Santana Diaz wearing black chef coat standing in front of golden bridge

UC Davis Health Executive Chef Santana Diaz honored with foodservice excellence award

International Fresh Produce Association honors Santana Diaz


Santana Diaz, director of culinary operations and innovation and executive chef at UC Davis Health, was one of nine chefs and foodservice professionals to be honored during the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) Foodservice Conference. Diaz received the IFPA’s Excellence in Foodservice Award in the area of hospitals and health care.

The program honors chefs and foodservice operations for their innovation, creativity, and all-around excellence in the use of fresh produce in the culinary arts.

“The award-winning chefs and foodservice professionals, including Santana Diaz, are using fresh fruits and vegetables on their menus in very innovative ways,” said Joe Watson, vice president of retail and foodservice at IFPA. “We are proud to honor them for the important role that they play in showcasing our industry, as well as introducing their customers to fruit and vegetable trends and new products.”

This year’s winners were selected from nominations submitted by produce companies and foodservice operations. IFPA reviewed each nominee in several areas: including:

  • Incorporation and creativity of fresh produce into menu development
  • Use of food safety protocols for proper produce storage and handling
  • Produce-related outreach or special events
  • Recognition among peers and/or by their company

Diaz was nominated for the award by Mitch Vanagten, executive chef for Lakeside Catering at the University of California, Merced.

“I am honored that our program received this award, and it is truly amazing to be nominated by a fellow UC chef,” said Diaz. “I am incredibly proud of our food service team and food service model, which is focused on local sourcing, nutrition, and taste. It is great to collaborate with other scaled programs and to see many other institutional foodservice teams looking at UC Davis Health as a leader within our industry.”

Diaz was presented the award this week at the IFPA’s Foodservice Conference in Monterey. 

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