The Paella King

It has been raining for a while here in Seattle now . . . You are restless because you are having one of those Spain dreams you often have this time of year.

You are in Costa del Sol or the Costa Brava, and you are lounging at a beachside restaurant, your toes knead the warm soft sand, and you are intoxicated by the heat, the Mediterranean Sea . . . and the cool dry sherry wine.

You want to prolong the afternoon, so you decide to splurge on a paella — a dish to match the moment. After a half-hour of enjoying tapas (appetizers) and fino (dry sherry), the paella arrives. While it reposes on your table, allowing the various flavors to mingle, you admire it. Resting in the large, round shallow pan from which it gets its name are prawns, squid, chicken, clams, mussels and legumes in a bed of golden rice. Infusing all is the exquisite aroma of saffron.

Then, just as you and your friends prepare to indulge, the dream begins to fade . . . OH NO! What to do?

Call the Paella King!


Hi Jim! Thanks for such an amazing event, we had an absolute blast and everyone CANNOT stop talking about how great the paella was. Even Georgetown Ballroom said we had the best wedding food they’d ever seen.

— Gwen & Matthew Stubbs, Seattle

Jim, Thanks again for making the trek out to Vashon . . . the paella was fabulous!!! Our friends who had been to Spain last year thought it was much better than anything they had over there.

— Shannon Flora, Seattle

Dear Jim Kuhn, Thank you so much for making the fabulous paella for our wedding celebration. It was a huge success!

— Kirsten & Mike Jacobs, Snohomish

I’d like to thank you for a delicious Paella for my husband’s birthday dinner. It’s really the best paella I’ve had, and lots of others felt the same way. I heard comments in particular on the shrimp, mussels, beans and sausage. Everything was prepared to perfection. You’re talented! Thanks again!

— Heidi Wills, Seattle

I am writing to thank you for your wonderful contribution to KBCS’ fund drive. Our staff and volunteers love the lunch you provided the first day of our fund dive. And last night you once again served us such a wonderful meal. Happy New Year!

— Pam Burton, KBCS, Bellevue

Thank you for such a great evening of food and music. This event of hiring the “Paella Dude” we will talk about for a very long time. I would love the recipe for the marinated veggies if you would. I had it last night with a piece of salmon — “divine.” Thanks again.

— Cheri Burns, Snohomish

What can I say? The paella was just wonderful! Everyone loved it. I so appreciate all your effort and look forward to another paella party in the future. Thank you so much!

— Patty Simick, Seattle

That was a birthday party to be remembered forever! Your paella was simply delicious . . . And the guitarist and Fione, the dancer, were so beautiful and exciting! It truly was a bit of Spain in the Columbia Winery that day. Our guests loved it too, and have wanted to let me know it was the best party every! Thanks again, Jim, for a beautiful afternoon.

— Adele Doolittle, Woodinville

Kemp and I would like to tell you how much we enjoyed having you over last Tuesday. With your talents you have rendered our evening into something special. Everyone enjoyed the paella and all the extras. You have outdown yourselves!

— Kemp & Margit Hiatt, Seattle

Thank you so much for the great effort and fantastic paella you prepared for our party! We’d love to do it again!

— Susan & Roger Belanich Queen Anne, Seattle

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The Paella King Welcomes You

To all who have journeyed to this site: The Paella King as a food business will cease operations as of June 1, 2017. I am retiring and my son, Toby, is taking his musicianship (wth the band, Tangerine) and his skills as a “paellero” to Los Angeles.

I am grateful for the patronage of the Northwest community over these last twenty years, from when many people assumed that the paella image on the side of my van was a pizza, and pronouncing the word “paella” was a linguistic feat. Well, we’ve moved far beyond that, and I regret that we will not be here to cater to the rising demand for this special dish. However, it is one thing to stop making paellas, but another to abruptly cut oneself off from the memories and the community. With that in mind, starting in June, I’ve decided to use this platform to share some of the recipes and stories that I’ve compiled over the years.

The Paella Menu

First, I would like to point out that, whenever possible, I am committed to using local, organic ingredients in my paellas. The exceptions are the Spanish chorizo and the rice, which come from Los Angeles and Spain, respectively. My seafood provider is University Seafood and Poultry and my meats and vegetables come either from PCC Natural Food Markets or the local farmers’ markets. All of my paellas are gluten free, and my vegetarian paella is vegan. And finally, I use real Spanish saffron!

Paella Mixta

This strikingly colorful paella features both seafood and meats. It includes chicken, Spanish chorizo (not Mexican), wild-caught Atlantic Coast prawns (Georgia whites), clams, mussels (Penn Cove), squid, artichoke hearts, peas or romano beans, Spanish garrafó beans, and sweet red peppers. This is my most popular paella offering.

Paella Marinera

This paella gets much of its terrific flavor from a specially flavored broth. It includes prawns, monkfish, clams, mussels, and squid.

Paella con Albóndigas y Champiñones

The area around Alicante on the east coast of Spain is the inspiration for this paella. There is no seafood in this one; instead, there is a unique broth, small meatballs with pine nuts and parsley, and mushrooms. It’s one of my favorites.

Vegetarian Paella

I make a strong, flavorful vegan paella that incorporates a variety of organic vegetables and legumes, depending on what is available.

The above four types of paella are those that I do the most; they are not the entirety of what I am able to provide. If you have some other paella in mind, or if you have an objection to one or another of the ingredients, please let me know; I can usually accommodate you.

