Culinary Garden Springs to Life, Offers Menu Inspiration

Culinary Garden Springs to Life, Offers Menu Inspiration
Instructor Scott Rudolph and students Ariane Estepa and Jessica Lopez
pick peppers in The Collins College culinary garden.

Chef Scott Rudolph does not need to look far to find inspiration for new recipes at the Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch. In fact, the Collins College lecturer just needs to gaze out his office window.

Thanks to a partnership between The Collins College of Hospitality Management and the College of Agriculture, a field outside the hilltop restaurant is transforming into a culinary garden. The proceeds from Horsehill Vineyards wine, another joint project between the colleges, is funding the garden.

“This is more than a garden. It's an interdisciplinary project that shows students what it takes to get food from the field to the table,” Rudolph says. “It's a hands-on example of local sustainable farming, which is one way we can contribute to Cal Poly Pomona's overall goal of achieving climate neutrality.”

The garden is about one acre and was planted this winter with 44 dwarf trees, including blood oranges, avocado and Pink Lemonade lemons, along with a variety of other fruits and vegetables. They are planting dwarf trees so the view of the valley won't be obscured. Rudolph also hopes to have a pathway and gazebo built, so the studentoperated and -managed restaurant can host special events in the garden. Rudolph and Chef Ernie Briones plan to incorporate much of that bounty into the menu at the Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch.

Student Ryan Connelly is overseeing much of the design and planting of the garden, under the guidance of Dan Hostetler, chair of the Plant Sciences department.

“The garden will be esthetically pleasing and functional,” Connelly says. “You can produce quite a few fruits and vegetables off all this land. This is not a little  backyard garden.”

Connelly speaks from experience. In addition to his studies, he works for his family business, Connelly Farms, which provides a range of services including consulting, design and cultivation of personal culinary gardens in the San Diego area. The company's micro-farms are popular with chefs and other customers who have a plot of land and an interest in fresh seasonal ingredients. Their biggest client is The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, a gated community and golf course, where numerous types of vegetables are grown year-round, he says.

In late summer, Connelly, and a few other agriculture students including Kyle McEnroe and Deanne Ecklund, planted a variety of peppers, lettuce and onions as a test crop at the Cal Poly Pomona garden. They wanted to see what the rabbits, squirrels and bugs might eat before planting the whole field. A previous garden project in the same area was decimated by rabbits a few years ago. To their surprise, they ended up with a bumper crop of peppers, which Rudolph and his students have used for enchilada sauce, and, luckily, they have not encountered the hungry rabbits of yore.

The agriculture students who have worked on the garden so far have all volunteered their time.

“Whoever wants to leave a positive mark on Cal Poly Pomona is welcome to help out with the garden,” says Connelly, who expects to graduate in 2010. “I want to set up a nice foundation, so when I graduate, the garden can continue.”

For more information about the restaurant, visit Vegetables from the garden also may be sold at the Farm Store at Kellogg Ranch. Visit for details. Details about Horsehill Vineyards are available at