Lunch with Betty at the Biltmore

One could argue that Betty DeGeneres has led a charmed life already. Not only is she an author, speaker, speech pathologist, and mother to one of the most famous women in the world, Ellen DeGeneres, but also on top of all that she has played video games with her idol, Tiger Woods. “I am a huge fan of his. So when he was on Ellen’s show we came up with a skit where Tiger and I are playing his new video game in the dressing room. Ellen comes in and says, ‘Mom, the show is about to start!’ and I wave her away and continue to play with Tiger. I told him I was his second biggest fan after his mother, but now I guess I am third after his mother and his wife,” Betty said with a chuckle. Although she no longer plays golf herself after her car was stolen with her golf clubs in the trunk, she is one busy lady.

Before there was a show called Ellen, Betty DeGeneres became a speech pathologist after getting her master’s degree at the age of fifty. She worked with developmentally disabled adults at Cedar Sinai for ten years and retired. Retirement was not a relaxing event for Betty however; she stayed busy by continuing speech therapy for patients at Children’s Hospital, writing books, traveling, speaking, and of course hanging around the set of Ellen’s show. “I was there every day until moving to Santa Ynez two years ago. When I moved I told Ellen, ‘You’re launched!’” After moving to Santa Ynez, Betty became involved with a knitting group called “The Crassy Bitches” and maintains many friendships developed from that time. Her daughter’s talk show has won several Emmys and is celebrating the kickoff of its fifth season.

On September 18, Betty will be guest speaker for a luncheon fundraiser benefiting the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, which assists families with children undergoing cancer treatment. Even though she is a breast cancer survivor, Betty was unclear of the link between her and children with cancer when first asked to headline the event. She will be speaking about unconditional love and acceptance of a child, which is something Betty definitely knows a thing or two about. She chronicled her journey with Ellen in her two books Love Ellen and Just a Mom.

Betty is currently enjoying time in Summerland with Bingo, her twelve-year-old male Chihuahua, walking on the beach with friends, and occasionally going to Ellen’s show. Even though she has accomplished much in her life, she hopes to perhaps write and illustrate a children’s book in the future. “I have painted since high school and have recently been taught by Santa Barbara artist Greg LeRoy,” she says confidently. But even if she doesn’t produce another book, Betty admits to being content with her current schedule. “Just more of the same is good,” she said with a smile.

The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation ‘Lunch with Betty’ will be held September 18th at the Biltmore. Tickets are $175 and sponsorships that include a private cocktail party with Betty DeGeneres are available. Please call TBCF at 962-7466 for information.

Venus, Veuve, and Vietnamese

Tam Trinh was on hand at Karen Van Horn’s Montecito home on August 30 to make a dinner inspired by the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. Tam, who specializes in Vietnamese cuisine, made a four-course dinner dubbed “The Vietnamese Open.” Veuve Cliquot bubbly flowed as Karen invited fellow friends and tennis players Julie Brown, Anne Neubauer, Teri Bugay, Diana Andonian, and Cherry Sadler to enjoy the feast Tam prepared.

“Tennis, French champagne, and Vietnamese food, they just go together so well!” exclaimed Tam, who is also a tennis player. “In fact these have been the reasons for many wonderful friendships that I cultivated in my catering business,” she adds. “How many chefs do you know would have the chance to play tennis and drink champagne with their customers?”

It all started about four years ago, when Montecito resident Jill Kitnick came back from her first trip to Vietnam (she has taken three more trips since then), still craving the exotic taste of Vietnamese food, but unable to find it anywhere in Santa Barbara. When Jill saw that Tam was going to teach her very first cooking class at SBCC Adult Education, Jill was the first person to show up and since then, she and Tam have been cooking Vietnamese food and playing tennis regularly.

At times Tam feels that she isn’t exactly working but rather just having fun with the people she is cooking for. “Sometimes I don’t even think of my cooking as a business. I feel like I am cooking in the kitchen with a bunch of my friends, just like I used to do in Vietnam with my mother and my sisters.”

Although Vietnam was where she honed her cooking skills, Tam did not imagine herself growing up to become a cook. “I started to learn how to cook from my mother when I was a very young girl in Vietnam. I used to hate it, as it was part of my chores to go to market every morning, hunting and gathering for the family meals. But what do you know? When you have to cook so much for so many years, you end up loving it. How funny is that?”

If you are interested in Tam Trinh’s cooking services, please email her at

Under the Tuscan Sun

Several school-aged children from Montecito could be found this past summer enjoying the camp of a lifetime: in Italy, under the Tuscan sun.

Arte al Sole is a day camp for international children offering weeklong sessions based on the art, culture, and natural science of Tuscany. Shannon Venable is a Montecito resident and Program Director of Arte al Sole. “This summer’s participants exceeded my every expectation,” she said. “Ranging from age six to fifteen years of age,” she continued, “they all engaged so much with the projects in their own unique way. From Puccini, to Pinocchio, to Leonardo da Vinci, the region boasts many creative geniuses with whom to inspire the children. Physically being in the same places of such legends really fascinated them.”

The typical day on the Arte al Sole outing sounded as if it were written for a romantic novel. “Mornings found us walking the property to decide the best vantage point to sketch the Tuscan landscape on the grounds of a thousand-year-old farmhouse cultivated with olive groves, wine grapes, and secret gardens tucked here and there. We would then return to the loggia of the house, covered with a grapevine pergola, to work on a daily project; for example, modern-day versions of the medieval triptych that told a story in three parts with a stylized background, collages with Renaissance angels, studies in perspective, modeling inventions in wood a’ la Da Vinci, mosaics, landscape elements of design, and creating their own puppets and scripting puppet shows in groups that were performed on the last day,” Shannon explained.

Although art was the central focus of the camp, it was not the only thing the children explored. “The children also made pizza and pasta from scratch and explored the edible delights growing around the grounds.”

Shannon said the memories brought home were not only special for the art that was created and the international awareness that the kids received, but the friendships that were made. “At the end of the week the children had found a new use for their sketchbooks: gluing in mementoes, writing each other notes, folding in a wildflower picked from the grounds, as they sat and chatted about their favorite flavor of gelato and how fun it was to get their hair wet in the fountain on top of the Renaissance-era walls of the infamous ‘walled city.’ It really doesn’t get much better than that.”

To contact Arte al Sole about the upcoming 2008 program dates, please contact Shannon Venable at 805-680-7913. Their website is