–Cooking from the Heart–
Tamales-To-Go founder releases homespun cookbook
BRETT LEIGH DICKS, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
January 30, 2014
Anyone who has ever tried one of Richard Lambert’s home-delivered
Santa Barbara Tamales-To-Go will know that authenticity is just as
importance as convenience.
When the Santa Barbara native decided to establish a tamale delivery
service he solicited the help of Beatriz Woolrich Ramirez, Mexico’s
celebrated Tamale Queen.
A teacher, culinary historian, and “tamalera” par excellence, Ms.
Ramirez is also owner of Tamales Especiales in Coyoacán, Mexico. She
coached Mr. Lambert in the art of making traditional tamales.
Mr. Lambert spent a week with Ms. Ramirez perfecting a range of
recipes, including Chicken Verde, Chipotle Beef, Pork, Chile and
Cheese, Spicy Black Bean, and Seasonal Vegetable tamales, which he
brought back to Santa Barbara and delivers piping hot to your door.
Authenticity and convenience were also the driving forces behind Mr.
Lambert’s latest culinary venture, a recently released cookbook
titled, “Preheat to 350 Degrees.”
The 100-page self-published book is jam-packed with homespun recipes
that Mr. Lambert has collected over the years. Many are family
favorites, some have been passed on by friends, while others have
been collected by Mr. Lambert during his years of traveling.
Just don’t go thumbing through the book expecting to find Mr.
Lambert’s tamale recipes.
“I wanted the book to be a helpful tool for home cooks,” Mr. Lambert
told the News-Press as he lavished freshly made masa on tamale husks
in the kitchen of his Santa Barbara home. “I wanted all the recipes
to be one page or less so they wouldn’t be too daunting. I therefore
thought the tamale recipes would be a little too complicated for the
While the intricate steps involved with creating the Tamales-To-Go
crave-worthy tamales excluded their inclusion, “Preheat to 350
Degrees” does feature the recipes for the two salsas that accompany
“Those recipes are something our Santa Barbara Tamales-To-Go
customers always ask for,” Mr. Lambert said. “They’re a little
detailed, but I managed to get each one of those, the chipotle salsa
and tomatillo salsa, down to a single page. People can make those
quite easily at home whereas the tamales are more involved. They take
a couple of pages and a lot more time to make.”
Mr. Lambert founded Santa Barbara Tamales-To-Go in July 2012. The
idea for starting his own tamale business was seeded after the
closure of La Tolteca Restaurant, his favorite local tamale source.
Mr. Lambert’s daughter, who owns and operates a pop-out restaurant in
Mexico City, subsequently introduced him to Ms. Ramirez.
“I was having a party and thinking of where I could order tamales,
since La Tolteca was gone,” Mr. Lambert recalled. “I was at a loss.
“I then thought there must be other people in the same situation and
why not deliver them hot like pizza? So I went to Mexico and spent a
week working with Beatriz Ramirez. When I came back I approached La
Tolteca, who now operate wholesale business, about a supply of masa,
and went into the tamale business myself.”
Although he had spent 25 years in the film industry producing and
distributing public education films on fire safety prior to
establishing Santa Barbara Tamales-To-Go, Mr. Lambert was no stranger
An avid home cook, the idea of producing his own cookbook came when
he discovered a cookbook from one of his favorite restaurants that
inspired him to turn his attention to the pile of recipes he had
collected over the years.
“Like a lot of people I have been gathering recipes most of my life,”
Mr. Lambert said. “They have been collecting in a big pile, but the
genesis of the book was really that cookbook called ‘My Nepenthe,’
which was put out by Romney Steele.
“Romney Steele was the granddaughter of the couple who opened the
famous Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur back in the late 1940s. The
cookbook wove together recipes with family stories and that inspired
me to weave together my pile of recipes with the stories from my own
life and the people who have been a part of it.”
A fifth-generation Santa Barbaran, Mr. Lambert’s family roots run
deep in Santa Barbara County. His great-great grandfather was a green
bean farmer on Lambert Road. Good food has always accompanied every
family celebration and many of the recipes incorporated into the book
are longtime family favorites.
Mr. Lambert has included a recipe for clam dip that had been an
essential part of every family fishing trip for as long as he can
remember. The origins of his chicken enchiladas came from friends of
his grandparents who introduced him to the dish during a fiesta
And the spicy Singapore satay gai recipe was inspired by a visit Mr.
Lambert made to the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, where he first
experienced the dish.
The recipes in “Preheat to 350 Degrees” are divided into chapters
dedicated to Breakfast, Biscuits, and Pie Crust; Sauces, Broths, and
Seasonings; Soups; Party Food; Salads and Dressings; Side Dishes;
Main Courses; and Desserts and Cookies. The rear of book includes
three pages of what Mr. Lambert calls his “Secret Ingredients.”
“The whole idea of the book was to help inspire people to spend more
time in their kitchen at home,” Mr. Lambert said. “So I also included
some of the ingredients that I have discovered over the years. I
really wanted the book to be personal and because each recipe has a
story attached to it, I wanted to show people that part of the story
is discovering some of these wonderful ingredients.”
Mr. Lambert’s secret ingredients include Angostura bitters, a
favorite in Old Fashioned cocktails that he uses in beef stew; fennel
pollen, a “magic dust” that serves as the perfect dry rub on pork
chops; and Yuzu juice, a Japanese citrus, which is more potent than
lemon or lime and makes the perfect addition to salmon fillets or