Ortega Dining Commons has expanded its menu to include sushi in an effort to satisfy students’ culturally diverse tastes.
Director of Residential Dining Operations Judy Edner said UCSB spent $32,000 at the beginning of Fall Quarter for equipment that allows Ortega to offer the new sushi dishes for lunch and dinner. Ortega now offers eight types of sushi to students, including veggie rolls, grilled ahi tuna rolls, chicken teriyaki rolls, New York rolls, Philly rolls, salsa rolls, Mediterranean rolls and California rolls.
Ortega Production Manager John Perreault said the five types of equipment purchased include rice cookers, rice holding trays, a machine that tumbles the rice with vinegar, sushi roll makers and a sushi cutter. He said the sushi-making process is very extensive.
“Basically, the first step is to wash the rice four or five times,” Perreault said. “Then it’s cooked in a rice cooker. We cut it with seasoned rice vinegar. Then we have a sushi machine where we lay the [seaweed] to get a consistent layer of rice. Then we have a rice mat that we put the filling inside and the machine rolls it for us.”
Ortega staff has been trained to safely serve the sushi, Edner said. Staff members use the same basic techniques used in preparing any other foods, such as keeping the food at a safe temperature and making sure the cooking surfaces are clean. She also said there is no raw fish in the sushi, which protects students from possible food poisoning.
Edner said serving fresh sushi at Ortega is possible because the dining commons has been less busy than in previous years, and she also said other campus dining halls may have too many customers per meal to serve sushi.
“Our production is really into doing it because students really enjoy having [the sushi],” she said.
The idea for sushi came from Housing and Residential Services Executive Director Willie Brown, Edner said.
“He was very supportive because he loves sushi and thought it would be an important thing to offer in the program,” she said. “We were excited to do this. We’re always looking for new options and dishes that will satisfy the different array of cultures.”
Edner said UCSB and UCLA are the only UC campuses that serve sushi at the dining commons. Other colleges sell sushi but do not offer it on the menu of the residential meal plan.
Second-year mechanical engineering major Fadi George said he enjoys the new menu item.
“I like it a lot, especially the crab,” George said. “I was never into sushi that much, but I finally tried it here.”
Holly Butterfield, a second-year math major, said she also appreciates the dishes.
“I think it’s interesting,” Butterfield said. “It seems to draw more people. For dining commons sushi, I think it’s all right.”