Over the weekend our friends over at L.A. Paella Catering invited us to visit them at the inaugural Paella Wine and Beer Festival in Orange County. Paella, wine & beer? Of course I would join! It was a beautiful day at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa and I could smell the paellas on the other side of the parking lot. Maybe it was the 80 degree weather or perhaps it was the red hot competition, nonetheless the aromas had me dreaming of winning the contest and the trip to Spain.
When I found L.A. Paella they had a huge line snacked around other canopies as everyone waited for the paella mixta to be ready. Executive Chef Benjamin Schuster and his Sous Chef Victor J. Ramirez added the finishing touches of sliced lemons and mini Spanish flags. I was completely in awe at the skills shown and the artistry displayed through the entire process. It truly is a show! While the paella cooked the lovely Carol Schuster gave me the amazing origin story of their company. Her husband, Chef Schuster, moved from Germany to Spain as an infant. It was there that the knowledge and love for paellas was gained.
Paella had a special place at family events thus cemented their tradition. After more than a decade in Spain Chef Schuster came to America and eventually realized his paellas deserved to be shared with all. Fast forward to today- the paellas are getting served and closed eyed smiles are everywhere as festival goers get to finally eat the paella they’ve patiently waited in line for. As I watched all of them devour their servings I wondered if they knew the journey this dish had made to get to their plate. The strictest recipe is followed in order to produce the paella mixta being served. It is called mixta because it mixes both meat and seafood. The other main ingredients are love and and an appreciation for family. This passion project has reached its success due to these “ingredients”. Sous Chef Ramirez gave great business advice when he discussed being in business with people you care about. Him and Mrs. Schuster are lifelong friends so him being a part of this was only natural. The bonds within this group are so apparent and its all brought forth by the greatest thing (to me) food!
The rest of the event was wonderful with great performances put on by incredible flamenco dancers.The intense guitar strums and tapping feet had everyone stunned and clapping along to the beat. I also got to peep the last remnants of the largest paella prepared in California.
Truly huge! When L.A. Paella went on to win Best Paella Libre I couldn’t help but aesthetically cheer for them. They are definitely worthy of the recognition and I hope they enjoy the trip they won to Cancun! If you’d like to experience the amazingness that Paella Wine and Beer festival is making a stop in LA for its third edition and the continuation of the World-Wide Semifinals of Paella. Get your tickets and other info here. To book L.A. Paella Catering, call them at (310) 801-8100.