Carol and Benjamin Schuster owners of Santa Barbara Paella hold their giant paella pan that will be used for a Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation fundraisers. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

In 2015, Benjamin and Carol Schuster decided to leave their prior career in order to pursue his passion for food and dedicate more time to their children. “Catering became our primary food-service choice because it offered the greatest work/life balance, personal creativity, and the freedom to explore different cooking approaches,” explains Carol, who’s used her 20-plus years of sales experience to help grow S.B. Paella Catering. The menu is based on Benjamin’s memories of preparing paella in Spain, where he was born and raised before moving to the United States in 2001 with just a suitcase and his grandmother’s paella pan. 

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Their success is thanks to Schuster’s most popular dish: the “Traditional Mixed” paella, a Catalonian-style version with fresh vegetables, meats, seafood, and, of course, rice. “The most difficult ingredient is the rice,” explained Benjamin. “Rice is the very last ingredient in the paella, and it can be the most unforgiving part.” A key component is saffron, which they import from Morocco and Iran. “In conjunction with the other ingredients, the beautiful yellow discoloration of the rice due to the saffron is visually appealing,” he said. 

Benjamin Schuster owner of Santa Barbara Paella makes a paella, Santa Barbara Paella will make a giant paella that will be used for a Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation fundraisers.

The Schusters also offer various tapas, including the Aguacate con Langostinos. “The pink brandy sauce creates an incredible balance between sweet sauce and savory langoustine tail, avocado, and grapefruit,” said Benjamin, who imports the fresh langoustine tails from Spain and sources the other organic ingredients from nearby farms and orchards. 

As for everyone in the events business, the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly stopped most of the Schusters’ business. “The stay-at-home order right after the outbreak of the pandemic led to massive event cancellations and deposit reimbursement requests,” confirmed Carol. Their pivot included launching a food truck to cook on-site for customers and deliver with no-contact doorstep drop-offs. That’s been very successful and enabled them to rehire much of their staff. 

A Santa Barbara Paella

They’re now using their food to raise money for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, which supports children with cancer. This Saturday, August 1, S.B. Paella Catering and Anderson’s Danish Bakery will host a pick-up drive-through outside Villa Properties, in which customers will receive a package of four paella meals, wine, dessert, and gifts. To support this cause, pre-order a picnic basket ($200 for four people), wine ($25-$100 for one to five bottles), and raffle tickets ($25 for a chance to win a Sonos system, shopping spree, or staycation package).


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