Sunny Stickel on lessons learned abroad
Sunny Stickel, the woman behind Sunny’s Catering, admits she’s feeling “a little pooped” after a busy holiday season. We caught up with Stickel, an immigrant from South Korea, in her kitchen at the Elks Lodge, which, from the inside looks like the set of a Frank Sinatra movie.
GT: What was this place like in the 1960s?
SUNNY STICKEL: One of the old [Elks Club] members told me this was one of the fanciest buildings ever in Santa Cruz County. In the women’s bathroom is a lounge chair and wallpaper. All ladies who came wore black gloves and tight, long dresses, and they’d fix up their hair.
On your website, it looks like you do a lot of teriyaki dishes …
International cuisine. We just did a Nigerian wedding. And this springtime, I went to Korea. I did the diplomats’ dinner. They specifically asked for me to cook Oaxacan dishes, which is Mexican.
Indoor or outdoor events?
I love both, indoor and outdoor, especially in the redwoods. In springtime, we did two events at Roaring Camp. We did a couple of weddings there, and then I did one wedding at the Stones and Flowers in Ben Lomond. I just love redwood areas. I have a passion for cooking meals, so it doesn’t matter. Wherever they call me, I’ll be there, even a beach wedding. It can be really hard, carrying all the chicken dishes and all that.
Is Sunny your Korean name?
No, my real name’s Sunghee. Ever since I lived in this country, people always called me Sunny. Even though I said ‘Sunghee, Sunghee!’ But no, they said Sunny. So ever since I became an American citizen, I thought, ‘OK, why not?’
Craziest thing that’s happened yet?
I just went to Uganda last year. Over there, people are starving. The place that we went was an orphanage. They get to eat two, three meals a day. But outside the orphanage people are starving. Kids tried to treat me, so one day they showed me a huge platter of brown round things, and I didn’t know what it was. And I took a closer look. It was termites … They put them in their bean soup … Eating bugs like that is strange to me, but actually once I tasted it, it’s not bad. It tasted like an almond, crunchy. [Laughing] It was good.