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The Making of the Paella King

Many years ago I went to Seville, Spain to study flamenco guitar. In my naiveté, I expected to find “real” flamenco on every street corner and that in a year I could become a competent flamenco guitarist. Neither of those things occurred. However, I did fall into the surreal world of Spanish gypsy flamenco, where the most ordinary aspects of life were elevated to art and where the participants conspired to create a kind of theatre, in which each of us had a role to play.

I have never laughed so hard, nor witnessed such profound art as during those times. The experience both liberated and challenged me: how could I incorporate that sense of play and art into my life in the States? The Paella King is part of my attempt to answer that question.

I started this business in 1997 with the idea of recreating some of the joy of music and food that I experienced in the gypsy community in Spain, both for my clients and for myself. I chose paella because it is a great party dish and I was aesthetically drawn to it. Who could not be inspired in the presence of a good paella, with its prawns, squid, chicken, clams, mussels, and legumes resting in a bed of golden, saffron-infused rice? It is a fiesta in a pan!

I’ve been traveling around the western part of the state of Washington for the last 14 years, preparing paella and sometimes playing flamenco guitar for a variety of events — from intimate gatherings to weddings.

For those who require more complete catering, I work with a catering service. I can even arrange for a flamenco show with singers and dancers. No matter how elaborate, I can help you express your Spanish fantasy.

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History and Elaboration of Paella

The word “paella” is an evolution of the Latin word “patella,” which referred to a flat-bottomed cooking vessel with handles on the sides and was probably used to prepare a variety of dishes. The settling of the Arabs into the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century AD brought with it the cultivation of rice (ar-rrozz in Arabic, arroz in Spanish). The largest production of rice in Spain occures in a region called “La Albufera,” a wetlands area not far from the city of Valencia, on the east coast. The other prominent ingredient in paella, saffron (azafrán, in Spanish), is also grown in Spain. This completes the trinity for paella aficionados: the pan, the rice, and the saffron.

Paella began as a fairly simple dish. Workers in the rice fields would cook their midday meals over an open fire in paella pans, taking advantage of the fresh vegetables, snails, eel, and wild herbs available to them. As their economic situations improved, on special days they might add a chicken or rabbit to their “arroz.” At some point — around the 13th century — the dish became known as “arroz a la Valenciana en paella,” and then, sometime in the 19th century, it was called simply, “paella Valenciana.” Over the years, it has incorporated different ingredients, depending on what was available: in coastal areas, seafood might predominate, while in the interior, one might find meats, or even mushrooms. One thing is fairly constant, however: a paella is a rice dish cooked in a paella pan.

So, what makes a good paella? First, for paella enthusiasts, a good paella is judged by the quality and flavor of the rice, regardless of the variety or quantity of “goodies” that are embedded in it. Next, the cooking of all the ingredients must take place in the paella pan. It is a process during which the meats and other ingredients are sautéed, removed, and then replaced, but there should be no cooking of the rice separately. The rice, a good short-grained Spanish variety, must be cooked in such a manner that all of the liquid is absorbed and ideally a light crust is achieved on the bottom, called the “soccarat.” The socarrat is prized because of the concentration of flavor there. As a final note, because of the fiesta-like nature of the dish, there is sometimes a temptation towards wild experimentation in regard to ingredients — adding wine or inappropriate vegetables, for example — but one should resist that and respect the rice.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is included in the price of the paella?

Normally, the price I quote you is for the paella only. That means that I bring all of the ingredients and equipment necessary to prepare and serve the paella.

What does the client need to provide?

I bring everything I require to prepare and serve the paella. I need about 10' x 10' of space (sometimes less), either outside on a deck, lawn, patio, garage, or carport, but I can’t cook inside your kitchen. If you live in an apartment or condominium, I can often deliver, provided you are not too far. In addition, I appreciate it if I can use one stovetop burner to heat my broth.

How large are your portions?

When you order a paella from me, you can expect generous entrée-size portions, with some left over for those who want seconds. And you might very well have some to have for lunch the next day.

Which of your paellas are gluten-free or vegan?

All of our paellas are gluten-free and dairy-free. The vegetarian paella is vegan, containing no meat, fish or dairy products. In addition, I am committed to using local, organic ingredients in my paellas whenever available. The exceptions are the Spanish chorizo and the rice, which come from Los Angeles and Spain, respectively.

How far will you travel?

Although the majority of my business comes from Seattle and the Eastside (Kirkland, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Redmond), I work the entire western part of the state of Washington, including the islands. If you live outside of that area, try me anyway. I have ranged as far as Portland, Mt. Rainier National Park, and the Potholes area near Moses Lake. For your information, I do normally charge for travel outside of the Seattle area.

What types of events do you do?

As I mentioned earlier, I am a specialty cook and caterer who caters to a variety of events: special birthday celebrations or family reunions, wedding rehearsal dinners and wedding receptions, or any other fiesta with friends that demands a Spanish flavor. Also, if my clients require more in the way of catering than I am able to provide, I can connect them with a service that I work with that will satisfy their needs.

How are you booked?

You can contact me either via email or phone me, Jim Kuhn, at 206-841-8220, for initial information, but I like to talk to you by phone before booking you. I want to get to know my clients a little before showing up at their door, and I do that best on the phone.

What payment methods do you accept?

I do not accept credit cards; I take either check or cash. I require an initial deposit of $100 to hold the date, and the rest is due the day of the event.

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