Every weekend, KEYT airs television treats for Santa Barbara food and wine lovers, with The Inn Crowd on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. and Wine Country on Sundays at 5 p.m. The Inn Crowd, which started a decade ago, began with Chef Budi Kazali of The Ballard Inn as the original host and then shifted to Chef Michael Hutchings for many years. Along with producer Craig Case, the chefs would invite special guests and cook recipes that showcased the seasonal bounty of Santa Barbara.
Starting this Saturday, September 14, Case will be joined by husband-and-wife chef hosts Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee of The Monarch, Sushi|Bar, and Silver Bough, all in the Montecito Inn. And rather than entertain from private kitchens, the format is now focused on visiting working restaurants and speaking with their chefs, bringing Santa Barbara’s booming restaurant culture to your living room.
“This season, we wanted to mix it up a bit,” said Case, who said viewers expressed interest in learning more about the restaurants. “It’s been interesting to watch the chef conversations during the episodes, and all of the chefs have been delighted about the exposure. It’s more chef-to-chef, and we think it is a good story to tell.”
The show is already a hit — “according to KEYT, viewership rivals the news hour,” said Case — but he expects this new format to attract even more fans, especially with enhanced production expertise from Paul Westmacott of Paradigm Pictures, who is now on the team. Among other restaurants, the team visits the kitchens of Bibi Ji, The Bear and Star, Loquita, La Cocina, Cubaneo, Bettina, Convivo, Satellite, and the Hotel Californian establishments Blackbird and Goat Tree.
As for Wine Country, which Case launched with the late bon vivant Archie McLaren, it too is evolving for its fourth season. Melissa Mahan, a former KEYT newscaster, is returning to the screen to explore wineries and vineyards, interview winemakers, and celebrate the wine country culture. Mahan will also be hosting a new Case Productions show called Behind the Scenes, airing Saturdays at 2:30 p.m., which will take viewers on backstage tours of the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, and so forth.
On top of that, Case is also developing a show for Wednesday mornings at 11:30 a.m. Called Growing Young, it features older members of the community who continue to be active in meaningful ways, such as Pete Jordano and Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree. “These people are not just sitting around and waiting to die,” said Case. “They’re productive.”
Case’s workload isn’t too shabby either. Formerly in law enforcement, his primary business is the Case Detective Agency, which runs private investigations and contracts security services. He started on TV with On Patrol, the show that tracked Santa Barbara police activity, and then shifted to food and culture. As to his video production credentials, Case is quick to quip, “I watched a fair amount of TV over the years!” And now, plenty of Santa Barbarans are watching his take on the little screen.
See caseco.com for an archive of episodes and more information.