The Art of Eating

L.A. CUISINE

From the mountains to the sea, Bruins have shaped where and what we eat. Hungry Southern Californians were guided to new dining adventures for decades by food critic Jonathan Gold, but others have also brought us new sights, sounds and tastes. Here are some favorites.

Jonathan Gold ’82

Food lovers and chefs are still mourning the loss last year of Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prizewinning critic who had the power to change the fate of any restaurant he wrote about. Genet Agonafer, chef/owner of the nearly 20-year-old Ethiopian bistro Meals by Genet (on Fairfax Avenue), credits Gold with her success: Her restaurant had been on the brink of bankruptcy, but after Gold’s 2004 review, business boomed. The trail of Gold-hungry followers continues today, as foodies flock to her restaurant. Therein lies Gold’s brilliant touch: He broke down barriers by writing about the vast epicurean cultures of the “glittering mosaic” that was his beloved Los Angeles.

Giada De Laurentiis ’96

When Giada De Laurentiis whips up a mushroom risotto or a batch of cocoa-dusted tiramisu, she makes it look easy. The L.A.-based, Emmy Awardwinning Food Network television star, restaurateur and bestselling cookbook author was the first in her family to graduate from college. In addition to inspiring millions to cook Italian feasts at home, De Laurentiis is a particular role model for women chefs, whose ranks are growing.

Gustavo Arellano M.A. ’03

This Orange Countybased journalist was editor-in-chief of the OC Weekly for six years, where he delighted readers with his award-winning syndicated column “¡Ask a Mexican!” Arellano now writes for the Los Angeles Times. But it’s his knowledge of all things tortilla that food lovers know best: Arellano is an authoritative voice on Mexican cuisine, having penned Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Arellano argues for the central position of this cuisine in the culinary identity of Los Angeles, which is why he brought Anthony Bourdain to Olvera Street for taquitos in the final L.A. episode of Parts Unknown.

T.K. Pillan M.B.A. ’96

Vegetarian dining looks different today than it did in 1996, when Veggie Grill co-founder and chairman T.K. Pillan graduated from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. At the time, Pillan noticed that options for vegetarian restaurants were relatively scarce. So after a successful career in e-commerce, the then-recently turned vegan decided — despite having no experience in the restaurant industry — to open a plant-based restaurant that would help move the country in a better direction. The first Veggie Grill opened in 2006 in Irvine, and the company is now the largest plant-based restaurant chain in the nation, with more than 30 locations. A majority of Veggie Grill customers are not vegetarian or vegan, suggesting plant-based eating has moved to the mainstream.

Evan Kleiman ’76, M.B.A. ’80

Evan Kleiman is the long-running host of the KCRW radio show and podcast Good Food, where the world’s best chefs visit. From the 1980s until 2012, Kleiman owned and operated three successful Italian restaurants in Los Angeles. She still caters privately while also teaching at UCLA on topics such as “The Moral Ecology of Food.” Whether at the podium or in the radio “pulpit,” as she calls it, her platform is unique: “I’ve always valued food as a very expansive way of looking at the world — economically, politically and culturally.”

 

Keeping Up With Change

UCLA EXTENSION

Founded two years before the university, UCLA Extension has adapted to the needs of the surrounding community through the years. In the 1940s, Extension offered classes to help working engineers in aircraft design. “Night classes at UCLA” even served as an alibi for characters in the 1944 film Double Indemnity. In the 1960s, new programs prepared women for entry or reentry into the workforce.

Now 102 years old, Extension shows its age in the many famous alumni who have participated in the programs — Marilyn Monroe, James Franco ’08 and Arnold Schwarzenegger are just a handful of the many former students who have gone on to achieve notoriety.

But UCLA Extension isn’t old in most senses, because it keeps up with the needs of the ever-changing communities around L.A. and works to reflect what is needed to push academic excellence forward. Instead of just letting students come to campus, Extension reaches out to underserved areas in a more proactive effort to achieve diversity and inclusion.

