At UC-Berkeley’s Student Union, social justice is served

Foodservice exec Daryl Ansel honored for reshaping campus foodservice options


Lisa Jennings, Nation's Restaurant News 

Apr 11, 2019


Daryl Ansel believes food — and the business of restaurants — should be within reach of everyone.


As executive director of the ASUC Student Union on campus at the University of California at Berkeley, Ansel and his team have brought in four restaurant concepts born at La Cocina in San Francisco, a business incubator that cultivates low-income food entrepreneurs, as well as a specialty coffee company that provides job training and employment to recent refugees.


Ansel is also working on solutions to feed the growing number of students that struggle with food insecurity. And previously in Los Angeles, Ansel helped build the nonprofit LA Kitchen, which fed and offered job training to those in need.


Ansel will be honored with the Foodmanitarian Award at the 23rd Annual UCLA Extension Restaurant Industry Conference, scheduled for April 25 at UCLA.


For Ansel, the work is an opportunity to give back after a career that has included executive positions at some of the nation’s top multiconcept groups, including the restaurants of New York-based SBE, Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurants and Los Angeles-based Grill Concepts.


He said the restaurant industry can play an important role in shaping more equitable communities.


“It really stems from when I went to Cornell, and the mentorship and support I got there to explore all these nonprofit programs and to learn about food systems and issues like food security,” Ansel said. “That world was very important.”


Ansel said his interest in social justice also stems from his own challenges growing up in Northern California. His father died when Ansel was 14, leaving his mother, who had been until then a stay-at-home mom, to support the family.


“Overnight, life changed for us,” he said. “We were struggling for many years, and the only way I survived was through the school lunch program. I kind of always realized that food insecurity can be an issue for almost anyone.”


Ansel’s undergraduate degree is from Berkeley. He went on to graduate school at Cornell University and found himself working as foodservice finance manager for Universal Studios in Los Angeles, with multiple food-and-beverage outlets and a commissary generating about $60 million annually. “I always say that’s where I really learned to make money in the food business,” he said.


Over the next decade...