Jill Horst

Colleges & Universities Category

Jill is the Executive Director of Campus Dining at the University of California, Santa Barbara, bringing over 35 years of experience, vision, and leadership to the field of collegiate foodservice. In her role, she oversees four dining commons, Campus Catering, Campus Concessions, the Miramar Food pantry, and 22 retail units. The 232 full-time employees and 1,000 student employees within Campus Dining serve over 20,000 customers per day in the retail and board program.  

Her passion to serve others has been instrumental to her advising roles on committees over the years, including NACUFS Sustainability Awards, National Restaurant Association’s Non-Commercial Advisory Board, Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, IFMA College & University Foodservice Leadership Council Executive Committee, and NACUFS Board of Trustees. 

Jill was nominated by BSI, Hobart, and Nestlé Professional

In Her Own Words

How did you get your start in the foodservice industry? 
What started out as a way of earning my own money turned into a true passion...After attending culinary school, I was hired as a catering manager and I’ve never looked back. This work gets in your blood and that feeling of satisfaction from feeding the mind, body, and soul of others is second to none. 

What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice? 
Broadly speaking it’s the people, the teams I have the honor of working with, the guests that we serve, and, of course, the students. We have the unique opportunity of feeding and nourishing the future leaders of our world; what an awesome responsibility and role to play in the lives of these young people.  

Tell us about a proud moment you’ve had along the way. 
During the pandemic, when there were very limited numbers of students living and dining with us on campus, our team made the pivot to providing meals for members of our local community facing food insecurity. From October 2020 to July 2021, with funding from several generous donors, our team planned menus, prepared, and delivered 263,000 ready-to-cook meals to 13 community groups for distribution to families.  

To be able to give back to the community where I grew up and to make someone's day a little easier warmed my heart and is one of the top highlights of my 35+ year career in foodservice. 

How would your team describe you as a leader? 
My team has described me as an influential leader, a trusted coach, and mentor who leads by example...I work tirelessly to ensure my team is supported with the tools and skills they will need to be successful in their work. I strive to be a leader who is approachable and takes time to let team members know how much I care for them both as a colleague and as a person. I encourage and empower my team to do the same as we work toward excellence. 

What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry? 
First and foremost, you have to love what you do. The foodservice industry is a challenging one but it is also very rewarding. Having passion for this work is key to success. Also, you need to be innovative and willing to take risks. Finally, prepare for times of uncertainty by engaging and empowering your team. These folks are your greatest organizational asset.   

What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you? 
I am the foodservice professional I am today because of the many positive and influential mentors, coaches, and team members I have had throughout my career. No one accomplishes their goals in a vacuum, we rely on the support of others.  

What is your favorite meal? 
It is all about the experience and anytime I am breaking bread with family or friends, that is my favorite meal...But those who know me best know that I would never pass up a beautiful filet mignon with smashed fingerling potatoes and a glass of full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon!