I can’t stand it. Priests living in palaces, politicians not paying taxes, cops shooting unarmed citizens, that sort of thing.
What do you most value in friends?
Empathy and courage. People who take the time to understand what’s happening with others and having the courage to act on it.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’ve been told that that I have a positive attitude; I would agree. Life is too short to have a bad attitude. Your attitude effects your latitude.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I tend to say “bro” or “brother” a lot. It’s part Californian and part positivity. We are all family in this struggle together. Also, I have a sailboat named Johnny Utah; it works thematically.
Which talent would you most like to have?
If I could sing on pitch and play piano that would be a game changer. You would find me in Palm Springs working a piano bar, sipping martinis and singing Sinatra tunes all night.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I love me; I am pleased thus far. It wouldn’t hurt to have more time to spend with my family.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I think being a parent is pinnacle for me. It made me realize how much my parents did for me out of love. I now aspire to be as selfless in that regard.
Where would you most like to live?
Sailing a charter boat with Rebecca (my wife) on the Mediterranean, connecting people with the sea and exposing people to its beauty while enjoying all the bounty Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Croatia have to offer.
What is your most treasured possession?
The Leatherman my father gave me when I was a young man. It represents all the tools he gave me to navigate the challenges we all encounter through life. I have since upgraded my Leatherman and keep his safe as a lasting token of his love now that he is no longer with us.
What makes you laugh the most?
Puns are my kryptonite. I love clever use of language and really enjoy quick new phrases. Also, The Simpsons; it’s the smartest show on television despite being a cartoon, and nobody has aged since 1989. Homer is comic genius.
What is your motto?
You can’t change the wind, but you sure can adjust your sails.