Chefs Compete at Family Service Agency Fundraiser

Event Chair and Co-VP of Development and Marketing Marni Cooney, Deputy Executive Director Steven DeLira, and Executive Director Lisa Brabo.

Event Chair and Co-VP of Development and Marketing Marni Cooney, Deputy Executive Director Steven DeLira, and Executive Director Lisa Brabo.

On April 7, about 300 supporters of Family Service Agency (FSA) gathered at the Carriage and Western Art Museum for its fourth annual amusing and delectable Cooking Up Dreams event. Proceeds support FSA’s plethora of programs serving children, families, and seniors. The event grossed an impressive $135,000.

For the first couple of hours, guests mingled and sampled gourmet offerings from nine area food purveyors who lined the perimeter of the scenic museum and large, festive, connected tent. Then emcee Pastor Kris Bergstrom asked everyone to be seated. Executive Director Lisa Brabo shared how FSA’s role following a tragedy is “repair, recovery, and healing,” and since the twin disasters, it has received increased requests for help from low-income families who have suffered loss of income, housing, and possessions. The organization, she noted, has also received increased requests for mental health counseling and support.

Maria Rodriguez, an FSA counselor at Cleveland Elementary School, shared how on the first day back from winter break she had a line out the door of grieving students and she explained the different ways counselors provide assistance. Ashleigh Erving, Program Manager for the Family Support Services division, shared how the disasters severely impacted low-income families and how FSA’s Family Resource Centers helped them obtain food, shelter, health insurance, employment, and child care to help families stabilize and become self sufficient.

In its capacity as the Long-Term Care Ombudsman for Santa Barbara County, FSA advocates for residents of long-term care facilities. Program Supervisor Marco Quintanar explained how FSA monitored hundreds of at-risk residents during and after the disasters. It assisted with the evacuation of about 80 residents after the debris flow.

Next came the excitement of the awards. The Celebrity Judge Panel comprising KEYT’s Joey Buttita, Edible Santa Barbara Publisher and Editor Krista Harris, cookbook author Pascale Beale, and writer Emily Nordee selected as their winner the Berrilicious, a creation of Renaud Gonthier of Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro, a Madeleine sponge cake with black currant mousse, vanilla creme, and berry compote. This was not an easy decision for the judges, who extolled the offerings of all the chefs.

The guests were on the same page as the experts, the Berrilicious also garnered the People’s Choice award. The Celebrity Panel Runner-up was the Outpost at the Goodland for a slow-braised beef cheek tostada and the People’s Choice Runner-up was the FisHouse’s Lobster Macaroni & Cheese.

Founded in 1899, FSA serves vulnerable children, families and seniors through its Big Brothers Big Sisters program, Senior Services, Family Support Services, Youth & Family Behavioral Health, Youth Drug & Alcohol Treatment, and School Counseling.

According to Brabo, FSA is adept at changing to meet the needs of the community. It continues to “ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community have access to basic needs, parent education, behavioral health services, and youth mentoring.” All services are provided free or on a sliding fee scale and no one is denied assistance because of an inability to pay.

Last July, FSA merged with the Santa Maria Valley Youth and Family Center. The merged organization serves about 13,000 people in the South County and 12,000 in the North County.

FSA is in need of both volunteers and donations. The Big Brothers Big Sisters program serves more about 200 youth aged 6 to 15, but has another 78 on a wait list. It receives about three-quarters of its nearly $8 million budget from the government, leaving a significant gap to be filled from private sources.

Restaurants and their chefs participating were Chef Leticia Mendoza, Casa Blanca Restaurant;  Chef Peter McNee, Convivo; Chef James Saio, Finch & Fork; Executive Sous-chef Damien Giliberti, Outpost at the Goodland; Chef (and owner) Jeff Olsson, Industrial Eats; Chef Weston Richards, Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant; Chef Renaud Gonthier, Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro; Chef Jesus Charco, Santa Barbara FisHouse. Desserts were also provided by students from the Carpinteria High School Culinary Arts Program.

For more information about Family Service Agency, go to fsacares.org.

Send invites to Gail@independent.com.