Were We Insane…Probably Still Are

Picture yourself standing in front of an audience of 40-50, well-healed, food-sophisticated, Santa Barbarians each of them expecting to be treated to an excellent meal, cooked by you, and entertained and educated by your vast knowledge and repertoire of cooking experience… you are not a professional chef, the kitchen is not yours, and the meal you are about to provide has never been cooked in this kitchen before. The stuff of nightmares no? Well Laura and I did this on a regular basis throughout our tenure as owners of il Fustino as a means of promoting the business.

Were we insane? Probably, but let me explain how this came to be and reflect a bit on a past post about how Laura and I relate to one-another and who we are.

We both came from high-profile jobs in high-tech. We were frequently, because of our jobs, called upon to present to large audiences. Laura even had formal training, not in just presenting, but in how to coach people to be effective presenters. Performing in front of large, intimidating audiences was a familiar thing to us. In fact, we became kind of adrenaline junkies for the thrill of it.

But don’t think we just winged it. Oh no. What we learned through years of preparation for these events is: practice, practice, practice. Every meal we taught in our cooking classes was practiced ahead of time at home. Each step was discussed, along with an outline of who would say what. We did not write a script, but we sure knew what we were going to say and when we would say it.

Laura did most of the talking, but that was by design. She says she can’t talk and cook at the same time. Jim did most of the cooking, but that fits our respective strengths and weaknesses.

The takeaway here for us is that we managed to pull this off, time after time, without fail and still managed not to murder each other in the process. I am pretty proud of that and Laura is too.


This picture was taken by Laura on January 20, 2016 where we were featured in Edible Santa Barbara magazine as their quarterly “Supper Club.” There is a limited and exclusive dining audience of foodies. No pressure there. This was probably the most nervous we ever were doing a cooking class and we weren’t really expected to teach anything, we just had to put out world-class food. Yikes. The feedback we got was it was the most enjoyable “Supper Club” so far. This was the last event we have done.


This was our swan song. After this we knew we would no longer have access to the commercial kitchen at the Santa Barbara Public Market. We wanted to go out with a bang. Shown are the recipes from our last menu:

Tapenade with Crispy Oven-toasted Lavash
Roasted Garlic Aioli with Crudite
Fish Filets in a Pastis, Fennel, Leek and Butter Sauce
Chocolate Hazelnut Crepes


Above is the fish. One more story. I was demonstrating how to make the crepes. You make a thin batter and add to a frying pan. If you make them every day you learn how to flip them in the air to turn them over. This is something Julia Child famously failed at in her cooking show. Of course when I mentioned it, the audience started chanting “flip it, flip it, flip it!” What could I do. I did a perfect flip and got an ovation. A nice ending to a wonderful fun time for Laura and myself. We look back on it very fondly. Good memories.


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