Kellogg’s new Chef in Residency Fellowship to provide opportunity for Black chefs and spark the future of food

By Christopher Williams, Chef in Residency, Kellogg Center for Innovation

I grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

My background in cooking started at a very young age, because my parents made it a mission to expose my siblings and me to food in so many ways. My mother has run a catering business for more than 20 years and I used to help her in the kitchen.

I officially started my professional culinary journey in my sophomore year of high school. I entered competitions that led me to pursue an education in baking and pastry arts.

Baking has taken me all over the world, from my early college days at Johnson and Wales in Denver to Chicago’s world-famous Walnut Room restaurant, which is located inside Macy’s in downtown Chicago. I even got to study and work abroad at a five-star Michelin restaurant in Spain.

I spent the bulk of the last decade working full-time as a pastry chef and trainer for Whole Foods.

I love new challenges and opportunities that help me learn and grow my career.

So, when one of the directors at Washburn Culinary Institute (where I completed my baking and pastry degree) sent out an email late last year about a new yearlong Chef in Residency Fellowship that Kellogg Company was starting, in part to bring more Black chefs into research and development, I perked up.

Being African American, it’s just really great to know that Kellogg wants to embrace Black people and culture through the culinary arts and help me go a new direction in my career.

I arrived at the W.K. Kellogg Institute for Food Technology in Battle Creek, Mich., in late March – and was immediately wowed. I never knew what research and development was in the food industry or what it could be like. I had no idea that huge food companies like Kellogg had such dedicated, cutting-edge resources.

But we do – and it has been an incredible first few months.

It’s an education, both for me and the company. We’re learning about new tastes, ingredients and flavors. We want to introduce people to a whole new world of food that Kellogg is embracing wholeheartedly.

For example, Fonio (phone-E-O).

I’d never heard of it or worked with it, but it’s a grain that cooks similar to quinoa. Nowadays, there are a lot of African American people who are heavy into plant-based eating and want to know what it’s like to eat some of these foods. They’re seeking out Fonio as an alternative.

If we can prepare it in multiple ways, then why not include it in some innovative new Kellogg foods?

I’m excited that our second Chef in Residency, Shanel DeWalt, joined our team earlier this month.

Shanel is a Michigan native with impressive culinary and entrepreneurial experience, including a partnership she established with Detroit Food Academy to create Detroit’s first ever Teen Cooking Competition. She has already brought a lot positive, creative energy to our Kellogg kitchen and I’m excited to explore the foods of Black cultures with her.

The entire experience gives me so much energy each day. Who knows? Maybe we’ll help create a new Kellogg food that we’ll see on store shelves someday.

I’d like to thank Kellogg for offering us the opportunity.

Now, back to experimenting!

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