Through the eyes of Michael Portillo


My  name is Michael Portillo andI spent six weeks as an intern for UC Davis Dining services. During my week spent in the Sustainability and Nutrition Office (SNO), I was given the opportunity to explore and learn more about sustainable food and how it has grown over the years at UC Davis Dining Services. Before this experience I didn’t know much about this concept, so as you can imagine, everything from the selection of the produce to the preparation came as a surprise to me. Although, I did not know about how to be sustainable, the concept of maintaining a balance between the human needs to improve lifestyles and preservation of natural resources for our future was something I grew interest in immediately after hearing about it.

In order to understand more in-depth how UC Davis Dining Services has made such a positive impact on the students and community with regards to using and purchasing sustainable goods, I went to the primary source of all nutrients harvested from the earth – a farm – the Student Farm at UC Davis to be exact. There I gained a great deal of insight on the many day-to-day obstacles that farmers go through to harvest top notch organic produce. It was truly an amazing experience. The best part was eating some of the harvest; the grapes in particular were overflowing with mouth-watering nutrients that made my taste buds go crazy. It’s no wonder hundreds of gourmet chefs across the nation are choosing organic food to prepare.

Students are the primary driver of this relationship between Dining Services and the Student Farm.  Students grow the food, harvest the food and communicate with chefs what is available for them to order.

Shortly after harvesting the produce, we delivered it to the kitchens on campus. With the help of a group of students we sorted out the produce and cleaned it. We packaged and labeled the produce with its destination information. Once everything was ready for departure, it was loaded on the van.  I rode along as it was being delivered to various sites.

While at the Segundo Dinning Commons (DC) my experience took a slightly new direction. After just having picked and packaged the produce, I was now helping the kitchen staff prepare and cook the produce. The chef and his culinary staff showed me how they aim to make good use of every piece of the produce when possible;  right down to composting the pieces that cannot be used in other ways.   I learned that locally grown, organic food has superior taste and quality.

From the salad bar to the ingredients used for cooking of various dishes, I saw the processes used to take the food from farm to fork.  The last but best part of my experience was eating the food. I visited Segundo DC for lunch and feasted on the salad bar teeming with student farm veggies and an entrée that was amazing…Heirloom Tomato Stacker… Yummmm…


Overall, the experience taught me to look at food in a much more positive, healthy way. The process that produce goods goes through to get from the farm to the dining commons has an impact on our environment. I have enjoyed learning how organic produces minimize these harmful effects that come from this process. I wee now how eating locally grown, organic, seasonal product is one of the ways to preserve the earth’s natural resources and ecosystems for future generations to come.

2 thoughts on “Through the eyes of Michael Portillo

  1. Michael – It is great to hear about your learning journey and how this experience will impact youmoving forward. Sustainability is a huge concept that can be part of our lives in many ways. Keep learning and sharing what you learn. If we all share what we learn, change will continue to happen. Was great to have you come to campus and be part of the team.

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