Scarlet Begonia is farm-to-table breakfast, lunch and dinner at its best. Located in the Historic Victoria Building courtyard with hints of Spanish style architecture, Scarlet Begonia’s is everything you want to eat made with only the best ingredients. Every item is meticulously picked and gathered by Chef Avery who personally visits to the farmers market and chooses only the freshest seasonal produce he can find.
We sat down with Owner Crista Fooks and Chef Avery to find out more about this conscious nurturing restaurant. Organic, local, sustainable - exactly why we had been making this our Santa Barbara staple. Just know when you are eating here — all the food is made with love and intention.
CHEF AVERY: I know a bunch of farmers. I do really simple food. It’s seasonal and thoughtful. It’s somewhere in the middle of modern and rustic. People ask us what kind of food we do, and I like to respond by saying “the food we have around us”. I forage wild edibles, and we work with a local farm called “Sustained Harvest” that uses aquaponics to grow food. Today, I’ll be at the farmers market at 3 and we will do an “on the fly” menu which is based off of what I find at the market.
What inspires your dishes?
CHEF AVERY: Seasons. If it’s cold out - we lean towards rich fare. As we move into spring - it gets really light, really sexy, and very green and colorful.
What is your favorite meal to cook?
CHEF AVERY: Breakfast. Such a small percentage of people actually go out to eat. They’re there for the food and they need sustenance but it also brings family’s together for birthdays, engagements, parties. It’s a celebration. It’s exciting to see all these different types of people wake up real early in the morning and come in to eat breakfast.
What is an ingredient you can’t live without?
CHEF AVERY: Salt. Salt is what makes everything better. When you look back on history, salt is the reason time went on. It preserved foods. Without salt - we don’t go on.
Being a native, what do you love about Santa Barbara?
CHEF AVERY: The seasons, they change so much we can grow things that other people can’t. It takes 5 minutes to have your feet in the sand and 10 minutes to be in the mountains climbing rocks and picking wild fennel.
Why Santa Barbara?
CRISTA: You’d think Santa Barbara would be a lot greener as far as the food is concerned, but there aren’t many restaurants like us in Santa Barbara. I think ‘farm to table” has been bastardized in the industry. A lot of restaurants may say they are farm to table, but we really embrace local innovative simple cuisine, and we feel a deep obligation to stay true to our word.
My restaurant strives to offer a high end food experience- at the same time being a neighborhood joint that you can bring your kids and dogs for breakfast lunch and dinner. Sustainable meat and seafood, gmo free, organic produce and dairy; we work hard to stay fresh…we don’t short cut our customers.
What makes Scarlett Begonia so special?
CRISTA: We call our food “thoughtful”, because there is so much thought behind every single dish. When I first made our Lemon Ricotta pancakes - I got a lot of grief …people said “no restaurant makes pancakes like this where you whip the egg whites and you make it light. It’s never going to work. You’ll never pull it off.” Well, we pulled it off. We’re practiced at it. The guys in the back can make these pancakes in their sleep. When I was a kid my mom never a pancake that didn’t have whipped egg whites. When we first opened she was very firm that we continue doing that, and I’ve kept my promise! Every dish has a story, every dish is given great care and thought, and every dish must be great, and that is what sets us apart.
It’s amazing that you had this vision and now we are sitting here - experiencing it!
CRISTA: My vision does drive me, and continues to. People don’t necessarily know what it is, cause I’m a little weird about sharing and it constantly being tweaked and re-arranged in my head. My whole life I’ve always had a very determined mindset of how I want things to be, and I’ve found that if I shared it with people before it is complete— they would tell me it was too hard or try to kabosh it — and so I just keep it a secret and just plow forward.
What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
CRISTA: If I only could order one thing for the rest of my life it would be the soft scrambled eggs. It’s such a good little mix. We’ve perfected it over the past three years….and I rarely admit to perfecting anything! We roast fingerling potatoes and toss them in whole grain mustard, we softly scrambled eggs with fine herbs and place them on top of the potatoes, then fresh spinach is lightly sauteed and finished with fresh cream, topped with an aged gouda cheese (beemster) I think it’s such a well balanced dish.
What made you decide to enter the culinary industry?
CRISTA: I grew up in Valencia, which is a horrible place for food. It’s all fast food or chain restaurants. I was raised on fast food! There was this little bistro that opened up in a strip mall called “The Crocodile Bistro”. My dad wanted to go check it out — and this was in 1982 or ’83. This is kind of when food started to happen — when people began to move away from the industrialization of convenience food. So we went into “Crocodile Bistro” and he was making purees next to your steak, like sweet pea puree — which back then was like crazy, avant-garde. We took a bite of it and we were like “OH MY GOD IT TASTES JUST LIKE PEAS. OH MY GOD.” I will never forget how fancy it felt in there. My dad started talking to the owner and his name was Jean Pierre, and my dad called him JP. They became friends and he would invite my dad to come and cook. My dad could not cook, but he started with JP and practiced at home. He got super into it and then I got super into it. That’s when we both really found food. For my birthday from then on, my grandmother would take me to any restaurant I wanted to go to. I would spend all year trying to figure out which restaurant I would choose.
Eventually, someone told me that I should go to culinary school. I hadn’t considered it before that. So I went!
Tel: (805) 770-2143