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 In addition to its cold and stir-fry options, the Asian station at Café 3 serves a variety of noodles - Vietnamese pho one day, Chinese pulled noodles the next.(Photo courtesy Cal Dining)

Cal Dining wins the Oscar of eateries
Top food-industry honor puts the campus in rareified company

| 12 April 2007

Chez Panisse, French Laundry, Spago, Charlie Trotters . and Cal Dining? That's right. Berkeley's campus dining service recently earned its place among these much-lauded establishments when it snagged (as the others have in the past) a prestigious Ivy Award.

Given by the trade publication Restaurants & Institutions, Ivy Awards - the equivalent of Oscars for the food industry - recognize excellence in food service by restaurants, hotels, and institutions. Industry peers (and the previous year's winners) submit nominations, a ballot is assembled, and the magazine's 154,000 readers vote for their selections.

Shawn LaPean, director of Cal Dining, recalls that five years ago, the Wall Sreet Journal published an article skewering Berkeley's dining facilities. With the Ivy Award, "we've gone from worst to first," he says.

Since January 2003 the campus food service has undergone a major makeover. Marking a milestone in that transformation, Crossroads - the largest of Berkeley's four dining commons for students - became the first campus facility certified as a Bay Area Green Business by Alameda County. Last year Cal Dining introduced certified-organic salad bars in all four dining halls. And just this semester, Café 3, the newly renovated dining area in the Unit 3 residence-hall complex, rolled out an all-you-can-eat sushi bar, all-organic salad bar, pho station, and five hip new seating areas for its diners.

Harry Le Grande, interim vice chancellor for student affairs and former director of Residential and Student Service Programs, couldn't be happier about the honor. "We are the first University of California dining service to win this coveted award," he says. The Cal Dining team, adds Le Grande, "has really pulled together to make Berkeley a leader in the university food-service industry."

LaPean says the Ivy Award validates the contributions of his team, and brings recognition not only to the dining program but the campus as a whole. He plans to take a number of his staff to the May awards ceremony in Chicago, so that they can share in the celebration.

"The Ivy does not mean we are finished or perfect," says LaPean, since "the unfortunate nature of our business is that you are only as good as that last customer's meal." But it does signify, he adds, "that Cal Dining is heading in the right direction, responding well to our customers, listening to our employees, and getting a little bit better every day."