By Raiza Giorgi

Arts Outreach would have otherwise been having the best year of its 40-year existence, celebrating with many gatherings and fundraisers, including an ’80s theme prom planned for last May.
“Clearly none of that happened,” said Sandie Mullin, executive director of Arts Outreach.

“The Real Men Cookbook” is a collection of recipes from this well-loved event for Arts Outreach.
Photo contributed

Arts Outreach began in 1980 with five volunteer artists as an arts-in-schools program, placing artists in the classrooms to teach and perform. It has grown over the years into a collaboration of more than 70 talented and professional artists. Members teach dance classes to children in pre-school, bring artists and programs to all the schools in the Santa Ynez Valley and offer after-school programs and seasonal workshops and performances.

“There are so many people that grew up in the valley that never even knew that Arts Outreach touched their lives in some form or another,” Mullin said.

Mullin said the start of 2020 was great and they were looking forward to celebrating their many years of hosting art programs with alumni and their supporters. Then COVID-19 happened and like the rest of the world, everything came to a standstill.

“We suspended all our programs because like everyone else, we didn’t know much about this illness and wanted to protect our kids and our volunteers,” Mullin said.

Arts Outreach shifted from celebrating to surviving.

“Most of the grants that we typically get have either been suspended or the funding shifted to health and human services, which is totally understandable,” Mullin said. “Thankfully our landlord has been incredible with us and we have been able to keep the lights on.”

Mullin said before she was an Arts Outreach employee, she was an Arts Outreach parent. All three of her children have benefitted from the many programs that Arts Outreach provides, and they still help her on many projects and programs.

Arts Outreach began in 1980 with five volunteer artists as an arts-in-schools program, placing artists in the classrooms to teach and perform.
Photo contirbuted

“I saw first-hand the tremendous impact that Arts Outreach had on my children at the time,” she said. “While enjoying the undeniable benefits of creativity, they also learned about teamwork, problem solving, public speaking, and bringing a vision to life. I want to ensure your children — or your grandchildren or your neighbor’s children — have the same access to these programs that my children did.”

Mullin said that the Real Men Cook event ended up becoming the group’s largest fundraiser for the year and last year was their most profitable event yet by raising more than $45,000. The event featured more than 50 amateur male chefs creating fantastic dishes combined with beverages from 35 premier local vintners and brewers, live music and a fantastic auction.

“Real Men Cook became the highlight of the year fundraising wise, and we had so many great local amateaur and professional chefs participate and bring some fantastic recipes,” Mullin said.

Any chef could prepare 200 to 250 tablespoon-sized tastes (or teams could prepare 350 to 400) of their creations in one of several categories including appetizers; chili or stew; entrees of fish, fowl, meat or vegetarian; side dishes; and desserts.

Since Arts Outreach were unable to host an actual event this year, Mullin said her volunteers worked tirelessly, compiling all the recipes and photos from throughout the years and decided to release a cookbook.

“I know this isn’t the same as the actual event, but I have been wanting to do this for some time, rather than send out a newsletter,” she said. “It also gives us a chance to honor some of these guys who were so involved and passed away.”

Mullin brought up the memory of Pete Fohl, who was known for his inventive and tasty entries at the event and passed away in 2017.

“Along with his wonderful table decorations, most of all he was known for his smile,” she said.

With the loss of this large event, Mullin said that other than the cookbook, the program has been working on alternative virtual events, and virtual programs for schools that will hopefully make up some of their shortfall.

“We just want people to know that Arts Outreach will continue,” she said. And for just $2, the group can give a child art for a day. For $250, it will ‘adopt’ a classroom for six weeks.

Those interested in donating or purchasing a book for $30 can call Arts Outreach at 688-9533 or visit

Kangaroo Kurry

By Mike Brown and Nick Di Croce, 2005

Picture yourself in the Australian Outback at night, a case of Fosters in the Rover, 2,000-watt headlights up front, chasing bouncy kangaroos who stop like “kangaroos in headlights” when you spot them. They will box with you until you wrestle them to the ground — and all the time you are thinking about how good they will taste in your mouth-watering slow cooked curry recipe. Here it is:

A small handful of cardamon seeds
2 broken cinnamon sticks
6 black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup of vegetable or olive oil
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
6 minced garlic cloves
small piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 green Serrano chilis, seeded and minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 pounds kangaroo meat (or any other American meat!) cut into serving pieces
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Combine the first five ingredients in a mortar or coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. Head in a large saute pan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and saute, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes or until browned. Add the garlic, ginger and chilis and stir for 2 minutes. Add the ground spice mixture, tumeric, cayenne, and salt for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes until some of the liquid has evaporated.

Arrange the meat in the slow cooker. Transfer most of the onion mixture to a blender and puree until almost smooth. Pour the pureed vegetables and the reserved sauteed vegetables over the meat in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours until the meat is to your liking. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro.