Carved turkey, roast beef and apple pie aren’t the only dishes served this time of year at Los Olivos. Executive chef Arnold Zavalza and his staff also serve platefuls of holiday cheer to the 3,300 students who dine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
At the annual holiday luncheon last week, the dining room was decorated with Christmas lights, ribbons and bows, and festive music played. Zavalza presented an elaborate menu featuring peppercorn-crusted roast beef, Cornish game hen with cranberry-teriyaki sauce, French onion soup, menudo, salmon salad with cranberries and gorgonzola cheese, and a large assortment of desserts. The lunch featured a raspberry-filled cake laid out on two dining tables.
Last month, the kitchen roasted about 80 turkeys for the annual Thanksgiving luncheon, prepared 45 complete Thanksgiving meals for purchase, and cooked a 600-person dinner for the local Salvation Army.
It’s a labor of love for Zavalza, because he’s happy when guests are well-fed. “We try very hard to please everyone. We may not be a five-star restaurant, but we try to provide the best quality and most efficient service with the resources we have.”
Themed meals nearly every month keeps Los Olivos busy year-round. They include: Asian cuisine for Lunar New Year in January, African and southern food for February’s Black History Month, corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day and Mexican dishes on Cinco de Mayo.
In his 10 years at Cal Poly Pomona, Zavalza has worked with students to design menus that satisfy their cravings and dietary needs. He’s added more seafood options, vegetarian entrees, lactose-free alternatives and gluten-free foods. But no service is ever complete without the usual crowd-pleasers: “Students like pastas, pastas, pastas, and believe it or not – chicken wings.”