Staying connected through food at Kellogg

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Mark Graham, Kellogg Culinary Director broadcasts from his home kitchen to employees via Skype Video.

Lately I’m inspired by how we connect with each other, from video tours of colleagues’ home workspaces to virtual happy hours. My Kellogg colleagues have found creative ways to keep connected while working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have a little fun in the process.

I’ve started several mornings with virtual coffee meet-ups with employees from all areas of the company, allowing me to make new connections across the organization. At lunch time, we have “Meet Me for Lunch,” which offers options to not only chat up a colleague over a virtual lunch, but to also take a much needed break and make a human connection. Each lunch combines a new, randomly selected group of Kellogg colleagues who might otherwise never have their paths cross.

When the pandemic hit more than 10 weeks ago, my manager asked the team to think about ways to virtually engage co-workers as we shifted a large portion of the company to work from home. I immediately thought how I might combine remote work with my wellbeing and culinary focus, and came up with the idea to create a real-time food and cooking experience from my home kitchen in a live “broadcast” for employees. I wanted to create simple recipes that showcase several themes: celebrating cooking at home; keeping to a budget; using seasonal, easy-to-find ingredients; and reinforcing our company’s focus on plant diversity and nutrient density.

I’ve been so very flattered with the success of “Cooking From Home: Connecting with Food & Colleagues” on Monday afternoons, live, from my apartment in Chicago. It’s amazing to me that hundreds of employees regularly join as I demonstrate how the importance of cooking and eating together forms a necessary human connection, albeit virtually. I work to keep each recipe under $20 for a family of four. And, I use simple kitchen equipment — a knife, a cutting board, pots and pans, a cook-top and an oven. Recent recipes include a Roasted Cauliflower and White Bean Salad, Cherry Tomato Puttanesca with Whole Grain Pasta and a Spicy Lentil Soup.

My experience has been very humbling and rewarding. It’s helped me experience new connections during this time even while we are physically apart. And it also reinforces that food can bring us together.

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