Since 2008, the Culinary Futures program has presented numerous scholarships to support students in their career path. Here are a few of their success stories.


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Story Spotlights

Kenneth Griffin has always been reaching for the stars. As a child, he had dreams of being an astronaut. Today, he is a chef, police officer, mentor, and successful entrepreneur who is constantly focused on creating opportunities in the community as a way forward in life. 

While he has always enjoyed cooking, often spending time in the kitchen with his mom, he was unaware of how much importance cooking would have in shaping his future. As a high school student in the Chicago Public School system, Griffin learned the importance of taking advantage of an opportunity to help him reach for the stars and decided to enroll in the culinary arts and hospitality program at school. It was there that his mentor Chef Bryant recognized his talent for cooking, and inspired him to pursue a career in culinary arts. 

In his senior year, Griffin was awarded the 2010 Culinary Futures scholarship, eventually attending Washburne Culinary Institute in Chicago where he received his Associate of Arts in Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management. From there, he took his culinary talents to Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Fl., working as a chef at Disney's Yacht and Beach Resort. But after only a year of working in his newly minted career in Florida, he returned home to Chicago to work as a culinary mentor with the Chicago Public Schools.

"I wanted to come back and work with the young people here in Chicago, and to help them get to where I was professionally," he explains.

He didn't stop there. Griffin made another move, one that would take him outside the culinary field. His new career, serving as a police officer in Chicago, may seem a far cry from the culinary world, but what it did was keep him grounded in his love for the community — something he learned through his culinary education and career. "After seeing all of the turmoil centered around police, I felt the need to be a service to the community in the form of law enforcement," he says. 

Receiving the Culinary Futures scholarship may have helped him attend college to receive his culinary degree, but Griffin notes that receiving the scholarship went well beyond learning how to cook. "The scholarship is what brought me towards Culinary Futures but it's the family environment that helped shape me into who I am today." He adds, "I believe the biggest thing I learned from my scholarship, and what may have been an important factor in my life, was people skills," he says. "In the hospitality industry you have to learn how to connect with people. Whether it's through your food as a chef or through your personality as a hospitality manager, you have the unique ability to spread joy to people. And that was most important to me." And that's a lesson that he takes with him every day. 

Today, Griffin is still working as an officer, but that isn't holding him back from reaching for the stars. In 2015, he started his non-profit, No Matter What, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that invests in the youth of the Chicagoland area through mentorship, career readiness training, and mental health healing with a strong emphasis on helping them reach their highest potential No Matter What obstacles they face. 

"I started No Matter What to give that same environment to young people in Chicago. A lot of our youth don't know what love and opportunity looks like and I envision No Matter What being that light at the end of the tunnel for them. I see No Matter What as being a known resource for the young population that does not see the hope that's right in front of them."