UCSB fourth-year global studies major Lucas Ryden founded a cooking website and catering project in his Isla Vista kitchen and is holding fundraising dinners twice a month to offer students an array of gourmet dishes and cocktails as an alternative to the usual I.V. restaurant fare.
The Sabor dining project hosted its latest dinner last Saturday, introducing a fundraising concept Ryden calls “eat to feed.” The four-course meal — complete with wine and cocktails — cost $20 per guest and all proceeds went to The Hunger Project, a non-profit with a mission to end world hunger.
Ryden, whose parents met while working on The Hunger Project, said he liked the unique approach the organization takes to feeding those who cannot afford to eat.
“Instead of throwing bags of rice all over the world, [The Hunger Project] actually spends time on the ground, teaching people how to feed themselves,” Ryden said. “It’s to keep people in foreign countries from being too dependent on international aid, and it’s a lot more sustainable.”
After returning from a semester abroad in Spain and experiencing what he describes as “reverse culture shock,” Ryden said he developed his own personal style that blends Southern California cuisine with traditional Spanish flavors. During his time abroad, Ryden said he admired how quality food played a vital role in European life and became inspired to instill a similar appreciation for local cuisine among the I.V. community.
“I lived in Spain for a semester … It showed me how important food is to European culture. Coming back [to California], I missed that being such a big part of daily life,” Ryden said. “Part of it is my personal goal to teach my friends and other students about real-world food. Cheap food and cheap drinks, that’s kind of what we do [in college] and my goal is to change that.”
The menu — personally designed and prepared by Ryden to reflect the flavors of his hometown, San Diego, along with a Latin-American twist — includes dishes like roasted beet salad topped with a jalapeño vinaigrette, candied bacon tacos with pickled jicama and avocado whipped cream. All entrées are served with cocktails and are wheat and gluten-free.
Fourth-year fine arts major Claire Howard said she enjoyed the ambiance of the event and thought the evening was well organized.
“It was one of my favorite parties that I’ve been to,” Howard said. “It’s a good group of people, small enough to meet people but big enough that it feels like a party, and everyone knows they’re giving to charity.”
Eventually, Ryden said he aspires to open his own restaurant or a catering company that donates to charitable organizations. With Sabor’s early success only after three dinners, Ryden sees it as his pilot project and said he will continue to host dinners in this fashion, donating the profits to charitable organizations.
“My goal is by the end of the year to have it grow to the point where I have investors, and have it turn into my career,” Ryden said. “It’s eventually where I want to be.”
The Sabor dining project raised about $150 from this weekend’s dinner alone to be donated to The Hunger Project.
Karla, a UCSB student who asked that her last name be withheld for legal reasons, shares a similar passion for cooking and began operating her own dining project over a year ago after catering for the Student Food Collective.
She and a friend started an underground restaurant out of their house on Embarcadero Del Mar, which began with a single text message and spread by word of mouth. According to Karla, fifteen people showed up to the first dinner she served, then 30 people the next week and 60 the next.
“Friends told their friends, who told their professors, who told the farmers; people sometimes bring their parents or grandparents,” Karla said. “[The restaurant] pulls a really diverse crowd … It brings every flavor of character of I.V. together.”