Top Chef

Jill Horst nourishes mind,
body and soul

Jill Horst has worked in dining at UC Santa Barbara for over 27 years. It’s a dream job, she says, because it blends her two passions — food and teaching — at a dream location. “I get to work at UCSB, which has been my backyard my entire life,” she says. “I feel privileged and honored to be working here.”

A Santa Barbara native, Horst started her culinary career as a high school student. She ran a deli and catering company for five years and worked in restaurants in downtown Santa Barbara. Those experiences spurred her to enroll in culinary school in Portland, Oregon. Then she landed a job back home at UCSB, in the bakery at Ortega Dining Commons. She worked her way up the ranks through the kitchen to management.

Promoted to general manager in 2001, Horst in that role opened Carrillo Dining Commons and introduced a new market-style dining system. She also began to implement practices and procedures that reflected her commitment to sustainability. Her team’s ultimate goal, Horst says, is to “provide the most nutritious, delicious, sustainable food possible. We’re feeding the future leaders of the world. Food nourishes mind, body and soul and plays a big part in their success in my opinion.” Today, campus dining services craft restaurant-quality food, made from scratch with fresh, local, pesticide-free and preferably organic ingredients.

Photo by Matt Perko

In 2008 Horst was named the director of residential dining. One of her first big initiatives was the elimination of food trays, reducing food waste by 50% and saving millions of gallons of water. “Not using trays saved about a half-million dollars a year,” she says, adding that for years Campus Dining has also composted 100% of its pre- and post-consumer waste.

Feeding her passion for teaching, Horst educates students about nutrition and life skills. “We’re part of their living quarters, their family,” she explains. Campus Dining employs about 1,200 students who are taught how to cook with fresh ingredients and seasonings as well as other skills they can carry with them the rest of their lives.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Horst, who since 2018 has been executive director of campus dining, rallied her team to provide meals for the food insecure. From October 2020 to July 2021, with funding from several generous donors, they planned menus, cooked and delivered 263,000 meals to 13 community groups.

“To be able to give back to the community where I grew up,” Horst says, “and to make someone’s day a little easier, warms my heart.”


Spring / Summer 2022

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