Chef brings tradition of paella from Spain to San Diego

Photo3 Paella W&B
The 2017 Paella Wine & Beer Festival is on Saturday, May 13. (Courtesy photo)

Chef Armando Rodiel grew up eating his mother’s paella in Valencia, Spain. Every Sunday, family and friends gathered at his home to enjoy his mother’s delicious cooking while catching up and having fun. So it comes as no surprise that when his mother gave him his own pan, at age 12, Rodiel started cooking and hasn’t stopped.

Rodiel attended culinary school in Spain, specializing in Mediterranean cuisine. In perfecting his paella, he was continuing a long Valencian tradition (as the dish originated in the region). It’s unclear exactly when and how paella came about, but experts agree it’s linked to the import of rice to the region. It was likely first cooked by farmers who added whatever they had on hand - vegetables and meats like chicken or rabbit (and snails) - to large pans of rice.

The name paella actually comes from those pans. In Valencia, “paella” means “frying pan” and refers to the large, shallow pans with two handles. Traditionally, paella is served directly from the pan. Farmers would bring their own wooden spoons and gather to share the meal.

By the 1500s, paella had spread throughout Spain. Different regions added their own twists to the dish, adding seafood, sausage or chorizo. Although the exact recipe of the dish evolved, its special way of bringing people together did not.

That’s what Rodiel wanted to celebrate when he started the San Diego Paella Wine & Beer Festival in 2014. With more than 60 chefs serving up their version of paella, and unlimited wine and beer tastings, attendees will feel like they’ve been transported from downtown San Diego’s Embarcadero to the heart of Valencia.

The Paella Wine & Beer Festival is on Saturday, May 13 from 1-6 p.m. Tickets start at $40 for the 21+ event. New this year is an After Party from 6-11 p.m., which is included in the ticket price. For more information and tickets to this year’s event, visit

Use code SDPAELLA for $8 off tickets.