Offering more than 100 certificate programs in 20 different fields, Extension courses let a variety of interests take center field for nontraditional students through online classes, pop-up courses and partnerships with local businesses, such as the Hispanic ad agency Sensis and the Korea Daily newspaper.

Extension has offered classes in downtown Los Angeles since 2008 and in Woodland Hills since 2017, and it has also partnered with the DaVinci Schools to create a 13th- and 14th-year online/classroom hybrid for graduating high school seniors.

 

Campus Crown Jewels

MUSEUMS

Fowler Museum

In global arts and cultures, few institutions match the Fowler Museum at UCLA. For 56 years, the Fowler has been an international thought leader, promoting the arts of the non-Western world through exhibitions, publications and public programs. The Fowler pioneered an expansive view of world arts, acknowledging the utility of objects in people’s lives while also valuing the objects as exemplary works of art. The Fowler has a strong track record of presenting the works of contemporary artists whose practices resonate with the global arts. Progressive programming helps visitors make connections across time and cultures, fostering an understanding that is critical in our increasingly global world.

Hammer Museum

As L.A. became a mecca for contemporary artists, the UCLA Hammer Museum became their patron and gathering space. Over the past two decades, the museum has expanded its collections and programs, establishing the Hammer Projects series championing emerging artists. Part of the School of the Arts and Architecture, the Hammer presents as many as 300 free programs annually. Recent topics have included voting rights, U.S.-Saudi relations, gerrymandering and urban development. Currently, the Hammer is in the midst of a major renovation. Watch for a newly designed entrance, additional exhibition space and enhanced public spaces.

Hammer Museum
Hammer Museum at UCLA
A rendering of the Hammer Museum’s new lobby and bookstore.

 

Legacy of Understanding

RALPH J. BUNCHE

Ralph J. Bunche ’27 shaped an impressive legacy built on bringing others together, and that legacy has continued to lead the way down through the generations. UCLA’s first African-American valedictorian, Bunche also was the nation’s first African American to earn a Ph.D. in political science.

He went on to become the first African American and first person of color to win the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor he received in 1950 for his work as a U.N. diplomat in successfully mediating the Armistice Agreements between Arab nations and Israel. Today, Bunche is considered the “Father of Peacekeeping” because of his formidable skills in listening, understanding and finding common ground.

For nearly two decades as Undersecretary General of the United Nations, Bunche was celebrated worldwide for his contributions to humanity, particularly in mediation, decolonization, human rights and civil rights. He was the chief drafter of the sections of the U.N. Charter that dealt with trusteeship and decolonization at the San Francisco Conference of 1945. And during the famous Selma March in 1965, an ailing Bunche linked arms with Martin Luther King Jr. to lead the civil rights procession.

Ralph Bunche’s legacy of understanding lives on in the work of UCLA scholars today. Since 1969, the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, part of the UCLA College, has advanced research on the history, lifestyles and socio-cultural systems of people of African descent. Scholarship seeded by the Bunche Center also has investigated challenges that influence the psychological, social and economic well-being of persons of African descent. Bunche Center–affiliated faculty have consistently demonstrated how knowledge produced by and about people of African descent enriches diverse fields of study, from microbiology to musicology.

 

Frame of Mind

BRAIN MAPPING

It has been called the last frontier of science. Detailed maps of the human brain promise to unravel the mysteries surrounding human sensation, awareness and cognition, potentially paving the way for effective new treatments for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. And UCLA has been at the forefront of the undertaking.

Computer scientist Jacques Vidal planted the first seeds in 1973, when he reported on the first faint brain signals read by a computer, using amplified electroencephalography (EEG). Vidal coined the term “brain-computer interface” for the opening of new channels of communication between humans and machines.

In 1993, John C. Mazziotta — then a UCLA neurologist and now vice chancellor of UCLA health sciences and CEO of UCLA Health — coined the term “brain mapping” and founded the UCLA Ahmanson Lovelace Brain Mapping Center.

