Two senior members of UCLA Dining’s management team have been honored by the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association with the 2020 Excellence in Foodservice Award. The award puts a spotlight on chefs and their organizations for creativity in highlighting fresh produce in their menus, introducing diners to new flavors and presenting creative ways to enjoy fresh produce.

Joey Martin, senior executive chef, and Al Ferrone, senior director of food and beverage, who clinched the colleges and universities category, were nominated by the California Avocado Commission and honored June 18.

“It’s always a privilege for us to recognize culinary stars who are creating Instagram-worthy dishes that thrill customers and lead to a renewed interest and excitement for fresh produce,” said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association.

In addition to nine residential and quick serve restaurants, Martin and Ferrone oversee Plateia, the restaurant located in the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center, as well as catering for the entire campus.

This year’s winners were also praised for their dedication to feeding their patrons during the coronavirus pandemic.

For Martin and Ferrone, and the rest of the UCLA Dining team, this included hundreds of students who continued to live in UCLA’s on-campus residential community after the university moved instruction online in mid-March and “stay at home” orders were mandated across the nation. It also included UCLA’s essential workers who the culinary team prepared meals for — roughly 1,200 boxed lunches and dinners daily — as well as doctors, nurses and other medical professionals staying in overnight guest rooms at the Luskin Conference Center.

According to the United Fresh Produce Association, the coronavirus pandemic has devastated foodservice channels in unimaginable ways, and thousands of chefs across the country have demonstrated creativity as they have been forced to innovate to operate in this environment.

“We are in awe of what this year’s winners have done for their concepts and their communities during this crisis,” Stenzel said. “Whether changing menus overnight, donating meals to frontline workers or banding together to support fellow culinarians in their communities, these chefs and foodservice operations are doing amazing things under incredible circumstances.”

Fresh, local ingredients and inventiveness are cornerstones of UCLA Dining, which supports the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center at UCLA. UCLA has been named No. 1 in a ranking of Best College Food in America three out the past four years (2017, 2018 and 2020). UCLA is also home to BruinPlate, one of the nation’s only health-themed dining halls. In May, a forthcoming cookbook featuring recipes from UCLA’s Plateia restaurant earned the 2020 Global Innovation Award from the International Association of Conference Centers.