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Chefs to Watch: University of South Carolina Upstate chef brings taste of the tropics to the American South

Executive Chef Ana Sena and her team of culinary pros have used pandemic downtime to create new menu items, boost the freshness factor and keep students engaged and happy.


Chefs to Watch is a series of video interview with onsite chefs who are making their mark with a unique perspective, fascinating food and more. The chefs in this program are standing out with not just culinary skills, but creativity in hospitality as a whole.

Executive Chef Ana Sena has made the dining program at the University of South Carolina (USC) Upstate a source of comfort and normalcy for students on campus during the last year. Since many activities were canceled due to the pandemic, Sena and her team got creative, boosted the plant-forward offerings, improved the freshly made factor, did some fun pop-ups and created a new signature menu item: The Upstate Omelet (spoiler alert: it contains barbecued pulled pork!)

Sena talks about what it takes to put on a dining program that’s fun, thoughtful and full of nutrients. Dining surveys have shown students are 94% satisfied with the program, something this Dominican Republic-born chef is super proud of. She also tells us the story, through a culinary lens, of her travels from the Caribbean to the American South, and how she’s incorporating some cool tropical touches, like plantains, mojo and cilantro into Carolina cuisine.

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