Residential Dining Services hosted this year’s Pacific Chef Net Conference Tuesday through today, bringing together 30 chefs from universities and colleges along the West Coast to explore how to incorporate local and sustainable food into their dining services.
The conference, hosted by UCSB for the second consecutive year, included an excursion to the Santa Barbara Farmers Market as well as demonstration sessions on building a sustainable seafood program and on cage-free chicken, cage-free eggs, whole grains and grass-fed beef. The conference also included a tour of a local produce farm and discussions with farmers, tastings of olive oil and certified organic fair trade coffee, as well as a tour of campus dining facilities.
According to Dining Services Director Jill Horst, Santa Barbara is a hub of food sustainability efforts that has greatly influenced the university as well as this year’s conference theme.
“UCSB is known for being a green school through its environmental practices … and I think that helps draw individuals here,” Horst said. “We have a really strong food service program, so they can learn from what we do and we can learn from what they do.”
During the event, chefs from different schools gathered at the university to “network,” collaborate and bring their newly acquired skills and findings to their own campuses, Horst said.
“They’re able to share their experiences from their campuses,” Horst said. “It’s a gathering of the best of the best of the minds. When they send schools out to conferences, that individual comes back to a campus and shares what they learned as a spokesperson. It’s intriguing because you always learn from somebody.”
According to Horst, the conference’s kick-off outing to the farmers market downtown allowed conference attendees to become better acquainted with other sustainable food distributers in the Santa Barbara area and their take on sustainable food distribution methods.
“You really showcase what we are known for and what we’re the best at,” Horst said. “We worked with Harvest Santa Barbara, the vendor we get a lot of our organic produce from. They gave us a tour to the farmers market and introduced us to some of the farmers that we buy from.”
Dining Services Administrative Coordinator Marisol Gomez said Wednesday’s events also included a catered lunch prepared by 32 chefs from the National Association for College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Pacific Region at Harder Stadium. Seven Residential Dining Services Instagram contest winners were also invited to the event.
Priscilla Anh Thy Vu, a first-year global studies major and one of the winners of the Residential Dining Services Instagram contest, said she felt privileged to attend the event.
“I think it’s awesome that UCSB gets to host something like this and how generous it was to have been offered these tickets,” Vu said. “I had a great time enjoying foods that I had never tried before such as a kale salad, turkey meatballs and couscous. I think it’s very important that our society moves toward a more sustainable lifestyle and diet.”
A version of this story appeared on page 8 of Thursday, January 15, 2015’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.