Feature Stories

Robert Hood, October 29, 2020

Ali Keshavarz, Owner of Peasant Pies, Earns UCSF Sustainability Award

When it comes to helping UC San Francisco meet the UC Office of the President sustainability guidelines, Ali Keshavarz, owner of Peasant Pies, is always the first to raise his hand to help.

Two years ago, Keshavarz painstakingly revamped his Mission Bay restaurant to meet the city’s strict environmental standards to earn the designation as a San Francisco Green Business. And this past summer, for his efforts, Keshavarz was honored with a UCSF Sustainability Award.

Keshavarz said revamping his restaurant to meet the standards to earn the designation as a green business had less to do with business and more to do with his personal philosophy.

“I practice the principles of sustainability at home, so it made perfect sense to do the same at my business,” he said. “The foundation of my business is built on sustainability.”

Associate Director of Retail at UCSF, Jennifer Dowd, said it was a difficult and painstaking process for Keshavarz to meet the city’s Green Business guidelines. “He changed almost everything in the restaurant,” she said. “From light bulbs to faucet heads and cleaning supplies. Ali was the first retailer at UCSF to achieve this recognition.”

Keshavarz believes earning the status as a green business, and subsequently being honored with the university Sustainability Award, also fits for a vendor at an academic institution like UCSF. “The idea of sustainability ties directly to the academic mission of the institution. It’s a perfect marriage.”

But Keshavarz’s philosophy extends beyond sustainability. When UCSF eliminated the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages from its onsite cafeterias, food vendors, and vending machines, he was a big supporter. “Serving healthy food and drinks is our core concept at Peasant Pies,” he said. “We provide homemade, healthy, fast food that is not expensive and is convenient to eat on the go. It’s working-class food you can eat with your hands.”

Dowd said his passion encouraged other vendors to follow his lead to make UCSF a better place. “In addition to eliminating sugar sweetened beverages, 40 percent of Peasant Pies’ food procurement meets the university’s sustainable definitions,” she said. “Ali mentioned that he wants to double the percentage in the coming years and eventually become 100 percent sustainable on food procurement.”

Keshavarz’s connection to the university is more personal than a simple business relationship. When his daughter was born in 2004, she had a medical condition that required her to be in and out of the hospital. During that period, Keshavarz developed a special relationship with the people at UCSF, the doctors, support staff, everyone he came into contact with.

“They literally saved my daughter’s life,” he said. “They gave us a gift.”

It was then that he knew he wanted to be part of the UCSF community and he began working with Campus Life Services to develop a store at the new Mission Bay campus. Peasant Pies opened in 2009.