Santa Barbara -- Reaching For Stars

Once again, Chef Vincent Vanhecke did an amazing job putting together the fabulous 5-course dinner for the "Reaching For Stars" benefit for the Youth and Family Services YMCA. The Youth and Family Services runs four programs: Outreach to homeless youths--providing a sleeping bag and rain-wear, food for the hungry, a professional who cares, and a bus ticket home; the Isla Vista Teen Center--a drop-in center away from gangs, alcohol and drugs; My Home at Artisan Court--transitional housing and counseling services to youth ages 18-21 who age out of foster care and are facing homelessness; and Noah's Anchorage--a shelter for foster children, runaway and homeless youth ages 10-17.

Once again, (read the post) we were seated at the table with the keynote speaker, a lovely and friendly young girl who plans on attending Cal State Northridge and going into public relations. She was scribbling notes for her speech during the meal and started off speaking bravely about the challenges of growing up without a family to support and encourage her, how it felt to be the only one at school without a stable home, and how she asked only for a miniature Christmas tree when she moved into the Family Services housing at the holidays because it was something she hadn't had...and then she broke down. Many of us in the audience were in tears also. It's heart-rending to hear the stories of the kids that have had foster families that were only in it for the money, of abusive homes they had to escape, of living without a roof over their heads. It's a wonderful thing that the YMCA and the Santa Barbara Housing Authority plus generous donors have created services to help these kids that otherwise would truly be alone.

Also commendable are the chefs, particularly Chef Vanhecke, who donated their expertise to help raise money for these services. This year, there were even more top chefs, compared with two years ago (read about the 2010 Reaching For Stars dinner) and the students from the School of Culinary Arts at SBCC had a bigger role to play. I talked a bit with Chef Vanhecke after the dinner and he said that the students helped prepare some of the components and created the luscious appetizers that were served at the beginning of the evening when we had the chance to play some casino style games. I mistakenly left my iphone at home, so had to borrow a phone. These poor quality photos don't do justice to the food.

Appetizers: Vincent Vanhecke (The Valley Club of Montecito),  Randy Bublitz, Stephane Rapp and students (School of Culinary Arts SBCC)
Gary and Paul (right) Arganbright, President Touring & Tasting
First Course: Alessandro Cartumini (Four Seasons Biltmore), Charlie Rushton (Four Seasons Biltmore), Michael Blackwell (Montecito Country Club)
House Cured Duck Prosciutto with a Citrus Watercress Salad
Royal Trumpet Mushroom Salad with Celery, San Joaquin Gold, Walnut Vinaigrette
Cold Smoked Duck Breast
Won Ton Cup, Goat Cheese Cream, Roasted Yellow Beets, Micro Greens, Basil Oil,
Fleur De Sel, Kalamata Olives

Second Course: Micheal Hutchings (Micheals Catering),  James Sly (Sly's), Mossin Sugish (Blush)
Cultured Cocktail Abalone Baked with a Gremolata Butter
Salmon "Soufflé" Auberge de l'île
Cauliflower Horseradish Chaud-Froid, topped with a Paddle Fish Caviar
Entrée: Greg Murphy (bouchon), Brandon Hughes (Wine Cask), Charlie Fredericks and students (The Restaurant at SBCC)
Wagyu New York
Braised Short Ribs
Crispy Sweetbreads
Cheese Course: Don Skipworth. (Private Chef), Mari Bartoli (Private Chef), Brian Parks (Private Chef)
Salade Tropical
Chèvre Medallions with Orange and Cherimoya,
Hollandia Butter Lettuce and Lilikoi Citrus Dressing with Pistachio Garnis
Dessert Course: Christine Dahl (Christine Dahl Pastries),  Eric Widmer (La Cumbre Country Club), Jamie West (Private Chef)
 Warm Raspberry Phyllo Cheesecake Triangle
Chilled Raspberry Soufflé
Raspberry Tea Infused Chocolate Mousse Crunch Cake
Wines Donated by: Gainey, Cottonwood Canyon, Deep Sea, Fess Parker Winery, Jordano's, Lucas & Lewellen, Melville, Oreana, Roblar and Zaca Mesa.

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