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Celebrity Chef Ed Porter Visits UC Merced in ‘Takeover’ of Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Center

April 24, 2024
Chef Ed Porter adds finishing touches to dessert
Celebrity Chef Ed Porter "took over" the Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Center and provided attendees a dining experience to remember.

Chef Ed Porter, winner of Guy Fieri’s Grocery Games who was featured on the hit Netflix series “Pressure Cooker,” visited campus on April 11 for a takeover of the Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Center.

In collaboration with UC Merced’s Dining Services and executive chefs Mitchell Vanagten and Anthony Pangelina, Porter spent two days visiting the farms participating in UC Merced’s local BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) Produce Buying Program, culminating in an exclusive dining experience for the campus community.

Porter, characterized by his unique blend of music and food, featured live music from DJ DIME and added his own twist on each of the five meal stations at the dining center: miso soy salmon, pomelo and herb grilled chicken with a plant-based option, red wine braised beef and a chef special strawberry and feta cheese pizza. With a Lakeside Catering crew consisting of mostly student staff, Porter also held a six-course private dining experience for campus leaders that featured an impressive menu of beet-cured salmon with compressed watermelon, asparagus gazpacho, seared Chilean sea bass with trumpet scallops, herb-crusted lamb with cauliflower steak and warm chocolate ganache.

Porter, a New York native, had the opportunity to explore the Central Valley’s unique agricultural environment as part of his takeover and an upcoming documentary project.

Chef Porter posing with Chefs Vanagten, Pangelina and local farmer Marc Marchini
Chef Porter's menu was inspired by his visit to local farms including J. Marchini Farms in Le Grand.

This partnership between Dining Services and Porter spotlights the recently adopted local BIPOC Produce Buying Program. Since August 2023, 97% of produce purchases have supported families and growers within a 150-mile radius of campus. In an impact report done by Dining Services last fall, 12 of the participating growers identify as BIPOC-owned and seven identify as woman-owned.

Porter’s visit included tours of UC Merced’s state-of-the-art Smart Farm, Anna’s Organic Farm in Chowchilla, Humble Rice Farm in Winton, Corbin Cash Distillery and D&S Farms in Atwater, and J. Marchini Farms in Le Grand. The dishes guests enjoyed were made from ingredients provided by these farms.

The guest list included Central Valley farmers, Executive Director of Campus Life Chad Pettay, Associate Vice Chancellor for Auxiliary Enterprises and Fiscal Innovation Adriana Rojas, Vice Chancellor Ed Klotzbier, and longtime campus supporter Joel “Bud” Wallace. The Wallace family served on the original committee responsible for bringing the campus to Merced. The Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Center, Elizabeth’s Garden and the Wallace-Dutra Amphitheater bear the family name.

Plate of food served during the event
Dishes guests enjoyed were made with ingredients sourced from local farms.

Porter’s 30 years of professional culinary experience has led him into other ventures, including filmmaking and music production. His latest culinary masterpiece, "The de zero Experience,” is an immersive dining experience that includes handpicked meals set to a musical album produced by Porter himself. The album, “de zero,” is available on all music streaming platforms and currently holds over 1 million streams across sites. Few details are available about Porter’s upcoming documentary, but he promises an exclusive campus screening next Fall.

Alyssa Johansen

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