Rubén Martín Cintas and Diego Cruz. Courtesy Cruz.

Olé Paellas! How Two SFB Dancers Turned Their Weekly Paella Parties Into a Thriving Catering Company

It started with a weekly tradition among friends. "We have Mondays off, so we would do P+P—paella and poker," says San Francisco Ballet corps member Diego Cruz. After nearly ten years honing home-country recipes, Cruz and his co-founder, former SFB principal dancer Rubén Martín Cintas, decided to take their cooking skills commercial in July 2017. Today, Paellas & Cos can barely keep up with their client demand on two coasts: San Francisco's Bay Area and Washington DC, where Cintas recently relocated to serve as Ballet Master for The Washington Ballet.


Long before Monday night poker, Cruz and Cintas both trained at Estudio de Danza de Maria de Avila while growing up in Spain. "We've known each other for 19 years," says Cruz, "when I was a kid he was my idol." Cruz spent summers at SFB School intensives before joining the year-round training program and later the company as a corps member in 2006. As a company veteran, his repertoire includes nearly every ballet in the classical canon and plenty of original roles choreographed on him by the likes of William Forsythe, Arthur Pita and Myles Thatcher.

It's appropriate that Paella & Cos' first big event was on home turf. In 90cm specialty pans purchased from a store in San Francisco called Spanish Table, Cruz and Cintas made paella for everyone backstage at the opera house in December 2017. It was a retirement party for the costume department's head dresser. (You can see delightful shots of Nutcracker's mice, Sugar Plum Fairy and Spanish characters hovering over steaming, bubbling pans on the catering company's Instagram, @paellasandcos.)

Cruz in Helgi Tomasson's Concerto Grosso. Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Typical paella variations include meat and vegetable, pure vegetable and seafood. But it's not all business above the cutting board and fry pan. "We make the show. We sing, we do everything possible for everybody to have fun at the party," says Cruz. Although they do their best to work within a client's budget, a seafood paella party with tapas might set you back $70 per person. "Imagine that you like a restaurant a lot so you hire the chef to come to your house," says Cruz, "How much money would you pay?"

Evidently, people agree. Starting among the ballet community for birthdays and cook outs, Paellas & Cos has gotten the word out through social media and popup events. "We're getting a lot of emails now," Cruz explains, "we've had to turn some events down."

Cintas in Helgi Tomasson's Nutcracker. Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Indeed, running an in-demand, bicoastal catering company necessitates creative multi-tasking. On the day we spoke, Cruz squeezed in a paella gig between a dress rehearsal and performance. Sometimes, the balancing act is literal. "The other day Helgi [Tomasson, SFB's artistic director], was teaching class. I was in a balance and he came over to ask, 'How's your business?' No corrections, nothing ballet," he recounts with a laugh. Now that they live and work nearly 3,000 miles apart, Cruz and Cintas each run their own local P&C branch, hiring help when needed.

In the end, it's about more than the extra income. "We come from a culture that really finds happiness through these type of food environments. So we just want to share that with people," says Cintas. For Cruz, Paellas & Cos may be a retirement plan someday, but for now he's happy to be dancing, cooking and spreading the love—with an effervescent addition: "Beer. I love making beer, too."

Latest Posts


Courtesy ABC

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Alicia Mae Holloway Talks About Her Time on ABC's “The Bachelor”

Bunheads tuning in to the season premiere of ABC's "The Bachelor" on January 4 may have recognized a familiar face: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Alicia Mae Holloway, literally bourréeing out of a limousine to greet bachelor Matt James. While Holloway unfortunately didn't get a rose that night, she did thoroughly enjoy being the long-running reality franchise's first professional-ballerina contestant, as she told Pointe in a recent Zoom call.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Carla Fracci and Stephen Jefferies in "La Esmeralda" (1987)

Carla Fracci, a former principal dancer of La Scala Ballet in Milan, is among the rare class of ballerinas who continued to perform into her 50s and beyond. Romantic ballets were her calling card throughout her career. In 1987, when Fracci was 51, she was featured in a television special, dancing reconstructed 19th-century ballets in the style of historical ballerinas. In this clip of La Esmeralda from the program, Fracci and her partner Robert Jefferies, a former principal at The Royal Ballet, deliver an extraordinary performance, capturing the verve and spirit of their characters.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Ask Amy: How Can I Make the Most of Performance Opportunities in a Pandemic?

My school is connected to a professional company that operates on a show-to-show basis. Students can audition for company performances when they're 15. My 15th birthday is in February, and I think that our directors are choosing people to participate in virtual performances based off of whether they have performed with the company before. This was supposed to be my big first year with the company, but COVID-19 has changed that. How do I make it known that I want to participate? Do you think I should wait until things are more normal? —Lila
Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks