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Saru Jayaraman

Assistant Adjunct Professor of Public Policy

Saru Jayaraman


Saru Jayaraman is the Co-Founder and President of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) and Director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley. After 9/11, together with displaced World Trade Center workers, she co-founded ROC, which now has more than 18,000 worker members, 200 employer partners, and several thousand consumer members in a dozen states nationwide. The story of Saru and her co-founder’s work founding ROC has been chronicled in the book The Accidental American. Saru is a graduate of Yale Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She was profiled in the New York Times “Public Lives” section in 2005, named one of Crain’s “40 Under 40” in 2008, was 1010 Wins’ “Newsmaker of the Year” and New York Magazine’s “Influentials” of New York City. She was listed in CNN’s “Top10 Visionary Women” and recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House in 2014, and a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2015. Saru authored Behind the Kitchen Door (Cornell University Press, 2013), a national bestseller, and has appeared on CNN with Soledad O’Brien, Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, Melissa Harris Perry and UP with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, the Today Show, and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  Her most recent book is Forked: A New Standard for American Dining (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Other Affiliations

  • Berkeley Food Institute
  • Food Labor Research Center, UC Berkeley
  • Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

Curriculum Vitae

Download a PDF (219KB, updated 09-24-2013)

Areas of Expertise

  • Food Policy

Last updated on 02/04/2019

Selected Publications

  • Behind the Kitchen Door

    Cornell University Press. 

    How do restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America? And how do poor working conditions—discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables? Food Labor Research Center director Saru Jayaraman sets out to answer these questions by following the lives of restaurant workers in eight American cities. Blending personal narrative and investigative journalism, her book is an exploration of the political, economic, and moral implications of dining out.

Wage Justice Is on the Menu

Wage Justice Is on the Menu

Saru Jayaraman, Mark Bittman

Date: July 28, 2015 Duration: 4 minutes

Behind the Kitchen Door: Wages and Conditions for Food System Workers

Behind the Kitchen Door: Wages and Conditions for Food System Workers

Saru Jayaraman

Event: Fall 2014 Board of Advisors Dinner

Date: October 23, 2014 Duration: 57 minutes

Minimum Wage Policy in California and the US: An Emerging Consensus Across Party Lines?

Minimum Wage Policy in California and the US: An Emerging Consensus Across Party Lines?

Saru Jayaraman, David Neumark, Ron Unz

Event: Cal Day 2014

Date: April 12, 2014 Duration: 128 minutes


Email Saru Jayaraman


110 Hearst

Office Hours

Wednesday by appointment: saru@rocunited.org