We are extremely proud to share that UC Merced’s very own, Executive Sous Chef, Jonathan Gutierrez Santiago was recently named this year’s Colleges and Universities Winner for the 2024 Produce Excellence in Food Service Awards by the International Fresh Produce Association. He will probably hate that I used this pic. LOL!

Chef Jonathan’s accomplishments are nothing short of extraordinary. This is the second award he has won this year. He won the Chef Cook Off for the Madera/Fresno CASA Fundraiser to support foster youth.

Here are some of the initiatives he’s spearheaded in his operation that’s he’s being recognized for.

Innovative Menu Planning: Chef Jonathan has revolutionized our YWDC dining center with his inventive menu concepts, focusing on showcasing fresh produce. He has ingeniously extended the shelf life of produce through methods such as dehydrating, fermentation, and pickling. Additionally, he has championed an “ugly produce” recipe development program, proving that imperfection holds beauty and deliciousness.

BIPOC Produce Buying Program (Black, Indigenous and People of Color): Since its inception in August 2023, Chef Jonathan’s BIPOC produce buying program has made a profound impact. Notably, 97% of purchases have supported families and growers within a 150-mile radius of our campus, fostering community resilience and equity within the food system. Moreover, 92% of spending has empowered underrepresented farm entrepreneurs, while also contributing to AASHE Stars F&B sustainable purchasing criteria.

Local BIPOC Section on Salad Bar: Our salad bar now features a dedicated section showcasing produce from BIPOC farmers. Chef Jonathan ensures that guests not only enjoy delicious salads but also learn about the farmers behind the ingredients, with bios and farm locations provided.

#awards #localfood #ucmerced #innovation #centralvalley #culinaryarts #cheflife
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