SB Paella Catering is a Santa Barbara-based, family operated catering business that serves delicious and authentic Spanish tapas and paella at private events both large and small.
Meet Ben and Carol Schuster, the owner-operators of SB Paella Catering and emerging retail brand Got Paella:
Q: Tell us a bit about your business.
A: We are SB Paella Catering Est. 2016. We are a husband and wife team (Benjamin & Carol) leading the most recognized paella catering companies in Southern California, with locations in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. We have two daughters, ages 4 and 8, and are very involved in volunteering/supporting our local, public school. Carol is part of the PTA and a substitute teacher at Vieja Valley. Ben is our Chef and recipe genius, and Carol handles all Sales and Operational related tasks for both catering locations and our product.
Q: Why did you start your business?
A: We started our first catering location in 2015 for the purpose of supplementing our income when Carol decided to stay home to raise our first daughter. For Ben, the concept of Paella & Tapas Catering was a pursuit of a passion that he had developed since childhood with training in the Spanish cuisine while growing up in Spain. He decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to start a side business of catering doing what he loves most. When our business started, we were not sure how it would go but following Ben’s passion for making Paella and Carol’s expertise in sales, we were able to grow our business every year since inception until the pandemic hit.
Q: What makes you the most passionate about your work?
Ben: The pursuit of culinary perfection in a craft that reflects the culture and traditions of my heritage. My work and due diligence thereof has an immediate impact on how people perceive the Spanish cuisine, stemming from the European mainland of Spain. Creating awareness and access to Spanish Paella to consumers here in the US is the sole driving force in dedicating all my attention and focus to this dish, making sure I represent it genuinely and originally. Besides, I absolutely love the dish and never get tired of it!
Carol: My passion stems from being able to grow our family business so that we can comfortably live a life where we are present in our kid’s everyday life. I grew up with working parents who missed many milestones and my dream once I became a parent, was to never miss one. Running our catering business helps us share our passion for food and service while fulfilling my dream to be a present part of our kids life. Not to mention, it is super exciting to see an idea, such as our frozen ready meals start from zero to now a retail product.
Q: What are some of your favorite projects/products?
A: We had the honor to cater for President Biden's first presidential fundraiser at one of our clients home in Los Angeles. We are very respectful of celebrity clients so we do never asks for photos but this is the one time, we just had too!
Q: Connection to Santa Barbara, why do you work/live here?
A: We got married in Santa Barbara and always dreamed of relocating here. Our L.A. location kept exponentially growing so the opportunity to move seemed impossible. During the pandemic we were lucky to have the support our SB clients who hired Ben as a private Chef for small dinners and who also supported his idea of utilizing our food truck to deliver individual meals to their doorsteps. This was prior to restaurants starting delivery services. We did some R&D and surveyed some clients about a potential product and when it slowed down again, we focused on creating a product. In the end, the support of our regular clients kept us going and with immense tenacity we worked on our product.
With Carol’s successful sales experience, we decided she would manage and handle this side of the business and sought help for women entrepreneurs. Luckily, found WEV (womens economic ventures) who I still work with as my advisors and received advice from several local, successful entrepreneurial women in SB. This support has allowed us to not only continue our catering but also successfully launch our product in early 2021 and successfully sell our local Santa Barbara made frozen paellas across the nation via the top natural foods distributors.
We continue to cater and manage the growth of our product. As our Chef, Ben is very passionate about his paella and nothing beats the satisfaction on a clients face when they take their first bite of a freshly made paella. Our product is not competing with what a Chef can offer but merely providing a Taste of Spain for those who want paella any day of the week but do not want to hire a caterer for any special event.
Q: Describe your perfect day in Santa Barbara.
A: We are so grateful and blessed to be able to live in beautiful Santa Barbara. Being able to enjoy so much of nature all in our own backyard is priceless. We frequently take family hikes and bike rides. During the Summer months, we are always at the beach.
Q: Store location, if applicable
A: We are only an onsite caterer so no location to visit. However, our product is now sold locally at Gelsons, Bristol Farms, El Rancho Market amongst other retailers throughout the states.
Q: Contact & social media
Instagram @sbpaellacatering or for product @gotpaella
Q: Pro tip (anything you can share with our audience that they can apply in their own lives)
A: Being a small business owner comes with many obstacles and trials. Standing behind your passion, humbly asking for advice from experts and having the grit to stand up when you fall, can only lead you to growth.