His employees call him the “greenest chef on the hill,” and they aren’t just talking about his salad recipes.
Kevin Aiello, executive chef of Bruin Plate, one of the first health-themed university dining halls in the country, rides an electric bike to campus daily from his home in Manhattan Beach. The bike must be pedaled so it can go twice as fast — speeding up to as much as 30 miles an hour.
Kevin Aiello, executive chef of Bruin Plate, and his electric bike.
But riding isn’t just a passion for Aiello — he does it to survive. Aiello has Type 2 diabetes.
“My dad died of Type 2 diabetes when he was 59,” said Aiello, 50, a father of two. “So as soon as I found out I had diabetes too, I got serious about my health.”
Four years ago, Aiello noticed he often felt thirsty and lost weight easily. He went to see his doctor, who told him he had the same disease that had killed his father.
Aiello started to take medication, cut sugar out of his diet and walk eight to 10 miles a day. Once an avid bicyclist, he gave it up because the diabetes caused cramps in his legs.
About a year ago, while strolling through Santa Monica, he saw a bicyclist riding an electric bike.
“The guy told me to ride it, and as soon as I got on it, I knew it was for me,” said Aiello, who, soon after, purchased a $4,000 red electric bike.
He was already riding a motorcycle to campus so the electric bike was a natural fit with the added benefit of requiring exercise. “I can pedal as fast as 30 miles an hour,” said Aiello, who commutes 16 miles one way from Manhattan Beach, usually in 40 minutes.
“For a diabetic to get two workouts in one day… that’s huge,” he added. “Plus, I’m saving money on gas, car registration, insurance, gym membership and parking fees.”
Like Aiello, an increasing number of UCLA students, faculty and staff members have also discovered the advantages of using alternative modes of transportation to get to and from campus, according to a report that was recently released. In 2013, only 51.2 percent of employees drove alone, compared with 53.4 percent in 2012. Three percent bike to campus, an increase of nearly one percent since 2012.
Bruin Plate, which opened last fall on the Hill, features delicious and nutritious foods, prepared with a flair that's unique in campus dining.
Adjacent to Sproul residence halls, Bruin Plate opened last fall to students and now to staff and faculty, and serves locally sourced produce and meats, sustainable seafoods and nutrient-packed superfoods. Gone are french fries, traditional desserts and commercial sodas.
“I love the colors I see on students’ plates,” Aiello said. “There are lots of greens, fresh fruit and lean proteins.”
The meals he cooks for as many as 4,000 students a day also keeps him healthy and his blood sugar in check.
“Being a good chef doesn’t mean you load food with butter or other fats,” Aiello said. “The food we serve here is nutritious, delicious, satisfying and fresh.”
To learn about the benefits and incentives available to campus commuters who take alternative transportation, see this.
To learn more about diabetes, drop by Bruin Plaza Tuesday, March 4, between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The American Medical Student Association at UCLA is hosting Diabetes Day, an event to education the campus community of the disease, the latest research and prevention measures. There will be a flash mob at 12:15 p.m. to promote exercise.