Jeff Olsson | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

This edition of Full Belly Files was originally emailed to subscribers on September 8, 2023. To receive Matt Kettmann’s food newsletter in your inbox each Friday, sign up at

The first time that I knew I was eating Jeff Olsson’s food was almost 20 years ago, when he served smoked-boar-and-roasted-pumpkin soup in the candlelit chapel of Mission La Purisima during a dinner to honor vintner Richard Sanford. I’ve written about that evening a couple of times, both in a 2012 piece about Sanford’s legacy and in a 2014 feature about the opening of Industrial Eats, which was the brick-and-mortar evolution of New West Catering, which Jeff had purchased in 2000 with his wife, Janet Olsson. In that latter story, I wrote that they were ”the best chefs for any event in Santa Barbara wine country … able to seamlessly blend boundary-pushing culinary creativity with the rustic, homegrown charms of the Santa Ynez Valley.”

As you may have heard by now, Jeff died on Saturday morning at just 55 years old, succumbing to an aggressive colon cancer that was just diagnosed in December. The outpouring of social media tributes that followed the news more than uphold my decade-old description of Jeff — I could have eaten his expertly balanced white shrimp with pancetta or his garlicky Caesar salad, with thick-as-glue dressing, every single day, and he even made pig brain taste good, as I learned during one of Buttonwood’s All-Farm Dinners years ago. But the heartfelt words from his friends and colleagues are even further revealing about how integral Jeff was to the rise of culinary culture in Santa Barbara County.

“He was a great chef, and an even greater person,” explained Jake Francis of The Valley Piggery. “His cooking tree is strong, with so many of my colleagues and contemporaries having passed through his kitchen. Whenever one of us was branching out to do something on our own, he and Janet were always so supportive and would always say, ‘Yes.’ The Valley is lesser without him, but greater because of him.”

“Twelve long years ago, I walked into New West Catering looking for a job, what I got was a life-changing mentorship from an amazing human,” wrote Brett Stephen of High on the Hog Catering. “Over the next six years under Jeff’s guidance, I became not only a better cook but a better person. It was through his patience and good nature I learned there was a better way to run a kitchen and a better way to handle my temper.”

And renowned urchin diver Stephanie Mutz of Sea Stephanie Fish, who texted me with the news Saturday morning, posted her own tribute as well. “Jeff Olsson changed the Santa Ynez Valley for the better,” she said. “He changed the way people eat, and he changed the way people source their food…. I’ve known and worked with Jeff for close to 20 years. He set the standard of what kind of chef I want to work with. He made me want to be the best fisherman, go to work for him and help him feed the masses. He always wanted everyone around him to be successful.”

That includes other restaurants, namely Bell’s of Los Alamos, whose owners Greg and Daisy Ryan called the news “heartbreaking” and said that Jeff and Janet are on the “Mt. Rushmore of ones that changed the restaurant game in this valley.” The Olssons, said the Ryans, “helped us before we moved here on some advice and guidance on the difficulties and expectations of a restaurant in the valley and how to make sure you did it the way you wanted to.… We would not be here without Jeff and Janet — they helped pave a way.”

Over the years, I ate at Industrial Eats more times than I can count, sometimes by myself while driving through Buellton, frequently dining with vintners, and occasionally attending special parties, such as my buddy Diamond Dave’s raucous 40th birthday held on the loading dock, or the first-ever public dinner in the Grand Room. I got to know Jeff and Janet well enough that we briefly discussed doing a book on their purveyors. But then, as happened with so many folks in our lives, we lost touch a bit during the COVID pandemic.

I eventually learned that Jeff and Janet went different ways in their personal lives, although they remained business partners. In 2021, he opened Eye on I in Lompoc, which follows a similar formula as Industrial Eats. Much like Eats did for much of the Santa Ynez Valley, Eye on I has become the go-to for dining in Lompoc, and I’ve had it multiple times in recent months, once with veteran winemaker Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard and again when I spent a recent day with Pali Wine Co.

Though he was fighting cancer for much of the past year, Jeff kept that news mostly silent, so I only heard he was sick last week, and that he wouldn’t make it long. I wasn’t surprised when Stephanie alerted me to his passing on Saturday, but it still felt like a prevailing wind pushing the region’s reputation forward had stopped blowing. Thankfully, he planted countless chef, farmer, fisherman, and rancher seeds around the Santa Ynez Valley, and so many are now blooming in his glow. He will be missed, but his impacts will be felt for generations.

Credit: Paul Wellman (file)
Gwynie holds up a recent farm box from Local Harvest Delivery. | Credit:

Local Harvest Delivery’s New Website

Jeff Olsson’s love for regional farmers is exemplified by Local Harvest Delivery, which puts together a weekly farm box from various growers every Saturday and drops it on your porch. The company is run by my good friends, Sarah Coffman and Julie Beaumont Potter, and we’ve been dedicated subscribers for almost the entire history of the company, which started in 2009.

They just relaunched their website, with plenty of customizable options for your farm box, so now is a great time to sign up and get fresh fruits and veggies to your door every weekend.


Heirloom Expo Coming to Ventura

Credit: Courtesy

Speaking of farming, The National Heirloom Expo is celebrating its 10th year by coming to the Ventura County Fairgrounds for the first time, September 12-14.

“It’s always been a colorful mashup of foodies, hippies, homesteaders, gardeners, and characters who share a love of heirloom seeds and all things non-GMO,” explained Michelle Johnson of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.

The lineup includes a speech by Indy Srinath of National Geographic Channel’s Farm Dreams show, among many others. Check it out at

From Our Table

A sampling of the food and cocktails at Strange Beast. | Credit: Lure Digital

In case you missed these recent stories on


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.