Students organized a small but meaningful protest outside Pippin Dining Commons in Middle Earth this past Thursday for Ryan Jaranilla, also known as Chef Ryan.
Chef Ryan was fired for an undisclosed reason the night before the protest. Aramark, the company that employs him and most other members of UC Irvine dining released the news at around 5 p.m., much to the surprise and shock of the Middle Earth community.
“I got a text late last night about it and called my supervisor immediately,” said fourth-year resident advisor Colin Hamill. “I was like, ‘are you messing with me?’ It seems customer service just doesn’t apply here. I’m devastated he won’t be here for us anymore.”
About 10-15 students stood outside of Pippin from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. holding signs that proclaimed, “We stand in solidarity with Chef Ryan!” and asked, “Got a reason, Aramark?” Hamill sported a homemade shirt that read, “If it is good enough for Beijing, it is good enough for M.E.,” referring to Jaranilla’s work in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There, he was second in command and in charge of planning the menu for over 12,000 athletes and 5,000 media people in the Athlete’s Village.
The protestors were mostly disgruntled by the lack of explanation on Aramark’s part and the speed with which Ryan was expedited from his employment.
Head Chef of the dining commons, Jaranilla began working for Aramark in 2003 and joined UCI’s team not too long after that. He was best known for his customer service and was well-liked by all who knew him — which turned out to be many.
“Chef Ryan stands for everything that’s good about Middle Earth,” said senior Francis-Gene Acosta, who also is an RA in the housing community. “He’s the face of Pippin … we want some answers.”
Those at the event speculated the reason Chef Ryan was fired could have been as a result of his extreme generosity.
Continuous budget cuts have forced Dining to slash many portions of the various eateries on campus. Meanwhile, Chef Ryan still was gunning for much of the same customer service, amount of food for students and extensive menus that he created each week.
“For our end of the year hall banquet, which usually gives us an array of different kinds of food to choose from, we were given the option of cold cuts — meat and cheese and sandwiches,” Quenya RA Sepideh Aria said. “Chef Ryan still wanted to give us those nicer options, and the higher up people wouldn’t let him. I guess generosity isn’t a bad reason to be fired.”
Passers-by were seemingly not aware of the entire situation but were extremely familiar with Chef Ryan himself.
“Yeah, I knew him, he made the menus and the meals,” said one anonymous student. “He was always jolly and friendly, greeting everyone at the door and asking people what they thought of the food.”
“I’m just gonna go to Brandywine,” another anonymous student concluded.
Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dan Dooros commented on the happenstance but reiterated the fact that he, like most others, were not aware of the exact reasoning behind Ryan’s firing.
“Aramark’s decision is final,” he said. “We are looking at the communication process. As of now, it was all done per standard regulations.”
Representatives from Aramark could not be reached for comment.