Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture has been awarded a significant grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a multi-year project titled “Higher Learning through Humanities in Food Studies.” This initiative aims to enhance research, food studies, community programming, and fellowships, following a rigorous and competitive grant proposal process.
The grant will support the exploration of the cultural, political, and global impact of food throughout American and global history. Programming under this initiative includes cooking demonstrations, symposiums, lectures, and off-campus field trips with Mellon Fellows. These activities are designed to engage both Dillard University students and the wider community in a comprehensive study of food’s role in society.
From Jan. 31 to Feb. 25, Houston-based Chef Jonathan “Jonny” Rhodes from Restaurant Indigo will join Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program as the university’s first Chef in residence, a role supported by the Mellon Foundation fellowship. Rhodes, a 2019 James Beard Foundation Rising Chef semifinalist and CEO of Food Fight Farms, Indigo, and Broham Groceries, brings a rich background from high-profile restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, The Inn at Dos Brisas, and Oxheart. His approach to cooking, deeply connected with community and cultural storytelling, will be highlighted in weekly community cooking demonstration classes every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in the Dillard University Professional Schools & Sciences Building (PSB). Rhodes’ culinary style, recognized for projects like Jensen Chronicles and his dedication to advancing culture through agriculture and land ownership, integrates cooking with the African American experience. A welcome event for Chef Rhodes is set for Feb. 1 at 2 p.m. in PSB 112.
Chef Rhodes’ tenure at Dillard University is more than a culinary residency; it’s a chance to explore the intersection of food, culture, and community, and to inspire the next generation to view cooking as a powerful tool for cultural expression and social change.