No one said it would be easy. Inside each of our heads, approximately 100 billion neurons fire 200 times per second, on average, connecting to roughly 10,000 other neurons as information is processed and transmitted. And because every brain is unique and constantly changing, the map under development is a probabilistic system that enables navigators to home in on variations.

The effort requires wide-ranging expertise — from medicine, engineering, the basic sciences, nanoscience and the social sciences. A quarter-century in, hundreds of UCLA researchers, fueled by ever-advancing imaging technologies, are learning what’s going on inside our heads in an increasingly granular way.

 

Partners Over the Decades

UCLA AND THE OLYMPICS AND THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

Olympics

The numbers don’t tell the whole story of UCLA and the Olympics, though those numbers are impressive. Through the 2016 Summer Olympics, UCLA’s all-time medal count stands at 261, including 133 gold, 66 silver and 62 bronze. Bruins have been at every Summer Olympics since 1920 (except 1924), with more than 400 athletes overall, and UCLA has twice served as an Olympic venue (in 1932 and 1984). If you were to choose a singular highlight, it might be the 1960 decathlon showdown between Rafer Johnson ’59 (U.S.A.) and C.K. Yang ’64 (Taiwan) that saw Johnson take the gold while both were coached by UCLA’s Ducky Drake ’27. The current UCLA women’s gymnastics team features former Olympians Kyla Ross (2012) and Madison Kocian (2016), as well as coaches Chris Waller ’91 and Jordyn Wieber ’17. In 2028, UCLA will again serve as an Olympic Village and event site.

Special Olympics

Maybe it was Team USA’s tennis team inviting the player from Malawi to train with them because she had no teammates. Or perhaps it was the fans who bought full kits and cleats for the Haitian soccer team, who arrived with no gear. Most likely, though, what made the UCLA-hosted 2015 Special Olympics truly special were the athletes from around the world. The 2015 Summer Games marked the second time UCLA had hosted, the first having been 1972. In those 43 years, the competition participant numbers rose from 2,500 to 7,000. Rafer Johnson ’59, integral to the Special Olympics since its founding in 1968, said of the 2015 athletes, “On the competitive side, they do not mess around. [But] when that game is finished, they will embrace each other — and it’s not just shaking hands. They truly embrace each other.”

 

Well Served

THE PEACE CORPS AND TEACH FOR AMERICA

“UCLA graduates are problem solvers and community builders,” says Selina Duran ’12, Teach for America recruitment director. The Boyle Heights native says UCLA students are uniquely prepared to address inequities in society and work toward social justice in any field. Since 1990, UCLA has sent 1,411 young Bruins to Teach for America, which recruits promising leaders to teach for two years in low-income communities in the United States. UCLA has been the top recruiter for three of the last four years, sending students to urban and rural areas.

The university has had an even longer history with the Peace Corps, the federal agency started by President John F. Kennedy that places volunteers in developing countries to work with local leaders in addressing community challenges from agriculture to education. UCLA has sent more than 2,000 volunteers to the program since it was founded, making it the seventh-biggest feeder university.

UCLA was also one of the first sites for training volunteers back in 1961, so even non-UCLA graduates came to the campus to learn sometimes never-before-taught languages from UCLA faculty, along with other skills to help them prepare for their two-year volunteer assignments abroad. Several current UCLA faculty members — in fields as disparate as public health, creative writing and management — attribute having gained their life’s purpose and career direction to their time in the Peace Corps.

Robert Spich, who teaches globalization to business executives from around the world at UCLA Anderson School of Management, says the Peace Corps experience is one way to really develop a global mindset, which is key to working in a global world.

“I use the metaphor of the Shire,” he says. “Most of us would prefer a world of peace, predictability, certainty, comfort and safety — all those wonderful things that the Shire represents. [But] Peace Corps got you out of the Shire. It got you out into another world.”