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UCB Opens Nation’s First Organic College Kitchen

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday April 04, 2006

Mixed baby greens dressed in Sesame Goddess vinaigrette and soy bacon bits drenched in Miso Ginger dressing paved the way for the nation’s first ever certified organic kitchen on an American college campus at UC Berkeley’s Crossroads dining commons on Thursday. 

According to Kim LaPean, marketing coordinator for Cal Dining, one of UC Berkeley’s food services, all four of the dining halls managed by Cal Dining will start offering certified organic salad bars by next spring. 

Speaking to The Planet, Chuck Davies, Assistant Director/ Executive Chef for Cal Dining described the organic spread as “rotating salads ranging from pasta and grain salads, kidney and garbanzo beans to fresh spinach, carrot and cucumber slices, sunflower seeds, and anything else that adds to its appeal.” 

Davies added that getting certified under CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) had not been easy. 

“There are so many institutions dabbling in organic food today,” he said. “But we decided to take that extra step, spend that extra dollar to go ahead and get certified.” 

Davies hired Lorraine Aguilar, a senior at UC Berkeley’s Nutritional Science and Toxicology department, to help him with CCOF’s application process. 

“We had to create product flow charts, audit trails showing from scratch how organic products would be handled, maps of the kitchen and dining areas, and outline how the staff would deal with dishwashing and pest control using only approved products,” he said.  

CCOF, the oldest and largest organic certifier in N orth America, was started by a group of activist farmers in 1973.  

“Getting certified is a huge achievement,” said Jake Lewin, director of marketing and international programs at CCOF. “With organic food becoming more and more popular everyday, it’s onl y logical to have something like this. It definitely provides more options to customers.” 

Cal Dining partnered with Piranha Produce, the largest food distributer on campus, and United Natural Foods for the launch of the organic salad bar at Crossroads, a t 2415 Bowditch St. 

Both Piranha Produce and United Natural Foods are certified organic distributors of fresh vegetables and fruits as well as processed vegetables, beans, dried fruits, nuts, dressings, oils and vinegars.  

“Cal has put up a cutting e dge program and rest of the nation will soon follow in its footsteps,” said Jan Burkett, school food service specialist for Piranha Produce.  

The organic vinaigrettes, with their exotic combinations and funky names, caused quite a stir among students dur ing lunch hour on Thursday. They were manufactured by Organicville—the brainchild of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business alumni Rachel Kruse. 

Kruse, a third generation vegetarian, quit her job in the corporate world and started her own business in Emeryvi lle. 

“I felt the need to create something different,” she said. “Something that is vegan, gluten free, one carb per serving and still manages to taste good. I wanted salad dressings to be fun.” 

The result was organic vinaigrettes such as Orange Cranberr y, Sesame Tamari, and Sun Dried Tomato and Garlic.  

“It feels really great to give back to my school like this,” Kruse said. “I feel I have come full circle. I want to show people that organic is accessible and that it helps the environment.” 

Liese Gree nsf elder from Berkeley’s Office of Public Affairs told the Planet that prices have not been increased after the revamp. “They worked very hard to keep the cost down. Student’s won’t need to pay extra for the organic salads.” she said. 

Venus, an intended psy chology major at Berkeley was taken by surprise when she saw the revamped salad bar. “I am very excited. The salad dressings are usually very messy but I like what they had today. I am definitely coming back for more.” 

Then there were those who knew about the opening and had come to sample the goodies during lunch time. 

“I think it’s very important to keep the spirit of the organic movement alive,” said Allen Feldman, a student at UC Berkeley. “This is a great way of doing it.”” 


Photo by Riya Bhattacharjee: 

Venus You-Ching Tsai, a UC Berkeley sophmore, checks out the revamped organic salad bar at Crossroads dining commons.