Cooking up the next generation of foods

By Mark Graham,
Global Learning & Development

Food has taken me on an incredible journey. Never could I have imagined, when I started working in a greasy spoon in New York City at age 16, that I would be a small part of the Kellogg team bringing new foods to people around the world.

While I’m a chef by training, and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), my career has largely been focused on creating new foods that meet consumers evolving expectations for things that are delicious and also good for them.

Ashanti and Family

That’s not to say I haven’t spent my fair share of time cooking. While still in college, I launched a catering company that allowed me to afford some of the costs of tuition while I attended Columbia University in The City of New. My catering company, the Winking Sow, began as a novelty on campus, delivering breakfast in bed to students and faculty. I owned and operated the Winking Sow for eleven years after college. My inspiration at the time came from the vibrant restaurant scene of New York City in the 1980s and the foods of my Italian and French heritage. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I attended the CIA.

“My current role with Kellogg, feels like the culmination of everything I’ve thus far done in my career.”

Since then, I’ve worked at Michelin-star restaurants in Paris, France and the U.S. I’ve had the honor to have cooked with some of the world’s most highly regarded chefs, taught at the CIA, owned an award-winning restaurant, prepared meals on live TV for the Good Eating section of the Chicago Tribune, won several James Beard Foundation awards and continue to write about food as a syndicated food writer and for my own blog, New Food Studio.

My current role with Kellogg, feels like the culmination of everything I’ve thus far done in my career. I lead a team that includes culinary innovation managers around the world and a research and development chef. We continue to build partnerships with the culinary teams of our strategic suppliers, allowing us to look at flavor possibilities from around the world.

For example, I’m thrilled to see us introducing new foods like Leaf Jerky® developed by one of our co-workers who had the idea of creating a vegan, portable snack that was delicious enough to share with her meat-eating husband. Besides being delicious, Leaf Jerky® is completely sustainable, from the footprint of the ingredients to its recycled packaging, to its support for the next generation of sustainable farmers.


Food has the great power to bring people together, so to help keep our employees connected to each other during the COVID-19 pandemic when may of us are working remotely, we launched a Cooking from Home series where I invited employees to virtually cook with me. We made many delicious dishes. Some of my favorites were whole grain chicken soup, asparagus and mushroom risotto, and roasted cauliflower and white bean salad.

In 2019, Kellogg debuted a $2.2 million Center for Innovation to support developing new foods in collaboration with our sensory and design teams. These brand new, state-of-the-art facilities are located within the W.K. Kellogg Institute for Food Nutrition and Research and include a research and development kitchen, a consumer kitchen, sensory labs and a soon-to-be-built packaging and design studio. These modern facilities will spur innovations to help Kellogg launch the next generation of food. Changing the way people eat takes courage, something Kellogg has had from the beginning when our innovative founder introduced cereal and changed the way people eat breakfast. I’m very humbled to be a small part of this change, and we’re excited to continue this legacy. We can’t wait to show you the new foods we’re cooking up.


Other Stories